Though he has put “stand-up comedian” on his tax return for over two decades, Todd Barry did not prepare any new material for his brand new special, which was produced by Louis C.K. and distributed through his website for five bucks.
But don’t worry—the show isn’t an hour of awkward silence. Instead, it focuses solely on Barry’s interaction with various audiences across a seven date trek up the west coast. The result is Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour.
“A special of mine came out about a year-and-a-half ago. And a lot of people are like, ‘Here’s my special, I’m going out on the road, and I won’t do one single line from that special.’ That’s a little dramatic, I think,” explains Barry. “But I didn’t know what to do, because I don’t have a brand new hour, and it takes me a while to write stuff, and I didn’t want an hour of new material just to have it. So it popped into my head to do a crowd work tour. It was challenging, but it gives you something to talk about when you’re promoting it. It makes it stand out a little bit. I mean, I didn’t invent crowd work, but people think I did now.”
When the time came to get together a special, Barry let one of his best friends take the reins. “I did a crowd work tour in January of 2013, and then I did another one. After I did the first one, people were like, ‘Did you film it?’ And I was like, ‘No, it’s a nightmare, but I know I should have.’ So then I booked another one, and I thought, ‘God, I should really film this, maybe I’ll write to someone who could fund it.’ That was my plan,” Barry says. “Louis just happened to call me, and he wanted to know what I was up to. So I told him I was going on this crowd work tour, and I’m thinking I should film it for a special. And he just kept asking me questions, and I told him I was thinking of writing to people to see if they’d fund it. He seemed to be more interested in it than I thought he would be, and finally he said, ‘Would you let me put this out on my site? And I’ll pay for it.’ And I was like, ‘Well, yeah. you may. You may pay for everything.’”
The team recruited veteran music video director Lance Bangs to follow Barry on his seven-date tour, which took him through all the typical western spots (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver), as well as a less-frequented stop. “Louis wanted to add some color to the landscape, so he sort of suggested going to some place other than comfortable New York and San Francisco,” Barry explains. “So we added Anchorage, Alaska, as the final date on the tour.”
Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour is Barry’s vision (he had complete control over most every aspect of the production), but credits Louis C.K. with its very existence. “There’s no way I could have put this together myself,” he admits. “I have a hard enough time getting to the airport.”
April 16 – Minneapolis, MN (Cedar Cultural Center)
April 17 – Madison, WI (High Noon Saloon)
April 18 – Chicago, IL (Lincoln Hall)
April 25 – Dallas, TX (Sons of Hermann Hall)
April 26 – Houston, TX (Warehouse Live)
April 27 – Austin, TX (North Door)
May 8 – Washington, DC (Sixth and I Downstairs)
May 9 – Philadelphia, PA (Underground Arts)
May 11 – Cambridge, MA (The Sinclair)
May 13 – Brooklyn, NY (The Bell House)