“With this charming, sardonic debut, stand up comedian and actor Todd Barry makes readers laugh as hard as the audiences at his shows” (Publishers Weekly) in this hilarious book of travel essays from his time on tour in the US, Canada, and Israel.
Hello. It’s Todd Barry. Yes, the massively famous comedian. I have billions of fans all over the world, so I do my fair share of touring. While I love doing shows in the big cities (New York, Philadelphia), I also enjoy a good secondary market (Ithaca, Bethlehem). Performing in these smaller places can be great because not all entertainers stop there on tour; they don’t expect to see you. They’re appreciative. They say things like “Thank you for coming to Hattiesburg” as much as they say “Nice show.” And almost every town has their version of a hipster coffee shop, so I can get in my comfort zone.
My original plan was to book one secondary market show in all fifty states, in about a year, but that idea was funnier than anything in my act. So, instead of all fifty states in a year, my agent booked multiple shows in a lot of states, plus Israel and Canada.
Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg is part tour diary, part travel guide, and part memoir (Yes, memoir. Just like the thing presidents and former child stars get to write). Follow me on my journey of small clubs, and the occasional big amphitheater. Watch me make a promoter clean the dressing room toilet in Connecticut, see me stare at beached turtles in Maui, and see how I react when Lars from Metallica shows up to see me at a rec center in Northern California.
I’d love to tell you more, but I need to go book a flight to Evansville, Indiana.
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About the Author
Todd Barry is a stand-up comedian and actor who has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. He’s had three Comedy Central specials, and his fourth, The Crowd Work Tour, (produced by Louis CK) is currently on Netflix. Acting credits include Louie, The Larry Sanders Show, Flight of the Conchords, and as Mickey Rourke’s mean boss in The Wrestler. He has released four comedy albums including Medium Energy, named one of the best comedy albums of the decade by The Onion’s AV Club. Find more from Todd on his Facebook page: Facebook.com/ToddBarryFanPage, follow him on Twitter @ToddBarry, and check out ToddBarry.com.
Read an Excerpt
Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg
On January 14, 2015, I opened for Louis C.K. in front of fourteen thousand people at Madison Square Garden. Five days later I was on a plane headed to Little Rock, Arkansas, to headline a show at Juanita’s Cantina, the first stop on my never-officially-titled “Secondary Markets Tour.”
It amused me that I’d just done a show in a sold-out arena and was now on my way to perform at a small music venue in Little Rock. But I’m realistic; I could never fill Madison Square Garden. And now might be a good time to mention that I didn’t even fill Juanita’s Cantina.
This was my second time performing at Juanita’s. I did a show there in 2008, when they were at a different location. About ninety people showed up on a Tuesday. I remember thinking afterward, Ninety people on a Tuesday in Little Rock. Not bad! Although I’ve always toured, I still spend most of my time in New York City, so the fact that nearly a hundred people would pay to see me in Little Rock was pretty satisfying. But then I think, Maybe if I wasn’t satisfied with ninety people in Little Rock, I’d be playing the Little Rock equivalent of Madison Square Garden. Right?
I arrived the night before the show. I would’ve preferred to arrive earlier in the day, but the only nonstop flight to Little Rock was at 6:00 p.m. After touring for twenty-seven years, you start coming up with some travel dealbreakers, and one of mine is booking a flight with a layover when a nonstop is available. Another dealbreaker: a hotel where the door opens to the outside.
I did a tiny bit of research before I arrived. I asked my friend Jeremy, a comedy producer from New York who used to live in Little Rock, to recommend some places to check out. He not only e-mailed me an extensive list of restaurants, bars, and museums, but he even included links. Not links under the name of the place, but links where you click on the name of the place and its website appears. If I ever do this for you it means you saved my life once or I’m in love with you.
I arrived around 8:30 p.m. My stomach was a bit upset, so I figured the best thing to do was go to the bar next to the hotel and get some chicken fingers with “voodoo” sauce and a glass of Pinot Noir. This pairing is also known as “the upset stomach’s best friend.”
