Todd Barry: Domestic Shorthair.

Gorilla Specials: Todd Barry Wants To Tell You About The Genius Of The ‘Domestic Shorthair’

No one harnesses the power of mocking absurdity quite like Todd Barry. His quiet, calm delivery belies a talent to build jokes with layers of heightened absurdity that get increasingly more cutting and silly, until Barry, like a comedy contractor, figures out where the joke begins to crack and goes no further. There’s no better example of comedy by degrees than the work Barry does, and in Domestic Shorthair, he delivers yet another world-class showcase of it. 

Todd Barry: Domestic Shorthair.
Todd Barry: Domestic Shorthair. Courtesy of All Things Comedy.
Photo credit: Timothy Schmidt.

Todd Barry Notices the Holes in Bad Logic

The special starts with this joke:

“You guys are a nice crowd. I did a show recently. It was ten guys yelling out the entire night through every comedian’s act. Yelling stuff like ‘titties.’ You know, helpful stuff. They eventually threw them out, and they’re out in the hallway arguing wit the bouncer, and it got really heated, and the littlest guy in the group was right in the bouncer’s face, like ‘Yeah man, lay a hand on me. I dare ya. I’m a lawyer. I can sue you.’ He actually said that. ‘I’m a lawyer. I can sue you’ Because as you know, only lawyers can sue people. He’s so lucky he had that job. Otherwise, he’d go ‘Yeah man, lay a hand on me. You’d be crazy not to. You will get away with it. I work at a magic shop. Sadly I’m not a lawyer.’ All lawsuits are just lawyers suing people who punched them in the face. I’d like to see that trial. ‘Well your honor, it all started when I felt the need to yell ‘titties’ out for twenty straight minutes.’ Well this is gonna be a short one. I find in favor of anyone who punched you in the face. Boom. Titties.”

Barry finds his way from point a to point c through layers of heightened twists. Starting from the premise of only lawyers being able to sue, he escalates the joke to include its exact opposite, regular folks being powerless, and calculates that perhaps the furthest thing from a lawyer is a magic store employee. The bit then takes a final shift, escalating to the lawyer from the start of the joke in court and losing his case, with the word “titties” as a tag. It’s not only elegant in its construction, but Barry finds a way to milk it for all its worth in the two or so minutes it takes to move through. 

Barry Can Find Comedy Anywhere

About ten minutes in, Barry moves from covid procedures to waitstaff interactions at restaurants. What’s impressive is the way he varies the format of the jokes in this chunk, keeping it engaging for the audience. In his first interaction, he’s told he’s the worst for ordering a decaf espresso. He plays the joke out by saying “Anyway, give me a decaf espresso with a big spoon of ketchup in it.” This is perhaps what can be considered the standard rhythm for a Barry joke, having an interaction and undermining it with slight vocal nuance. However, he switches gears with an 80 second whispered dialogue exchange about dressing with a diner waitress in Oklahoma. As he tries to deduce if the Italian dressing is tangy enough, despite the waitress insisting it’s bad, the audience loses it over not just the joke, but the build-up and pace of the exchange. 

Barry’s Cadence Can Bring Down The House

In a bit about forgetting his toiletry bag from Cartoon Network, with cartoons all over it, Barry calls up the hotel only to be asked to describe the cartoons on the bag. He responds, “Did you think I was calling you on the off chance…that someone left behind a toiletry bag with cartoons on it? Like I’m in the market for one, don’t know where to find I’m calling hotels all day long…hoping for a miracle?” By moving languidly through the joke, Barry is able to drag it out in a way that creates beats, turning one joke into multiple opportunities to kill. There’s no one quite as precise as Barry in managing this sort of timing, and it never gets old watching him pace himself through a perfect set.

Todd Barry: Domestic Shorthair. Courtesy of All Things Comedy.
Todd Barry: Domestic Shorthair. Courtesy of All Things Comedy.

Todd Barry's latest special, Domestic Shorthair, is streaming now for free on All Things Comedy's YouTube channel! If you'd like to support Todd further, you can also pay to watch the special on 800 Pound Gorilla & name your own price.

Stream & download the audio album from the special on 800 Pound Gorilla!

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