Twenty five years of experience pays off when an hour of comedy leaves audience members incapable of maintaining a consistent level of raucous laughter because they're simply out of breath.
Todd Barry's stout, self-satisfied grin makes it seem effortless. The crowd was laid back, almost morose during an impressive opening act by Dax Jordan, but quickly turned shrill when Barry took the stage.
Barry is a comic's comic, and has been featured in Tim and Eric's Awesome Show Great Job!, Louie, Flight of the Concords, The Wrestler, and the recent indy flick Wanderlust. The definition of a character actor, Barry's sarcastic stage persona easily translates to the skeezy or outlandish roles in which he is cast.
The comic's style is a stark contrast to the explosive reaction he receives, as his delivery has been compared (in his album, Medium Energy) to "taking a yoga class." He maintains a quiet, sneery tone that brings his audience into a cartoon world where the daughter of a haiku poet vows to right the wrongs of her father's unethical haiku poet agent. Barry chides the nonexistent revenge-agent, imagining that there isn't that much to steal when a haiku poet makes a dollar per poem, maybe. His delivery is so low-key that it commands attention, and how he manages to do whatever it is that makes the style so effective lies somewhere around his meticulously somber timing.
An audience member's runaway bladder led to an inadvertent heckle that he addressed more politely than expected. When she finally decided to hit the head, everyone erupted in applause. Barry bemoaned the fact that all she had to do was pee for everyone to love her. He took a moment, letting the air settle, before diving into a bit that brought us back into a show heavily centered in inner-monologue.
A particularly effective bit was one about Yelp and the mundane complaints that turn into 1300-word essays. Much like an older bit he did about parties that claim to last until "?" on the invitation, the humor is in his ability to deconstruct self-importance while standing up and being funny.
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With the recent closure of the Tempe Improv, it's good to know that the post-sex afterglow of great comedy will always be available in the Phoenix area.