The next morning I dove into my favorite on-the-road activity: finding a coffee shop that makes me feel like I’m in Brooklyn. Going to coffee shops is probably my favorite part of traveling. I’ll go on Yelp to search coffee shops that are near a hotel I’m not staying at for six weeks. In Little Rock, a place called Mylo came highly recommended, and when I read a Yelp review where a guy complained that the barista there wouldn’t grind a bag of beans he was buying because you should only grind coffee beans right before making the coffee, I knew this was the place for me.
Mylo wasn’t within walking distance, so I got an Uber. A male driver arrived with a woman in the passenger seat. She stuck her head out the window and said, “Todd?” I got in, and the driver smiled and said, “This is my wife. She’s also an Uber driver.” Then he pointed to both of their licenses mounted above the windshield. Getting picked up by a husband-and-wife Uber team was a delightful start to my morning.
Mylo was great. The type of place I’d stay at for hours with the intention of getting work done, but then I wouldn’t get any work done. And as I suspected, everyone there was extremely friendly, and no, not because they recognized me from the one minute, eight seconds I was in the movie Pootie Tang. No one recognized me. Believe me, if someone recognized me there, you would’ve heard about it by now (and there will be that kind of thing if you keep reading!). I sat at Mylo and did a little research about the neighborhood I was in, an artsy community called Hillcrest. I put “Hillcrest” into my little Android browser and found something called “the Shoppes on Woodlawn,” which looked like it was in a house around the corner. It seemed like a place to get my girlfriend a gift from the road. I liked to buy her little gifts when I went out of town. Often they weren’t very imaginative, like a refrigerator magnet from Alaska that just said “AK.” (Treated myself to one, too!)
There was a very friendly man at the front desk of the Shoppes. I asked if there was anything “Arkansas-specific” to buy as a gift. He showed me some sort of tree ornaments shaped like Arkansas. I didn’t know how my girlfriend could use such an item, and I wasn’t going to buy her a tree to go with it, so I left empty-handed.
When you go to Little Rock, everyone tells you to go to the Clinton Library. I’d been on my last trip but figured it was something I needed to do every time I came to town. The visit started out right. I was in line waiting for my admission sticker. An old man had just gotten his. He handed one to his wife and told her, “The woman at the counter said you’re supposed to stick it on your forehead.” It was such a simple, silly, perfect joke.
I saw a sign for a guided tour that started in a few minutes. Hmmm. A guided tour? That’s probably a good way to get some knowledge stuffed into my head that I wouldn’t find on my own, but what about the guided part? Am I really a guided tour guy? I’d like to be, but what if the guide is long-winded? I can’t focus on a conversation for more than thirty seconds. Okay. Let’s do it. The crowd for the tour was basically a sweet group of senior citizens from a local Baptist church and me, a very young Jewish man. The tour started out slow, like “Todd, get ready for a panic attack” slow. At the rate we were going, I couldn’t imagine the tour lasting less than eleven hours, or maybe it was only scheduled for one hour and the tour guide would have to make everyone sprint through the last fifteen minutes. That could be fun. I’m a completist (I never walk out of movies) but this pace tortured me, so I gathered up some strength and disengaged from the group. There’s a good chance the tour is still in progress.
I spent the next twenty minutes wandering around the museum looking for the slight mention of the whole Monica Lewinsky/impeachment thing that I found the last time I was in town. I got overwhelmed by the text-heavy displays, so I left before I found it.
I think I did a good job entertaining the fifty-eight people who showed up at Juanita’s that night (yes, thirty-two fewer than my last trip). It wasn’t the best-publicized show in town (I had to teach the promoter how to retweet), and I wasn’t expecting a thousand people, but I bet I could’ve gotten a hundred fifty. You’re supposed to get more people the second time you come through a city.
