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Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Todd Barry: King of Meta-Comedy

Posted by on September 7 at 10:18 AM

One of the highlights of this year’s Bumbershoot was Todd Barry, whom I saw perform on Monday. Barry is a master of meta-comedy.

He'll tell a piquant joke, then riff on the mechanics of said joke, then analyze the crowd reaction, indulge in self-aggrandizement over his killer response (making the boast somehow appear self-deprecating), and with each progression of self-conscious dissection, his remarks get increasingly funnier, so that all the seemingly extemporaneous meta-commentary looms larger and funnier than the actual joke, which you've already forgotten about and which now seems irrelevant to the real meat of his act: demystifying stand-up comedy's discrete components. And all of this is delivered in the smoothest, most soothing soto-voce manner, which goes down exceptionally easy.

New Zealand parody-folk/R&B/hiphop/dancehall duo Flight of the Conchords, who performed after Barry, made me reassess my bias against intentionally humorous music. These guys are much more subtle and wittier than Tenacious D. FOTC's between-song banter is as hilarious as their spot-on lyrical and musical parodies.

As somebody (Jennifer, I think) said, Bumbershoot needs to move its comedy program into a bigger venue. One shouldn't have to queue an hour before a show to ensure entrance.