Todd Barry – Original Review | Review by Steve Bennett

Todd Barry – Original Review

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Visiting American comic Todd Barry tells of one comedy-club customer who complained to the management that he was ‘too monotone’. It’s rather like complaining that the Pope is ‘too Catholic’.

Monotone is what he does, and does hypnotically well. Seventy minutes or so of such relentlessly drowsy deadpan may be a bit too much, but as long as you go expecting to be quietly lulled by his almost soporific indifference rather than bombarded with sparkling repartee, you’ll be rewarded with some skilful comic misery.

The very lack of energy or enthusiasm is the source of much of his ceaselessly self-deprecating humour. He engineers a weird conspiracy that his act is drearily unimpressive, but since we’re all in it together, we might as well band together to make the best of it. ‘I’m a super-professional comedy machine,’ he says at one point, the arrogance of the boast fatally undermined by the absence of any passion in the delivery.

He bemoans his lack of success, sarcastically wondering why he’s billed merely as a ‘cult comic’ in London, while in Galway he was hailed as a superstar – just one of many gripes at the humiliations he’s had to endure in his 20-year stand-up career.

It’s a very self-referential set, with countless stories about other gigs, which might not quite hold the same appeal for those not immersed in the world of comedy. But long-suffering Barry is a comics’ comic, not just for the source of his material, but also the obtuse way he smuggles his bitter punchlines into the weary monologue.

This show is a ‘greatest hits’, so some material will be familiar to anyone who has seen him before, or heard his CDs. The theme, apart from sly digs at his own dead-end life, is the idiots he has to endure, and the derisive comebacks he said to them – or, more likely, wished he’d said to them – at the time. MySpace users, New York estate agents, people who refuse to wear seat belts, and, of course, previous hecklers are all put firmly in their place.

Barry’s unenthusiastic delivery may be something of an acquired taste, but once your palette is ready, there’s plenty to enjoy in his wretchedness.

Review date: 24 Jun 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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