After the show, my opening act, Kris Pierce, invited me to a showcase for local comics at a bar a few miles away. I wasn’t feeling great, but this is something I actually love doing—a short, no-pressure unpaid set after doing a higher-stakes paid headlining set. In New York, people like Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld will do unannounced drop-in sets at the comedy clubs. The crowd always goes apeshit. I imagined this is what it would be like if I did a set at an open mic in Little Rock. I’d be introduced and there would be a palpable sense of “Oh my God! I knew Todd Barry was in town and was hoping he’d do a set here, but I didn’t think he would!” energy in the air. I defused this energy by showing up after the show ended.
Before I went to Little Rock I posted something about it on Facebook. Below it a woman commented, Tough crowd for your quick clever wit. She posted this before the show. In her mind she was giving me a compliment. She saw “Little Rock” and assumed everyone there was a redneck and that it would be a tough show. It wasn’t a “tough crowd” (and you mean-spirited readers out there are saying it wasn’t a crowd at all). I’ve had this happen when I promote shows in other regions that aren’t in big markets. I remember posting a list of my upcoming tour dates on Instagram (yes, you can do that) that included two dates in North Dakota and one in South Dakota. A woman commented, Living the dream. I’m guessing she was being sarcastic. I doubt she would’ve said this if my tour dates were Chicago, San Francisco, and New York. I didn’t respond to the comment, but I would’ve liked to yell at her, “WHAT DREAM ARE YOU LIVING?!” That would have annihilated her.
I saw in the paper that singer/songwriter Randy Newman had a show in Little Rock with a local orchestra the same night as mine. The next morning I spotted him on my flight from Little Rock to Dallas. This is the second time I’ve been on a flight with Randy Newman. I left him alone, but it might have been fun to talk to him:
“Sorry to bother you, Mr. Newman, but this is the second time I’ve been on a flight with you, so I think that makes it okay. I did a show in Little Rock last night, too. I’m a comedian.”
He’d reply, “Oh, great. How was your show?”
“Pretty good, but there were only fifty-eight people there. I’m guessing your show was sold out.”
He would shrug politely, then say, “I had more than fifty-eight people in my orchestra.”
“Well, next time I’ll return with an orchestra!”
We’d both laugh and I’d walk back to my seat in coach.
Table of Contents
Foreword Jesse Eisenberg ix
Foreword Doug Stanhope xiii
Little Rock, Arkansas 5
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 11
Rohnert Park, California 14
Traverse City, Michigan 18
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 24
Bloomington, Indiana 29
South Bend, Indiana 33
Asheville, North Carolina 38
Durham, North Carolina 43
Wilmington, North Carolina 47
New Brunswick, New Jersey 52
Annapolis, Maryland 56
Richmond, Virginia 61
Hattiesburg, Mississippi 65
Birmingham, Alabama 70
Athens, Georgia 73
Portland, Maine 78
Pawtucket, Rhode Island 84
Hamden, Connecticut 87
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 90
Arlington, Virginia 95
Winnipeg, Manitoba 99
Evanston, Illinois 105
Tel Aviv, Israel 108
Honolulu, Hawaii 113
Paia, Hawaii 119
Asbury Park, New Jersey 125
New Brunswick, New Jersey 130
Iowa City, Iowa 133
Madison, Wisconsin 137
Wantagh, New York 140
Holmdel, New Jersey 143
Tempe, Arizona 146
Tucson, Arizona 151
Missoula, Montana 155
Boise, Idaho 160
Ogden, Utah 164
Spokane, Washington 169
Bellingham, Washington 175
Oakland, California 180
Sacramento, California 183
Reno, Nevada 187
Jersey City, New Jersey 193
West Nyack, New York 196
Buffalo, New York 199
Lawrenceville, New Jersey 203
Syracuse, New York 208
Ithaca, New York 211
Albany, New York 214
Charleston, South Carolina 219
Memphis, Tennessee 225
Mulvane, Kansas 230
Grand Rapids, Michigan 238
Pontiac, Michigan 244
Lansing, Michigan 249