Most stand-up comedians would panic at the thought of having to go onstage without any material. Todd Barry built a tour and a film around it.
Barry's "Crowd Work" shows consist entirely of him talking with audience members. Several performances were filmed for a special, which was produced and financed by actor-comedian Louis C.K., and is now available for sale on LouisCK.net.
amNewYork spoke with Barry.
Why do a tour of only crowd work?
You do hundreds of shows, so I'm always looking for ways to mix it up. I've always done [some] crowd work, so the idea just popped into my head.
Are there differences with each city's crowds?
I get a lot of hipsters and musicians and web people. I have certain demographics, but it's not always predictable who likes me.
Are there regional differences?
Not as much as people might think. I've done shows in New York that were horrifying and shows in Fargo [in North Dakota] that were unbelievable. I played in Alaska. They're a little rowdier there. ... They drink heavily. They were nice, just livelier.
Is there a kind of person who is best to interact with?
I just need them to give me something. If they say, "I work 9 to 5," it's hard to drag something out of that. An unusual job is nice. A little surprise is good, like the guy in Seattle who started telling me about how there was a blues bar next to his university in Nebraska and he once stood next to the governor there.
How do you prepare for each show?
I don't. That's the nice part. It's also the scary part.
Would you ever do a tour like this again?
I am billing it as the final crowd work tour, but I said before that it might be an Elton John-type retirement. Retire, then release 70 more albums after that.
If you go: Todd Barry is at The Bell House Tuesday at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m., 149 Seventh St., Gowanus, $15