For 27 years, beginning long before the term “alternative comedy” was in circulation, Todd Barry has managed to stand out in the world of stand-up with his dry, sardonic witticisms delivered in his patented soft-spoken style. In an industry that currently finds an army of his comedic contemporaries spouting labored material under the guise of an on-stage persona, Barry thrives with his uncanny ability to cultivate humor from the minutiae of everyday existence. As others rise and fall on the waves of trends and pop culture references, Barry has quietly enjoyed a slow burn and a devoted cult following on the weight of material about travel, diner food, and his drastic overestimation of his own fame. Friday night, the self-proclaimed “hottest comic on the planet” came to Turner Hall—despite thinking the arena across the street was a better fit for a comedian of his caliber—to calmly coax laughs from 200 people (well, eventually 198 people) over the course of one funny hour.
After local funnyman Tyler Menz warmed up the largest crowd he’s ever performed in front of with a well-received opening set that featured stories from his day job as a teacher, baring his sticker-covered belly, and making the ballroom join him in screaming TREVOR!, the headliner came out and wasted no time setting the (mono)tone night of deadpanned dryness. “I was just kicking it with this lion I found back stage,” Barry started. “Pretty cool local joke I did for you guys.” From there, he talked about the experience of signing exactly two pairs of breasts during his time as a comedian, recounted seeing Guatemalan people nonchalantly holding babies while driving mopeds, and railed against fussy diners who insist on having a lemon wedge in their water, “You know, how I always drink it at home.”
Fresh off the release of his Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour special, he made sure to involve the audience at various points of his set, including soliciting gross foods suggestions from a particularly picky eater. That acted as the conduit to flow into time-tested material about foods that baffle him and his unsavory review of the Cincinnati Airport’s sushi, which landed especially well with the audience. “It’s a good crowd. I might do an extra 10 seconds for you guys,” he said with his trademark wry delivery. Though most of the audience knew what they were getting into, two men talking temporarily broke Barry’s rhythm. Having been warned by him once, Barry barraged them with the suggestion that they leave, which they eventually heeded. “I love you. You’re really good,” one brah slurred on his way out. “I know I am,” Barry responded. “I put out that fire,” he continued. “Now let’s finish that home organizing joke.”
Unruly audience members self-ousted, the veteran comic brought his set in for a landing with said home organizing joke, another lion reference, his rationale why $940,000 is the perfect income to say to prevent financial follow-up questions, and a rather abrupt closer regarding ideas for phone aps. Off-putting end and drunk dudes aside, Milwaukee was treated to an altogether enjoyable 60 minutes (and 10 seconds) of subtle laughs calmly delivered by one of comedy’s longest-tenured and most reliable names. As other comedians constantly grapple for their 15 minutes for increasingly impatient audiences, certified comic’s comic Todd Barry will always have a spot on stage and 200 people hanging on his every measured word.