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Planet Barry

Comedian makes low-key delivery of material memorable on new CD, "From Heaven."

The more raucous comedy albums of George Carlin and Steve Martin stand up to repeated listens because of the forcefulness of their personality, but Todd Barry proves he can achieve the same effect -- delivering a set that stays fresh even on repeated listens -- with a personal manner that is the subdued opposite of those more colorful personalities.

On his new album, “From Heaven,” out on the Comedy Central label on Tuesday, March 4, Barry shows his mastery of deadpan delivery as he underplays material that can’t really be classified as jokes per se.

Barry imagines a world where Bruce Springsteen is stood up by his friends at a bar, where people would think its OK to email Mick Jagger for directions to a Stones concert, and tourists drive through New York City without being intrigued enough to stop. It’s a procession of foolishness and bad manners.

Barry leaves it hard to tell what he really disdains and where exactly he may be coming from, and what his opinion of the things he describes may be. But that air of mystery is just what’s needed to make his subjects so funny. So when he gets in a good dig on some phenomenon, it’s all the more unexpected, as he describes hearing a woman trying to teach a Chinese man how to say “egg nog,” and can’t get him to drop an extra syllable, saying it “egg-a-nog.” Barry says, “I think he’s got it, you cun-ta-ta-ta.”

But Barry will also mock his own tribe -- New York City liberals -- recalling how people ask him what it’s like to perform in Alabama when he tours. “There’s tables, a stage, a microphone stand,” he says, disappointing. “Oh, I know what you’re looking for: I was picked up at the airport by the Grand Wizard of the Klan, I had to get my act in between shouts of ‘Jewboy go home!’”

In his hushed tones, Barry also paints pictures like this, that are just as vivid as anything more outsize personalities in comedy have done. That’s what makes “From Heaven” more than just a “must-listen” but a “must-own.”

 

  

   

     

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