Thursday, April 3, 2014

Todd Barry's "The Crowd Work Tour"

Seriously? Five bucks? That’s it? 

Sorry. I had to get that out of the way. Louis C.K., the Master of Releasing Amazing Comedy For Only Five Dollars, has done it again. He did it last year when he offered Tig Notaro’s incredibly heart-breakingly hilarious autobiographical special and he does it once again by bringing us this ingenious video offering from Todd Barry. 

Here’s the basic premise of The Crowd Work Tour: Todd Barry hits a handful of cities doing shows with no prepared material and instead spends his set time chatting with the crowd. As if being a stand-up isn’t hard enough already. And it works. It’s not unlike the guy who walked a tight rope across Niagara Falls, only Barry is doing it without the aid of the long balancing pole. And he’s doing it blindfolded. And while wearing roller blades. 

Of course, if you’re a fan of Todd Barry (I am), then this should come as no surprise. He’s always done well when it comes to interacting with the audience and this project is a fun way for him to really stretch his improvisational muscles. There are a million different ways a comedian could react to the guy in the crowd who makes dog collars for a living, the girl in Alaska who works way too many hours, and the comedian from another comedy club whose stage name instills cackles, but no one reacts to a situation quite like Barry. His low-key counterbalance is diametrically opposed to what one would expect from talking to a member of the instrumental-only band Avant Abstract (check 'em out on - that's right - MySpace) and the juxtaposition makes the interaction even funnier.

As Barry travels up the west coast, he meets an impressively amazing array of people from different backgrounds. What makes it all the more fascinating is that these are real people. They’re so good, they sometimes feel like plants or, as Barry puts it, people from Improv Everywhere out to prank him. Did that guy really drive that far to see the show? Did that guy really make a T-shirt for Barry and then leave it in the car? And what did it look like? And are people really that passionate about chicken eggs?

This mini-movie (It runs an hour and nine minutes) is so enjoyable, I wanted more, and my only critique of the project are the moments when Barry isn’t shown on stage doing his thing. There are vignettes between the performances in each city showing Barry in the car, in his hotel, and chatting with other comics and they’re fun. However, after I got my first taste of Barry and his crowd work, I found myself wanting more of that and just wanting to zip through the non-standup moments.

If you purchase this movie from C.K.’s website you get your choice of various download quality and streaming video options. I was a little disheartened to see there was no opportunity to download an MP3 file but for five dollars I really have no business complaining about anything (and it's a reasonably simply problem to work around). This really is a great, funny, and fun project. I mean seriously, for the price of a venti drink at Starbucks you get some amazing comedy moments from one of the best comics working today. Sounds like a good deal to me (Because it is).

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