Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour


From We Heart Music

Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour
Friday, February 1, 2013

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For those who do not frequent comedy shows (this is a music blog after all), crowd work is the often painful part of a comedy show, often prompted by an obnoxious heckler, but sometimes sparked by someone wearing the wrong thing in the front of the audience,  where the comedian asks the audience where they’re from and what they do and then proceed to make fun of them mercilessly. Since Todd Barry is touring with a show of nothing but crowd work, opener Alex Koll delivered a show of almost everything but.

ALEX KOLL
photograph by courtney

Koll (not to be confused with Nick Kroll who is also performing at Sketchfest) started with a high energy set of jokes about the team names of the children’s organized sports games he used to (professionally) photograph, the excitement of minor league baseball fireworks and the horrors of spending seven days in Vegas.  How high energy was he? Well, he’s also a two-time winner of the San Francisco Regional Air Guitar Championship and a regular member of the The Business comedy group that performs every Wednesday in San Francisco.

When Todd Barry took the stage he wasted no time playfully insulting “Alex Kroll, or Koll, whatever one that was” and moving right into a deadpan assessment of the visible audience for everyone’s amusement.

As promised, the show was all crowd work, except for the first ten minutes of Barry recapping how he “killed” in every city so far on the tour. There was  no material, no characters, no “jokes”…just the chance for him to attack San Francisco residents with his droll observations.

He wasn’t completely cruel, I was sitting alone in a red jacket in the front row and wasn’t noticed. (This is always when W♥Music gets an email from the artist about something I wrote isn’t it?). San Franciscans make for easy targets, he barely had to look past the front row for material.

Every other person Barry asked what they did answered “lawyer stuff” and he ripped into them about wanting all the benefits of being a lawyer while trying to sound like they weren’t lawyers. If a music fan appreciates the cringe worthy inter-band stage banter of Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields, they’d be just at home hearing arry’s performance.

Music fans in the audience were not immune to his attacks however. When one guest offered his occupation as a “hip hop and house party promoter”, Barry said those were the kind of parties he left immediately. The numerous times Barry emphasized he listens to “indie rock” made me wonder just who he was baiting, and I think the IT guy who played guitar as a hobby took the bait, simply by mentioning easy to mock ideas like “none of my songs have titles”, “riffs” and “the Foo Fighters started as a studio band” as if he could win an argument with a record nerd like Barry that way.

There was no winning against Todd Barry as a performer, there was hiding, and probably some confused attendees who were expecting something other than the obvious title of the performance, but he delivered exactly what he promised and I somehow avoided becoming a target.


Todd Barry at The Eureka Theatre, San Francisco (01/29/13)

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