Todd Barry has his delivery pretty much down. He casually sets up a target in the quickest possible manner—whether it’s stubborn tourists, lax prisons, or nonsensical bartenders—then knocks it down with a playful, sarcastic punch. Barry’s dry but inflective voice is a perfect fit for his routine, which requires much more effort than his energy suggests. Whether his material works for him, though, depends on him setting up a topic capable of being dismissed with a wry one-liner or minor riff. And the less verbal effort expended on the line, the more effective it is. This puts a great deal of pressure on one line, and on his fourth album, Super Crazy, the set-up doesn’t always carry its fair share.
Under the most fitting title since Barry’s debut, 2001’s Medium Energy, the album collects incidents from the comedian’s life into mini-episodes of insanity, either others’ or his own. Super Crazy finds Barry impeccably sharp and amusing when his target calls for it: A dating service for busy people called “It’s Just Lunch” prompts one for comedians called “It’s Merely A Handjob”; and “Germaphobe” tackles his own neuroses while getting in a jab at Jim Belushi. The opening track, “Montana, North Dakota, Other Places,” satirizes instant gratification, and the longest track, “Directions For Tourists,” mocks the self-involved and dubious business tactics.
Barry’s humor thrives on deserving subjects, so his mockery can come off flat and unearned whenever he turns from major flaws to minor annoyances. In “Lip-Smacking Good,” he decimates overly polite customers, while “Gray Shirt Story” meanders from eager salespeople to natural deodorants to Internet commenters. Barry is painfully funny when he skewers a concept worthy of his scorn; he’s less so when he swats away straw men without so much as standing up.