Tuesday, April 29, 2008

RECAP: Todd Barry & Louis CK, 4/26

It was a rare night in the suburban Philadelphia town of Glenside. It's not every day that they get to see two of the country's best touring stand-up comics, Todd Barry and Louis CK.

The Keswick Theatre is a 1300-seat theater that without a balcony looks sort of like an auditorium. Alcohol was served in the lobby beforehand and the lines were long and lively.

After the opener, Todd Barry took the stage. As someone that records his albums in comedy clubs- his new one, From Heaven took place above a Chinese restaurant in Cambridge, Mass.- it was interesting to see him perform in a theater setting. And although the crowd was there for Louis C.K., Barry did well with his jokes about New York, Mick Jagger’s email address and performing in Alabama, amongst many others.

He seemed to enjoy combating with hecklers. Perhaps calling them “hecklers” isn't fair, they were more like guys in the audience yelling out stuff. As he went into a joke about giving food to the homeless, someone in the crowd yelled out “fuck that!” Barry gleefully made fun of the guy, which shut him up for a while. At some points there were multiple people yelling out, probably due to the alcohol served in the lobby before the show, but Barry coolly took care of them.

Last was, of course, the headliner Louis CK. Louis had been announcing the other acts from behind the curtain, so when it came time for him to perform he just walked out cold to loud applause. He had shaved off his beard for his work on Ricky Gervais' 'This Side of Truth'and right as he took the mic, the "fuck that!" guy yelled out asking why he cut it off. Because your mother asked me to, Louis replied, for when I am eating her out. Ok, good, he got that out of the way. There was more yelling out from the crowd later, but Louis easily shot down anything that came up. Witty remarks from the crowd included "you're lucky!" (yes, that was the name of his show, sir) and questions about why HBO cancelled the show (these people must not have known that that he's working on a new show for CBS). Someone yelled out "Billy Burr" at one point and Louis laughed. "You guys have such an institutional memory," he said. "Ben Franklin bombed here in 1762!"

Louis filmed a new HBO special, "Chewed Up", last month and its safe to assume that he performed some of that material Saturday night. His act mostly concerns his family but it is not "family-friendly". Instead, he's talks with piercing honesty about his relationship with his wife after two childbirths and the stress and struggle that come with those offspring. The anger and occasional resentment for his children that brews up has hit a nerve with audiences first with his HBO show "Lucky Louie" and then in his last stand-up special "Shameless" and there's more of that here. The difference now is that the extraneous topics have been cut out- nothing similar to his duck vaginas, Awesome Possum t-shirts or waiting in line material from the past. Instead he talks about mostly himself: how's he's getting fatter, how he doesn't really care about young women anymore as he gets older and his take on The N Word. The later is a far different viewpoint than fellow stand-up Chris Rock in his new act, who will also have a HBO stand-up special airing in the near future.

It all falls under the umbrella of a middle-aged guy that is really aware of where he is in his life, which seems to resonate with his audience. And while the way that he speaks of his daughters (aged 2 and 6) may be shocking to some, it rang true for that mostly middle-aged crowd at the Keswick Theater, when they weren't yelling anything out, that is.

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