It’s kind of a funny story

Comedian Todd Barry talks Twitter, drink minimums and why the Sacramento Comedy Spot is the perfect venue for his laid-back style of humor

Barry’s biggest celebrity fan? Apparently Nancy Sinatra. Maybe.

Barry’s biggest celebrity fan? Apparently Nancy Sinatra. Maybe.

Photo by Mindy Tucker

Catch Todd Barry on Friday, January 17, and Saturday, January 18, at the Comedy Spot at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets are $20, and Michael Patton, Nick Aragon and Keith Lowell Jensen are also on the bill. Visit, or
Despite his prominence and his status as a comedian’s comedian, Todd Barry still likes to play small rooms sometimes—a factor that enticed him to return to perform in Sacramento for the first time in 10 years, to play four shows at the Sacramento Comedy Spot.

And he especially likes places such as the Comedy Spot that don’t enforce a drink minimum—if not necessarily for altruistic reasons.

Reached at his home in Manhattan, Barry explained his philosophy.

“You can tell people that when you promote the shows [that there’s no drink minimum], which makes you look like a great guy who cares about his fans,” Barry said. “And there’s less chaos in the room if the waitress doesn’t give them a check in the middle of your show.”

Fair enough.

It was a tip from friend and fellow stand-up comedian Kyle Kinane that brought the Comedy Spot to Barry’s attention. Kinane told him that he’s had a great time playing his sold-out shows at the venue and recommended it as a “UCB-type place” for Barry to play.

“UCB,” for the uninitiated, is the abbreviation for the Upright Citizens Brigade, a longtime sketch and improv troupe in Los Angeles that’s served as a farm team of sorts for Saturday Night Live cast members, including Amy Poehler and Horatio Sanz.

Barry’s assessment dovetails perfectly into Comedy Spot owner Brian Crall’s vision. Crall’s background is in improv, and he’s even taken sketch classes at UCB; he now offers the same kind of classes at his venue. He started the Comedy Spot in 2008 in a vacant storefront on Broadway, and then moved to the current, higher-profile Midtown spot in November 2009. In addition to classes, Crall also stages a mix of improv, stand-up and sketch comedy—with a decided emphasis on improv’s anything-goes nature.

“We are all about the comedy first,” Crall said. “We don’t have a two-drink minimum. … It’s $20, and that’s the price, and we don’t gouge you.”

In 2013, Crall shifted his vision somewhat, expanding to include three to four nationally touring comedians each year as a way to increase the club’s visibility—and perhaps to better introduce it to the kinds of fans who flock to see the “celebrity” marquee comedians who pack the Punch Line Comedy Club on Arden Way. The Comedy Spot’s first big get was Kinane, a UCB alum, whose 2011 comedy album debut Death of the Party was widely praised.

Now, the Comedy Spot should prove an ideal venue for Barry who is known for his observational comedy and his measured, low-key delivery; unlike many, he’s never been an abrasive stand-up, but it’s hardly affected his career.

“Some club bookers are afraid to book a low-key guy and think they have to put you at the beginning of the show, [but] you just don’t worry about those people,” Barry said.

Barry’s also appeared on late-night TV countless times, including many stints on Late Show With David Letterman. In a twist, Barry has also appeared as an opening act for many bands, including They Might Be Giants, Mates of State and Yo La Tengo.

The 49-year-old’s epigrammatic style lends itself well to the punchy medium of Twitter, which likely explains why he has more than 230,000 followers. On the social-networking site, the comedian affects a puffed-up persona and often declares himself to have “won Twitter.”

An example of such featured a theoretical conversation between Barry and his fans.

“’Todd, when you don’t tweet a lot, the world isn’t happy a lot,’ - You guys,” Barry tweeted.

“Don’t be sad when I don’t tweet a lot. It just means I’m busy with one of my many amazing side projects,” Barry continued in a series of posts. “Sad when we live in a world where you get more attention for winning a marathon than I get for winning Twitter.”

“I reached 230k twitter followers the other day. Quietly. Without fanfare.”

“I’m not going to announce every time I win Twitter. It’s becoming ridiculous at this point.”

“I love to ’win Twitter’ right before boarding a flight.”

Barry’s followers also include a few well-known names, including what is likely his strangest celebrity connection: Nancy Sinatra.

“Although she follows like 35,000 people, so it pretty unlikely she’s a fan of mine,” he admits.

Barry’s also followed by many professional wrestlers, likely due to his role as Mickey Rourke’s snide deli boss in the 2008 Darren Aronofsky film The Wrestler. It’s a role he spoofed in an extremely popular Funny or Die skit that hinges on the conceit that Aronofsky’s next film, 2010’s Black Swan, originally started as a spin-off film starring the deli-boss character.

Barry’s lengthy résumé also includes roles in Wanderlust alongside Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd and four comedy albums. The Onion A.V. Club named his debut, 2001’s Medium Energy, one of the best comedy albums of the 2000s.

In contrast to his tongue-in-cheek, boastful Twitter style, Barry’s stand-up is self-deprecating.

On his latest album, 2012’s Super Crazy (also available as a DVD), which the Onion A.V. Club called “impeccably sharp and amusing,” Barry does a bit in which he pokes fun at the early, ’80s-era days of his career, imitating the phone message of a comedy club listing upcoming shows:

“August 1st and 2nd, we have Chris Rock—special event. No free passes. … August 15th and 16th, we have Todd Barry—it’s gum-wrapper night. Bring a gum wrapper or a piece of a paper roughly the size of a gum wrapper. You and your entire party get in free. What, still not interested? First round of drinks on us. Not even remotely an appealing offer? All you can drink the entire night, helicopter ride home.”

Up next for Barry, guest-starring on episodes of Louie, Inside Amy Schumer and Jerry Seinfeld’s Web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, as well as continuing his weekly comedy podcast, The Todd Barry Podcast.

No gum wrappers required.