Published Sep 25, 2016If there's a sub-genre of "vanity" comedy, Todd Barry is really good at it. He has mastered the approach, both onstage and online, and is perhaps best known for it. In his measured, angular tone, he explains how it was inevitable he'd reach these heights. He recalls telling someone in his youth how big he was gonna be, and pulls a switch on this one: "In 30 years, I'll be doing a mid-size movie theatre in Toronto. It'll be two-thirds full, too."
That's a nod to Toronto's Royal Theatre, where he began his run during JFL42. The room was, indeed, two-thirds full, but it's a good-time crowd. He gets the Toronto appreciation without seeming at all pandering, reinforcing his celebrity status by recalling his TIFF experience (he was in The Wrestler, you know). When an audience member informs him of where to get the best coffee, he asks, "Are they celebrity friendly?"
The local angle continues, now with the festival itself — JFL42 is the world's most complicated festival. "Just sell more tickets. Works everywhere else." The attendees in the room are not first-timers, giving him "it's true" applause. He can do this all night.
But of course, he doesn't. Lately Todd Barry has been gaining ground in another sub-genre — the art of crowd work. Having devoted a recent special / documentary to it, The Crowd Work Tour, he informs us we'll see some of his "amazing crowd work." Even better that he simply dips his toe, focusing mainly on a dude named Jerome who works in insurance. He makes this guy slink, groaning appropriately at his trailed-off responses. We love it. Poor Jerome.
He's also impressed with his front row. There are women, for chrissakes. Usually a show for him is "Guy by himself, empty chair. Guy by himself, empty chair. Guy by himself, chair with a graphic novel on it."
There are a smattering of stories he tells; the guy that walks into a (insert local drug store chain) asking for sausages; the hotel that dings him 100 bucks for stealing a bedspread ("I assure you, I would not start with a bedspread"), and this hour set is damn near perfect. We want more, but he won't give it. And isn't that just like a superstar?