Okay, you’ll have to forgive me for anything in this article that doesn’t make sense. I will try to correct things at a later date, but I have to get this done as quick as possible for now, because I didn’t take any notes at the gig.
At the time of writing this article it’s 00:23 and I’ve just got home from Todd Barry’s gig at the Deaf Institute in Manchester. It was fantastic. I know that’s essentially all you need from this review, but there is more too it than that so I’ll go ahead and explain.
There was only one support act for the night and no compere, which was weird, but as a friend of mine pointed out, Todd Barry is way beyond the point of needing someone to warm up the crowd, especially since this was his ONLY gig taking place in the north of England and everyone there was a pretty big fan (he’d previously done 3 dates in London – not much of a UK tour).
Alun Cochrane was the support act. Some people may know his name from him being on TV at some point. I don’t really know what he’s been on, but I knew his face from somewhere (and I can’t be bothered researching at the moment). Cochrane had a poisoned chalice of an evening: he was supporting an American comedian with no compere, he’s very very Northern, and it was still daytime. Comedy does not work during the daytime because it makes people feel insecure about their laughter, which meant that no matter how well Cochrane did, he was always going to receive a luke-warm response. Which he did.
I’m not a fan of Cochrane’s so when I say that I didn’t particularly enjoy him, understand that I am being biased. Some people REALLY enjoyed him. Comedy is very subjective, like music, and not everyone is going to like the same thing. It’s the same kind of thing as me not liking Kings of Leon: they an accomplished band who have sold millions of records, yet they just don’t make music I personally would listen to on a regular basis (if at all). I’m only hammering this point home because I want people to understand that Cochrane was a very solid, funny comedian, who will probably be the best thing since sliced bread for many people, but not me. His topics were too Northern for me (I already mentioned he’s very Northern) as he talked about things like Corn Beef Hash, the pronunciation of Chorizo, and adults who don’t drink Tea. This sort of celebration of Yorkshire stereotypes isn’t necessarily damaging to anyone, but is typical of a British comedy scene (as far as what is on TV) that I feel is stale (and possibly lacking originality) at the moment, especially when you consider the exciting things happening over in the U.S with acts such as Louis C.K, Hannibal Buress, Bill Burr, Patton Oswalt, and the main attractive of this event, Todd Barry. In short, if you like your comedians to talk about simple, everyday stuff, check him out (you’ll more than likely find him fantastic), but if you like a bit more weight to your comedy, he might not be for you.
After a strange interlude (it was still pretty much daytime) Todd Barry was called on stage. Barry was nothing short of fantastic.It took a while for people to get to grips with his American accent (It’s strange how even if you listen to american TV and albums, the accent still sounds odd at first in person) and there were a few problems with the spotlights, as in, they never shined on him properly throughout the entirety of the show. If you know Todd Barry though, you’ll know that is dry, sardonic persona allowed him to deal with this situations hilariously. In fact it’s the intensity of this persona and the way it’s been moulded over his twenty-something year career that separates Barry from his contemporaries and makes him a very unique comic. Alun Cochrane was content and happy with the way things are, especially the little annoyances he points out with life, whilst Barry very much has the feel of a guy on the outside looking in. This allows for a much more thorough and bitter breakdown of life, almost as if he is picking it apart with tweezers.
On paper Barry’s material covers the same simple subjects as many other comics, such as: people who chew with their mouths open, men’s magazine’s advice on what women like, and spending time in airports. Some of these subjects you could call hack, but in Barry’s hands, it’s the last thing they become. His sarcasm, and ability to act cooler than most in attitude (without ever seeming to punch down – take note budding comedians) is second to none, and gives his material a sort of post-modern intelligence that can only be the result of a comic who knows exactly what he is doing.
Most of the material he was doing in Manchester, as far as I am aware, was new, which was brilliant. I know you expect this, but with this being a four-date UK tour, it would have been an easy opportunity to do a “greatest hits” set, so to speak. I’m very happy he didn’t. In fact, if this material is going to be on a CD soon, then it’s a CD that you will definitely want to look forward to because it was killer all the way through. I think he did about an hour, but it didn’t feel like it.
Out of everything he did my two favourite bits were one about lemongrass deodorant, and the previously mentioned men’s magazine article on how to treat women. In the lemongrass deodorant bit he talks about how a deodorant causes him to search the internet to find reviews, only to find nothing but negative ones. It’s a fabulous play on the moment you realise you’ve made an obvious mistake, and one which in the hands of somebody else could easily be over played. Here Barry knows how far to go, and when to stop. To say Barry is skilled is an understatement. The second bit about the men’s magazine article is genius. The article itself is ludicrous, but filtered through Barry’s tone of voice and mannerisms it becomes much more. As he interjects the article with his own comments, he tears the article, men’s magazine culture, and the author (simply referred to as Lisa) to shreds. It killed. He finished the show with some older bits that can mostly be found on From Heaven and then left the stage to rapturous applause. If you weren’t there, you missed out. Seriously.
Alun Cochrane: ***
Todd Barry: *****
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