Todd Barry’s stand-up routine is underplayed and drier than the Gobi. Unlike the hammed-up variety of stand-up comics, Barry sits back and, with a smirk, points out the obvious.
The New York City-based comedian has been at it since the mid-1980s and started showing up on television in the late 1990s. More recently, he starred as Mickey Rourke’s boss in Academy Award-nominee The Wrestler.
Barry appears at the Palace this week with comedian Chris Fairbanks, a former Missoulian who now lives in L.A. and has found success with his own brand of self-effacing observations. We figured Fairbanks was the best person to grill his colleague on the upcoming show, laundry habits and the possibility of friendship.
CF: You’re about to do a comedy show in Missoula, Montana, a quiet mountain town that rarely sees live stand-up comedy. What are your thoughts and/or concerns?
TB: I’ve never done a show in Montana, and I’m really looking forward to it. I feel like Missoula probably doesn’t get many comics coming through, so perhaps the audience will be excited and appreciative. Or maybe they’ll hate me. I also plan on doing some laundry in Montana, so I’m looking forward to that, too.
CF: Do you commonly travel from town to town with your dirty laundry?
TB: I try to avoid doing laundry on the road, but I also try to avoid packing a lot. The Missoula show is right in the middle of the tour, plus I’m gonna have a day off there, so it’s in the cards.
CF: You’re a famous comedian. Does it bother you that the opening act (me) has a photo the exact same size as yours on the poster?
TB: I didn’t know the pictures were the same size, but I’m guessing you made the poster.
CF: No, I didn’t make the poster, but if I did, I would have put my photo very small and down in the corner, just to represent how much less I’m being paid.
TB: If the picture was sized in proportion to your pay, there wouldn’t be a picture at all. Yeah!!
CF: You’ve informed me, via e-mail, that on the day before the show, I’m to show you around my hometown of Missoula and, in return, you’re going to “treat me like shit.” Is this true, and if so, can you tone it down in front of my father?
TB: I’ll only treat you like shit when your father isn’t around.
CF: So was that just a dose of the gritty, New York style of ballbusting “tough love” we Westerners usually only get to enjoy in the movies?
TB: Yeah. I was just being “gritty.”
CF: How do you describe your comedy when it is inevitably asked by somebody sitting next to you on an airplane?
TB: I hate describing my comedy. Not that it couldn’t be described, I just hate doing it. If someone asks me on a plane, I just try to make it sound as boring as possible, so hopefully they won’t want to talk to me more.
CF: Is that also what you’re trying to do with this interview?
TB: It seems that way. But usually when I do it on a plane, the person gets the hint! YEAH!
CF: Who are your favorite comics to watch these days?
TB: John Mulaney, Myq Kaplan, Tig Notaro, Chris Fairbanks, Natasha Leggero, Tom Ryan, Andy Kindler, Louis CK, Sarah Silverman…
CF: I notice I’m on that list, which is very flattering, but I don’t believe you’ve ever seen me perform, right?
TB: I have seen you perform. I thought that was a “test” question.
CF: There are a lot of occupational hazards that go along with being a nightclub comic—womanizing and alcoholism being the most common. Do you have any lifestyle flaws that you blame on being a comedian?
TB: I don’t blame anything on being a comedian.
CF: What about never having a place to do your laundry, couldn’t you blame comedy for that?
TB: You’re really obsessed with the laundry thing. Did that humanize me, or something? Were you hoping my laundry cleaned itself?
CF: What about other interests or activities? What would you do if you weren’t a professional comedian? Do you play any sports?
TB: I’m not gonna answer that one, Chris, because it’s so obvious you are just grasping at straws, desperately trying to connect with me.
CF: What’s something that most of your fans probably would be surprised to learn about you?
TB: I’m really good friends with Sting.
CF: We’ve been acquaintances for a couple years now. Do you think after this show together, that we’ll be friends?
TB: Once you fix that poster, yes.
Todd Barry and Chris Fairbanks bring their stand-up comedy to the Palace Thursday, May 21, at 9 PM. $10.