Last week something special happened to me, I got to interview Todd Barry. It’s hard to believe that Todd has been doing comedy for about 25 years now, the Bronx born, Florida-raised stand up has toured across the globe and made appearances in shows the likes of “Flight of the Conchords” and “Louie”. You might not remember his name but for sure you’ll remember his trademark surfer-like drawl of a delivery.
This delivery is what reminds me of a time in my youth, a special time. When I was a kid growing up in Australia my favourite time of year was when the Melbourne Comedy Festival rolled in. I would curl up on the couch, VHS tape at the ready to record, preparing my mind to memorise the funniest bits so I can retell the jokes to my friends.
When Todd came on one year, I think it was 2004, I was blown away, not by his outrageous politically incorrect material, which is not what he does by the way, but by his delivery. Now, almost 10 years later I get to ask the man a question that’s been dancing around my mind since the moment I saw him, “is this all an act or is this Todd Barry?” “It’s something I’ve never really thought about, I guess it’s pretty much an extension of my personality.” I was interested to discover that something I considered a big part of his comedy was something he never really thought about. This left me wondering whether my carefully designed questions were going to be a match for Todd.
Talking to someone who’s been doing comedy for so long I wanted to know if it gets easier in time to write and perform or whether becoming an established comedian has greater pressures than humble open mic beginnings. “It’s sort of both those. It’s easier in the sense that I’ve done it thousands of times but at the same time, you have more exposure, especially with stuff like Youtube. You feel like you need to write faster.” This lead me to my next question, do comedians starting out now, in the age of social media, face more challenges than when he started? “It’s a double-edged sword. There are people who become Youtube stars but there are also people who film your shows without running it by you and posting jokes that might not yet be ready.”
When is a joke ready? “I start putting it into my set when I think of it. It depends, sometimes I work on a joke for months, tweaking it to get a rhythm going so that every moment is worth what it should be.”
As much as I hoped my interview would be as well crafted as a finely-tuned joke I could see I needed a bit more work.
The good news is we can expect to see more from Todd Barry well into the future. He’s still got a few things he’d like to accomplish, like make a movie, and doesn’t really think about retiring.
You can see “Todd Barry and Friends” as part of Just for Laughs at the Katacombes July 22-25 at 9pm. Click here for tickets! He’ll also be on DeAnne Smith’s show “Stand Up / Strip Down” this Monday 22 at the Mainline Theatre, 11:45pm.
I’ll leave you with a clip of Todd on Conan.