There’s something depressing about Todd Barry. For over two decades now, the Bronx-born stand up comedian has employed a certain aesthetic to his routine, one that takes self-deprecation to new heights, and it’s bled into his overall identity. His choice of roles has only made it easy to typify his demeanor. Whether he’s playing himself on FX’s Louie or Cartoon Network’s Delocated, they’re all caricatures of the same guy: the sheepish comic, typically slouched over with a Charlie Brown grin that’s ready to stab with witty retorts. It’s his schtick, being abrasive, and similar to Carlin (only staving off the rhythm and theatrics), Barry is a keen observer of the irritating. He wouldn’t have that any other way, as he recently told The A.V. Club, “I definitely dont like to do an act that doesnt factor, or integrate, my surroundings.” On his latest album, Super Crazy, Barry proves he’s still taking notes on our little world.
What’s remarkable about Barry’s reflections is that they’re hard to argue against. Within seconds of Super Crazy, he tackles his crowd with his trademark sarcasm, discussing “nutty drink orders” like the “10,000 year old drink” that is the Gimlet. It’s an enviable diatribe that works off a keen format that allows for Barry to explore some. Not too far after, he dissects the varying degrees of a “Germaphobe”, layering each scenario with tangental jabs that are so natural and provoking. It’s here where he’s in top form, fully able to shift gears within the boundaries of the same topic, all without coming across as anything predictable. Later on, while deconstructing the tagline “Lip-Smacking Good”, he not only pokes fun at the expression but squeezes in dominant criticisms of our more asinine idiosyncrasies in dining.
Throughout the album, this same method sparks life into rallying criticisms against the ignorance of out-of-towners (“Directions for Tourists”), the misconceptions of college life (“Fraternity Sales Pitch”), and the snobbish mentality behind local food purists (“Eating with Friends”). Yet it’s actually stupid to say Barry lacks any rhythm in all this because that’s completely untrue. His low baritone, mirroring an AM college radio host, bumps and sways in a similar fashion throughout each joke. And, when he’s really having fun, he actually sniffles a little after each punchline, as if he’s reveling in his own ingenuity. It’s a nice respite from the moody Barry, and adds some humanity to his cynical nature.
In the same aforementioned interview with The A.V. Club, Barry later added, “Im not interested in consciously looking for tension. A lot of these things I just kind of go with, for better or worse.” That mentality is what sells Super Crazy, and in an era where our culture is so hilariously obsessed with being socially inept (or just outright ignorant), Barry is the true purveyor of sanity.
Essential Tracks: “Germaphobe”, “Montana, North Dakota, Other Places”, and “Directions for Tourists”