April 27 2016 12:22 AM

Todd Barry talks rock clubs, crowd work and coffee shops

Courtesy Photo
Comedian Todd Barry’s style is so dry, it can be hard to tell when he’s moved on to the next joke.

“I ordered a drink at the place I was working at; I ordered a gimlet,” he says on the opening track of his 2012 album, “Super Crazy.” “The bartender said he didn’t know how to make one. The guy next to him said, ‘Oh, I can make that. I used to work at a gay video club.’ I don’t know what a gay video club is, but I’m pretty sure you don’t need to work at one to know how to make a gimlet. It’s a 10,000-year-old drink with two ingredients.”

He pauses a minute to let the absurdity sink in, then drops another punchline.

“What’s he want? Gin and tonic? I can handle that. I used to work at a bisexual shuffleboard court.”

He pauses a moment, but decides he’s not done yet.

“What’d he ask for? Rum and Coke? I’ll handle that one, Freddie. For many years, I refereed a transgender scrabble tournament.”

He riffs a bit, then goes in for one more. “What’d he ask for? Vodka soda? Let me deal with that. After high school, I had a job supervising an S&M lawn crew.”

In addition to stand-up comedy, Barry has appeared in dozens of television shows and movies, ranging from Louis C.K.’s semi-autobiographical series “Louis” to quirky animated fare like “Bob’s Burgers” and “Squidbillies.”

Barry brings his dry comedic style to the Loft Saturday. City Pulse talked with the comedian about his projects and what to expect Saturday.

You’re playing at the Loft Saturday, which is a music venue. Do you prefer music venues over comedy clubs?

It depends on a lot of things, but I do the rock clubs because I like to do one show and get a core group of people who like me, as opposed to doing six shows where they’re throwing free passes at people.

Your style is often described as low-energy or dry. Has anyone tried to get you to liven up your act?

It’s been more of a problem off stage than on stage. I have, with some exceptions, done really good shows. It hasn’t been a big problem on stage — audiences don’t seem to care as much as a booker might.

I actually remember a guy coming up to me after a show one time, he was sort of critiquing everyone on the show, and he said, “Have you ever thought about livening it up a little bit?” I definitely let him have it.

What inspired you to do “The Crowd Work Tour?” How did Louis CK get involved?

I told him the idea on the phone — it was just a random phone call — and he asked right then, “Would you like me to put this out for you?” It was a real impulsive thing. I don’t know if it would have gotten done otherwise.

He paid for it. He’s made money off it now — it’s all paid for and paid back. It was very nice of him to do it, but it also turned out to be a good investment for him.

What is your set like now? Are you back to telling jokes?

It’s going to be more jokes, but I always do a little crowd work at every show.

What do you do to entertain yourself while you’re out on the road?

If there’s a good coffee shop, I’ll go linger there for a couple of hours. I’ll walk around if there’s a good area to walk around in. And I like to find at least one good place to eat at for one of my meals.

I’ll occasionally go to a museum or something. I don’t like to sit in my hotel room all day, but I don’t necessarily go skydiving, either.

Are there any bad gigs that stick out in your memory?

In my whole history?


I’ve done thousands of shows, so there’s some bad ones. There’s shows where no one is laughing, there’s shows where people are violent. I’ve had stuff thrown at me a couple times. I’ve performed in some weird conditions, like some guy’s wife’s birthday party on a lawn. I’ve performed in a boxing ring in a sports bar. You end up with some weird ones.

You’ve done a lot of film and TV work. Is there any one project you really enjoyed working on?

I can’t single one out, but I loved being on “Louie,” and I loved being on “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Flight of the Conchords.” Doing “The Wrestler” was really exciting. I tend to do things that I’m probably going to like doing. It’s hard to pick just one — especially since my friends got me most of these. I don’t want to single one out.

Do you have a pitch to anyone who is on the fence about coming to your show?

No, I don’t. I’m not going to beg someone to come to my show. If they have better things to do, they should go do those.

Todd Barry

8 p.m. Saturday, April 30
$20/$18 adv.
The Loft 414 E. Michigan Ave, Lansing
(517) 931-0103, theloftlansing.com