It's a man's world. What else could explain how the unaffected faces of headliners Marc Maron and Dave Barry could be plastered on billboards all over the city? Could you even imagine if they were, instead, talented women just smiling away without the least bit of sexiness? Call it my bad-attitude carryover from Jazz Festivals past (case in point: the smilin', banjo-twangin' Steve Martin vs. the pouty, smoldering Norah Jones), but I was dubious of humorist Dave Barry's "fringiness" upon entering the packed Kodak Hall Friday night.
But you can't blame Dave Barry. The guy really is hilarious, and if you can't muster a laugh (I'd say every single audience member laughed out loud -- and heartily -- at least once), you gotta admit he's an affable guy.
He strolled out casually like a hip, ageless college professor. Or maybe this affect was carried solely by his tweed jacket/jeans combo and the oversize podium. He opened with some surprising words after admitting he's never done a Fringe Festival before: "I'm wearing a condom." That was pretty jarring and shocked us into laughter. He used this as a springboard to spotlight his ASL interpreter for some awkward visual moments.
He did the usual riffs on Wegmans, but they were actually funny, as he outlined how similar his home base Miami and Rochester really are. ("In Miami, we have tropical weather and shimmering nightlife, while Rochester has ... Wegmans."). He went on quite a while about Miami, with some hilarious true-story accounts of the Burmese Python Challenge, Hurricane Andrew (!), and that one time bales of cocaine fell from the sky.
Not quite stand-up, and certainly not "spoken word," Barry's delivery, his timing, and his storytelling do come off like well-crafted words on the page. But he writes like he speaks, so the interplay seems effortless. The thing with Barry, though, is that you really have to pay attention. These aren't just set-ups, punchlines, and zingers, and the laughs come when you follow along with the plot and characters. His stories were involved, and they curled back to one another. (Audiences just love a call back. What is it about the call back?)
Barry was composed and prepared, so there wasn't a whole lot of interaction with the audience, and not a whole lot of spontaneity either. That sloppy persona he's banked on was hardly evident, but he managed to make a few digs at men's ways of thinking versus women's. His observations were thoughtful and perfectly self-effacing.
My initial feelings that this headliner was just another male, Boomer-centric act vanished as I came away realizing that this guy is an American classic of our day.
Still, how about some ladies up on that esteemed stage?