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Comedy - Todd Barry served straight up, dry

The laconic comic shares Plaza Theatre bill with Neil Hamburger

"Oops, I smiled. We'll cut that out," comedian Todd Barry says on Super Crazy, his new CD and Comedy Central stand-up special. He's joking — obviously he didn't cut out the reference, since it's right there — but also reflecting on his sardonic stage persona.

Barry specializes in observational humor comparable to Jerry Seinfeld's, but it's vastly more dry and deadpan. On the ironically titled Super Crazy, he ponders such expressions as "lip-smacking good." "If you're smacking your lips when you eat, it's not because the food is good. It's because you need to learn how to eat." At his upcoming Plaza Theatre performance on Aug. 24, Barry provides a soft-spoken counterbalance to his more conceptual co-headliner Neil Hamburger, who specializes in deliberately terrible jokes.

On stage, Barry projects the point of view of an everyman — OK, a pretty darn sarcastic everyman — alert to life's petty annoyances. He's more aggressively insolent when playing a fictional version of himself on Adult Swim's "Delocated" or an ambitious bongo player on "Flight of the Conchords." He gave his highest-profile acting appearance to date as Mickey Rourke's jerky boss in The Wrestler.

Barry belongs to the same generation of comics as Louis C.K. and Marc Maron who broke through in the 1990s. On C.K.'s acclaimed series "Louie," Barry plays himself as part of C.K.'s acerbic circle of friends. On one appearance, Barry suggests that C.K.'s mother knows how different kinds of diarrhea tastes. C.K.: "Are you saying that's because she eats a lot of diarrhea?" Barry: "I don't know where she gets her information." "On 'Louie,' I think it's the way I really do talk to Louie," he says, of playing himself. "'Delocated' is much more of a surreal show, in which I'm sort of thrown in, so it's less like me."

Barry doesn't quite embrace C.K.'s penchant for immediately retiring all of his new material once it's released on an album and TV special. "I don't think I'll be able to retire all of it. I think it's a weird time for me to be going on tour. I don't think most of the audience will have seen the special or heard the album, but I don't want to disappoint someone who has. There will be a nice chunk of new material in there," he says.

Thanks to Twitter, podcasts, and other Internet-based delivery systems, stand-up comedy seems to have attained a higher level of popularity and accessibility. Barry stays active on Twitter, but proves ambivalent about the Internet's ability to support stand-up. "People on Twitter are getting a huge following, and the good thing about YouTube is that you can create your own little empire," he says. "But it's also a good way to know about people who loathe you, so it's a double-edged sword."

Barry always maintained a martini-dry approach to his comedic delivery, even when he was starting out, and dismisses the idea that high-energy comics can more easily win over a crowd: "I don't know why that would be. Overall, I guess there's an advantage to being a high-energy act, but high-energy acts bomb all the time. It's more about what you're saying."



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