You probably know Todd Barry, even if you don’t think you know Todd Barry. He’s worked on a veritable laundry list of amazing television/movies (Louie, Flight of the Conchords, The Wrestler, Bob’s Burgers, Bored to Death, Chappelle’s Show, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Delocated), all the while crafting his snarky stand up for audiences all over the world. On the latter, he’s dropped three albums and a Comedy Central Presents, but somehow this is his first hour special for the humor behemoth.
Much of Super Crazy‘s material starts like so: a simple setup (“I did a show in South Carolina…”), followed by something a little bit weirder (guy asks him about making tons of money doing comedy), followed by Barry plucking the weirdness apart, mocking the absurd person or thing (“I can tell by the question you’re in it for the right reasons.”), often beating that absurdity like so many dead horses. The slow-burn unraveling is Barry’s calling card, and it works more often than not throughout Super Crazy. The best moments are when he, in character or not, gets befuddled by how long a bit has stretched out. (“Oh my God, I forgot that was an answering machine myself,” he says during one.)
Barry’s dulcet, breathy deadpan is mesmerizing in its restraint. Like Steven Wright with extra smirk, Barry’s delivery gets into a warm and fuzzy rhythm that can alternately help or hurt his jokes, depending on the viewer’s expectations and tolerance. Annoyed by a mildly shticky characteristic? Barry will likely drive you batshit, his voice slowly grating away at your sanity. But it’s easy to get into his zone if you give right of way to his sarcastic observations.
And boy, are they sarcastic. He thanks a praise-seeking cab driver who picked up Barry instead of a woman—despite the fact that Barry was there first, and that’s how cabs are supposed to work—for “passing up a guaranteed opportunity to get laid.” Elsewhere, while describing an apartment hunt, he visits a particularly unimpressive listing: “A tile bathroom—I can’t even imagine what that’s like. I wonder if it’s like every bathroom I’ve ever been in…in my entire life…including the one at the bus station?”
Out of context, these barbs may sound uninteresting, juvenile or lacking in insight, but again, it’s all in the delivery, the unraveling. He starts with a simple premise like “Young people use stupid phrases,” points to a couple of them, then spirals out from there, referring to community-college students as old Bluesmen, then soliciting fruit suggestions from the audience to further point out the silliness of it all. If it seems kinda random, that’s because it is, but the reward is in the delight of seeing where Barry’s mind takes a commonplace incident.
His stage persona also lends well to bravado. “This guy’s slapping his knee; he’s doing everything right,” he notices at one point, smugly assured that his comedy is worthy of the man’s amusement. “He said ‘Of course,’ as if there were no choice. And there isn’t a choice.” Elsewhere he mentions his killing on the open-mic circuit, how he’s our time’s best topical comedian, and so on. The difference between a cocky, in-your-face comedian and Barry is stark, and it helps add to his likability. The arrogance is a put-on, of course, but it’s not aggravating, either.
Paradoxically, self-deprecation is also in the mix. When fans ask Barry if things like a drunkard throwing up in the front row is a setup, or a “30-woman bachelorette party wearing chocolate dick helmets and talking throughout [the] show,” only to confront him at the bar after they’ve been kicked out, he does a good job of making his life seem a lot harder than it probably is. But when he turns it around to telling the joke about puking and an actual person pukes during said joke, and the whole “magical” incident scaring the living shit out of the audience (“His jokes come to life!”), it wraps up the bit with a nice little bow of resolution. Yes, the sarcastic man and the arrogant man and the self-deprecating man are the same man. Barry is large; he contains multitudes.
Super Crazy ends on a positive note…sort of. As the story goes, he’s been thinking about the happiest moments in his life. Without spoiling the bit, let’s just say it comes at the expense of some asshole he’s rolling his eyes at surreptitiously. But would you really have it any other way? Like his role on Louie, which exists mostly to mock the show’s titular creator, Barry is here to keep the ridiculousness of the world in check. Or at least to allow us all to laugh at it with him. And what’s more positive than that?