by Johnny Papan
VANCOUVER – “I did a one-man show years ago about a woman who insulted me on a Conan O’Brien message board. She said I was the worst guest of the week, and that I had no charm, no wit and a personality that could only be described as ‘icky.’ I called that one-man show Icky.”
Though Todd Barry’s deadpan style of comedy may not be for everyone, as is the case with every comedic styling, he’s certainly captured the attention and respect of many since the start of his 30-year career. In honour of this tenured course, Barry is doing his signature Crowd Work tour, an unscripted standup performance that plays with the audience.
“I look for people who are intriguing,” Barry explains. “Not everyone looks intriguing, so [sometimes] I just have to start picking people at random. I just look out at the sea of bearded dudes and start talking to one. Sometimes the people who seem the most timid have the best stories.”
After Barry picks his victim, he will ask the audience member a series of simple questions that can take bizarrely hilarious turns when infused with unexpected answers and the comedian’s sniper-shot wit.
“I guess I’ve always been a smartass, but only right up to the point of actually getting in trouble. I usually know when to stop and I’m not interested in actually insulting someone.”
This experimental trek was so successful that Barry released a special entitled: Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour in 2014. Last year Barry released his Netflix exclusive, the interestingly titled: Spicy Honey.
Barry began his career in 1980s Florida while working a day job as a substitute teacher. Even as a comedian, he still has knowledge to bestow on the scene’s newcomers.
“My advice for young comics is to stay focused on what’s important: jokes and stage time. The biggest weapon you can have as a comic is being good. Don’t get caught up in money or getting an agent or manager. Just write and go on stage as much as possible. Also be patient and don’t annoy people. I didn’t follow all these rules when I started, but you should!”
Todd Barry performs at the Biltmore Cabaret on March 10.JFL Northwest, JFL Northwest Comedy Festival, Just For Laughs