In 2015, standup comedian Todd Barry set out tour. The tour provided ample fodder for a book, “Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg: One Comedian’s Tour of Not-Quite-the-Biggest Cities in the World,” released in 2017.
Among those not-quite-the-biggest cities: Spokane, where on Oct. 1, 2015, Todd Barry headlined a show at the Bartlett. According to his book, Barry came to town a day early, visited Nudo and Neato Burrito (twice), took in the Chinese Lantern Festival and shopped for soap dishes at Anthropologie.
Barry has appeared in the films “The Wrestler” and “Road Trip.” On TV, he voiced himself on 16 episodes of “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist” and had a recurring spot on “Louie.” He also appeared on “Spin City,” “Sex and the City,” “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Flight of the Conchords.”
Once, in 1982, he was telephoned by David Letterman and offered an impression of Paul Schaffer. He also appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Up Late With Carson Daly” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” He’s had half-hour and hourlong specials air on Comedy Central.
His latest comedy special, “Spicy Honey,” hit Netflix on Friday. To mark the occasion, and with the help of publisher Gallery Books, we are reprinting the Spokane chapter of “Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg.”
OCTOBER 1, 2015 — SPOKANE, WASHINGTON
I was at a They Might Be Giants concert many years ago in Central Park. I was in the fenced-off VIP area, just watching the show like everyone else, but later someone posted on an Internet message board that I was standing there in a way that said, “Look, everyone, I’m Todd Barry.” I sort of know what that look is (because I do it now on purpose) but I also think she was projecting it on me: she didn’t like me, so she came up with the worst interpretation of how I stood at a concert. I doubt I was standing there pointing to myself, hoping to upstage a band that was playing for five thousand people.
I bring that up because on my way to Spokane, I spotted Geraldo Rivera at LaGuardia Airport, and I wondered if he was doing what I was accused of. He walked by me while I was waiting at my gate, alone and not wearing a hat. As far as celebrity sightings go, this was a direct hit. He sat down, but then he kept getting up to run mysterious errands. One time he came back with some food, but there was no explanation for the other times. Maybe he was thinking, I’ll do one more lap and someone will approach me. But no one did, and it inspired me to tweet this:
At LaGuardia airport having a “not getting recognized” contest with Geraldo Rivera.
I should’ve tagged him in the tweet. Maybe he would’ve found me and said, “What is with these people? Don’t they know who we are?”
I got to Spokane the day before the show. The shower was clogged at my hotel. I’d say this happens at half the hotels I stay at. Sometimes it’s just a matter of figuring out how to open the drain, but not in this case. It was my first shower there, so my awful, hairy apelike body couldn’t be blamed.
At this point you’re thinking, Todd, did you plan your Spokane trip to coincide with the Washington State Chinese Lantern Festival that was going on at the time? I did not. It was a wonderful coincidence.
I asked someone what I should do that night, and they suggested checking out the festival. I’d never heard of such a thing, and thought I might not ever hear of such a thing again, so I figured that was the place to go. I was hungry, so I was excited to eat some great Chinese food while checking out some sweet Chinese lanterns.
By the time I got there, they’d stopped serving the authentic Chinese food, so all that was left was typical festival fare like kettle corn and pizza. I love both those things, but they didn’t seem to fit into the culinary vibe I was trying to create for myself. I enjoyed looking at the various lanterns, but all the colorful illuminated zebras, butterflies, peacocks, elephants, and giraffes triggered my somewhat compulsive picture taking. I grabbed many shots, including some of my famous selfies. Even if you’re antiselfie, you won’t be at a Chinese lantern festival.
I spent an hour walking around the festival. I caught a few minutes of — and took a few pictures of — a dance troupe performing on one of the outdoor stages, before I left to get some food at a sleek ramen place called Nudo. After dinner I found a bar called Volstead Act that was quiet until some loudmouthed guy whom I dubbed “the Ernest Hemingway of Spokane” showed up and started yelling (to be fair, I have no idea if Hemingway was a loudmouth). I’m guessing he was a regular because the bartender tolerated him. I hate loudmouths at bars as much as I hate couples who make out at bars. I remember going to a bar in the East Village in New York City. A couple started making out inches from me. I made a face and the bartender, who I was friendly with, walked over to them and said, “We’re closing up.” I appreciated that.
I got a message from my comedian friend David Angelo, who said he’d be in Spokane the next day to open for John Mulaney.
David was staying across the street at the same hotel as Def Leppard. I knew they were in town, and there were tour buses parked out front, so I assume it was them, and not David’s busses. He walked over to my hotel lobby, but somehow neither of us realized the other one had arrived. David asked the doorman to call me, and he whispered I was sitting in the corner. Later on David claimed I was “hiding” in the corner, but that sounds dramatic.
We got lunch at a place called Neato Burrito, then went to get a coffee at a shop that also sold home goods.
While checking out the bathroom supplies, David made the bombshell comment that you can’t get a good soap dish.
I pursued this topic with the same fervor with which most people would avoid it.
“What do you mean, David?” I could feel myself getting upset.
“They don’t have any drainage. The soap just sits in a puddle of water.”
“I don’t know, David. I feel like I’ve seen a soap dish that drains. I bet I even OWN one.”
“They don’t make one that drains.”
“It’s 2015. I’m pretty sure they’ve nailed down soap dish design.”
David held his ground: they just don’t make soap dishes correctly.
For some people it would’ve been the perfect time to change the subject, but since there were a Macy’s, Pottery Barn, and Anthropologie within walking distance, changing the subject didn’t seem appropriate.
Proving my point did. I was nice enough to explain to the polite saleswoman at Anthropologie the big feud we were having. She was patient and I felt bad for dragging her into my silliness. David rejected all the soap dishes she showed us, so I decided to let it go. I should point out that months earlier, David had started a company that sold old-fashioned double-edged safety razors. He sent me one, and I was never able to shave in under twenty minutes. So maybe he’s not one to talk about bathroom product design.
The show that night was at the Bartlett, a relatively new music venue. It only held one hundred for a seated show, so it was an easy sellout, and the place was well run and clean.
I talked to a guy during the show who worked at a place called Papa Murphy’s Take N’ Bake Pizza, a chain I’d never heard of but is apparently quite popular in the area. He revealed that Papa Murphy’s sells uncooked pizzas.
“Like you order a pizza just how you like it, then you take it home and bake it yourself ?”
The audience was delighted at how delighted I was about the concept, but I felt uneasy pursuing it too much because I’m guessing it was probably something everyone in the crowd had made fun of at some time. Like how some American comics do shows in England and talk about how the police there don’t use guns. It’s too obvious. I’m supposed to be funnier than the audience.
There were limited after-show food options, so I met up with David Angelo for my second Neato Burrito meal of the day. There was an open mic going on, and it felt weird standing in a burrito line while a comic was onstage ten feet from me. The audience was (lousy) and talkative, so I ate my food and went back to Volstead Act. Pretty good two days in Spokane. My first Chinese lantern festival and an extended conversation about soap dishes.