Todd Barry: Spicy Honey | Netflix review by Steve Bennett

Todd Barry: Spicy Honey

Netflix review by Steve Bennett

Whether Todd Barry’s new Netflix special, Spicy Honey, is a masterclass in comedy is open  to debate. But it is certainly a masterclass in what it’s like to be a comedian.

He describes in weary detail the irritations of audience members getting their phones out during gigs or the answer he now has prepared for all those people who ask if being a stand-up earns him a good living. Understandably, his biggest bugbear is people too dumb to get jokes, whether in clubs or on Twitter, such as the woman who took such umbrage at his faux boast in a radio interview about being the ‘hottest comedian on the planet’ that she vowed to ‘avoid male comics from the US and Canada’ from that point on.

Such irony is a big part of Barry’s shtick, the boasts about his brilliance and how he always kills suggesting an alpha-swagger that his wry, dry deadpan just doesn’t match. More honest is when he admits his usual audience comprises single men and empty chairs. Even in this recording he finds in his front row an open-mic comic, and has to hand down the advice: ‘Comedians don’t sit up front.’

Other missteps, from the audience member flummoxed by the question ‘do you have roommates?’ to the forgotten segue; from the realisation that his shoelaces were untied to the  gag that he admits will be an ‘easy cut’ in the edit suite after it flounders in the room are all included, despite what he said. It makes this already relatively intimate performance a true reflection of what a live comedy gig can be, with its ups, downs and unpredictability. 

Not that it’s a wild ride. Barry’s own demeanour is downbeat. When he reads advice on clutter-free living that suggests throwing out everything that doesn’t bring him joy, it becomes a depressing reminder that nothing does. By his own admission he’s cheap and a germophobe - neither of which suggest the delights of living spontaneously.

By extension, his comedy is forensic and based on overthinking things. After taking one chunk about a $1 pizza joint to its preposterous conclusion, he muses: ‘In that highly unlikely scenario the whole thing would blow up in my face.’ The flight of fantasy must be grounded.

Some routines extend a very specific idea a little too thinly; whether it be Guatemalan men carrying babies on motorcycles (very niche that), or pretentiousness around coffee. 

But they are the exceptions, and are also some lovely little sections here, such as why he decided sushi isn’t for him or his closing routine – a meticulous seven-minute takedown of a preposterous GQ article about what women supposedly want that elevates raised-eyebrow sarcasm into a thing of beauty. If only the lower half of the internet was always like that.

• Watch Todd Barry: Spicy Honey on Netflix here.

Review date: 31 Dec 2017
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