This podcasting thing must be here to stay because Todd Barry has one now. And Todd Barry is no Johnny-come-lately who’s going to fall for the latest fad. He’s far too much of an amazing and highly regarded comedian for that.
Barry launched The Todd Barry Podcast last month on the Feral Audio network. The format is nothing new – it’s essentially Barry interviewing his comedian friends in his New York apartment – but it’s great to hear him be sincere for a moment and break character from the Todd Barry World Famous Comedian he plays on his must-follow Twitter feed.
Barry has long been a staple of the NYC comedy scene known for his dry sarcasm. He’s released four albums, done three Comedy Central Specials, and appeared in several films and TV shows, including The Wrestler and Louie. I recently had the chance to chat with Barry about his podcast, his role in The Wrestler, and his recent crowd work tour.
Were you encouraged to start a podcast by anyone?
Yeah, people have asked me. Occasionally someone will tweet or something “Are you starting a podcast?” And then I just bought this cheap mic, and someone helped me figure stuff out, sound-wise. Then I hooked up with the Feral Audio people, and they’ve been through everything, so they’ve made it easy.
How are you enjoying it thus far? I know you’ve only done a couple episodes, but is it fun?
Yeah, I’ve recorded seven or eight of them. It’s been fun, and I feel like I’m getting better at it. I’m just going with the flow of the conversation. Everyone I’ve interviewed has been someone I know, so we’ve just talked about whatever and just caught up. Not grilling people.
No probing interviews.
What would you say makes your podcast stand out from the other tens of thousands of podcasts?
So far, I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s good, honestly. People seem to like it. Some people don’t like it, but that’s always gonna happen.
It is good? Okay. I guess just everyone has a different style, and I don’t have the same style as everyone else does. I might be a little more laid back, I don’t know. This is my first interview about the podcast, so I haven’t come up with any great answers for these questions yet.
Was there much of a learning curve for you in terms of learning how to host?
I’ve learned it’s better to not even look at (questions) until there’s a little dead air, and if you end up talking about what someone had for breakfast that day for fifteen minutes, as long as you can keep it going that’s all I care about. I don’t necessarily have any goal in what they should talk about. It’s just loose, bullshit. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, is what I’m saying.
[Laughs] Is the plan to do a weekly show? Have you figured that out yet?
I think I’m going to try to do one a week until I don’t want to do it anymore. I can’t see myself doing two a week like Marc Maron does. That would drive me crazy.
Are you following your numbers at all?
I think my numbers are good. I haven’t really checked. I look at the iTunes reviews because that’s easy to check. I’m told the first week’s numbers were really good. I don’t have specifics. You can write to Feral Audio; maybe they’ll tell you.
Are you much of a podcast fan yourself? Do you listen to any?
It’s weird. I have listened to them, and I do listen to them, but I’m not in the groove of listening to podcasts. I want to start exploring them more; it’s just not something I do a lot right now. I find that when I do start listening to them I want to really focus on them. It’s not like putting on music where I can do other things. I think they’d be great if I was driving, while I’m focused. I guess I can listen to them when I travel. I do want to start listening to more, but I’ve done plenty.
How long have you been in New York?
I’ve been here since ‘89, but I was born here and spent my first five years here.
There’s always talk about an exodus to LA, but for someone like you who’s been there so long–
There’s always going to be people leaving New York, and then there’s people who are gonna stay in New York, and there’s gonna be new people in New York, so I don’t—
Yeah. I was going to say, do you even notice this stuff?
I’m never surprised when someone says, “Oh, I’m moving to LA.” It’s just like, ‘Of course you are.’ It’s like moving to Brooklyn.
Have you ever lived in LA?
I’ve never lived in LA. I’ve been there many times.
Never had much appeal to you to try it out there?
I definitely see the appeal. If there was some great job and I lived in LA, I don’t think I’d be tortured, but you hear both things – people who move out there and just can’t stand it, and then there’s people who are just relieved, which I can see that, also. It’s pretty rough here in New York. As great as it is, I can see why some might not love it.
You’ve done a lot of memorable TV and film characters. Is there any character that’s been a favorite of yours?
Yeah, I think it was pretty cool to be in The Wrestler, just because it wasn’t expected, being in such a huge starring role. No, but it wasn’t like there were 30 comics in that, or even a lot of actors. That was certainly fun and exciting, and the aftermath of that, going to festivals and stuff was really exciting.
How did that happen? Did they come to you for that role?
I know [director] Darren Aronofsky a little bit. I’ve known him a while. I think he just had me in mind, and kind of asked me to do it. There was a little audition, but he gave it to me in the middle of the audition, just gave me the part.
And the fictionalized version of yourself that you played on Delocated, that was a pretty accurate depiction, right, that’s pretty much how you are?
[Laughs] Not really. It was a little heightened, I hope. That was a little bit more of a sleazeball than I am.
That show got pretty dark with you.
Yeah, the whole show was pretty dark.
It seemed like the writers were just like, “How can we screw with Todd this week?”
It definitely felt like that.
I saw on IMDb that you’ve actually done your own short film.
Yeah, I don’t even know if it’s on the internet now. I did that about… eight years ago? I don’t know. I can’t remember when I did it.
Is that something you’d be interested in doing again?
I’d like to do something, just a video. To say I’d like to make a movie, I mean, of course I would. It’s just a lot of work. I could only do so much.
Is it hard keeping up with everything these days, with Twitter, being interactive on social media, the podcast?
It depends on how much work and how much focus you have. There are people who work hard and there are people who work less hard. You can only do so much; try to be happy with what you’re doing.
Do you still get up every night to do stand-up during the week?
Yeah, I still do that for the most part. Just as long as you have a special on, there’s extra pressure. All these guys are like, “I have my new hour.” There’s pressure to generate new material. You’re always gonna be better off if you have new material.
Are you working on a new hour already? Because you just did one, what was it, last spring?
I guess, yeah I am. It’s actually been over a year since I did it. I’d like to do another one.
How many have you done?
I’ve done two half-hours and one hour.
Will we ever see Louis [C.K.] as a guest on your podcast, or is he not big enough of a star for you?
[Laughs] We talked about doing it. I want to do it with him when he’s available, and also just in a way that’s not me interviewing my friend. Make it into something goofy, some ridiculous conversation that we just record and put out there, as opposed to me asking about his ticketing or whatever.
Your Twitter feed is one of the greats. How often do you encounter people who don’t get your sarcasm?
There are people who take something I said that couldn’t be anything but a joke, and they somehow assume that a comedian is being very literal. It doesn’t occur to them that a comedian might be not serious, but they’re fucking stupid.
Do you engage with these people ever?
I rarely engage. For safety reasons, it’s good to not engage people. Occasionally if someone says, “I loved your show last night,” I might write back, “Thanks.”
Tell me about your Crowd Work tour. How do you prepare for something like that?
You don’t really prepare, you just dive in. And you hope that you find something looking around, and just start talking to people and seeing if there’s anyone in particular that wants to talk.
And you’d do a full hour of that?
About an hour, give or take.
Did the shows go well?
Yeah, they actually all went well. Some were better than others, but there was no show that I thought was a bad show.
Are you any more nervous for something like that as opposed to a show where you’re doing material?
Well, that’s a different type of feeling because half of you is relaxed because you have nothing to think about all day, but the other half is going, “Oh, but I still have to do something for an hour, and I don’t know what it is yet.”
Are you planning on anything like that that again?
I think I’m gonna do another tour, I might do a slightly altered version of it. I think I’m gonna do one in the fall.
Phil Davidson writes about, performs, and produces comedy.