Comedian Keith Barany went from participant to producer in Egyptian Theatre series
Stand-Up Comedy at the Egyptian Theatre
8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 2, and Saturday, Aug. 3
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St.
Friday tickets are $15-$25; Saturday tickets are $19-$29
Keith Barany has seen the Stand-Up at the Egyptian Theatre comedy series come full circle.
Back in 2012, the stand-up comedian was a participant, but for the past five years, he’s been the producer. And Carla Collins and Dwight Slade, who will perform this Friday and Saturday, were two comedians that Barany had brought to Park City during his early years as producer.
Barany booked Slade, a finalist in the San Francisco Comedy Competition and Winner of the Boston Comedy Festival and Seattle International Comedy Competition, in the winter of 2014, while Collins, an award-winning comedian, actress, television host and author who was named 2015 Comedian of the Year by the Southern California Motion Picture Council, last appeared in Park City in the spring of 2015.
“I felt it was time to start bringing back those who have done well here in the past,” he said. “I look at those who rocked the joint and have thought about pairing them with others who did the same, which would make ridiculous powerhouse shows. But I’m also thinking about bringing in comedians who did well and pair them with others whom I’ve never brought in before.”
Barany’s deliberations in scheduling people for the stand-up comedy nights is a far cry from when he first performed at the Egyptian Theatre seven years ago, he said.
The headliner was running late and theater manager Randy Barton knew Barany, who had written for “Seinfeld,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and the Emmy award show, was a veteran stand-up comic.
“So he threw me up on stage,” said Barany, “I did well and they started booking me to do some shows.”
A few months later, Kathleen McCann, the original producer of the Stand-Up series, moved out of town, and Barany, who has made numerous trips oversees to entertain U.S. troops, took the helm.
He relied on his connections with the stand-up world he had made over the past 30 years to book his shows.
“To be honest, I was a little confused at the beginning because in my experience theater audiences tend to be a little stuffy,” he said. “So, I thought what was important to the people who were attending the comedy shows was to see a a full palette of ethnic diversity, which I like to do anyway. But I was prioritizing that in the early shows over who was funny.
“People had nice things to say about the shows, but (the shows) weren’t knocking their socks off in the first six months,” he said. “I caught on that (audiences) wanted the funniest people I could give them. The audiences have taught me what they want first and foremost is funny. So I don’t book with a political actism in mind.”
The series has made a slow and steady build, according to Barany.
Some stand-up artists who have made Egyptian Theatre audiences laugh include Josh Nasar, Danny Villalpando and Tracy Smith.
“Now we’re at the point where we have a fairly loyal following,” he said. “The numbers we have done during the Park City Kimball Arts Festival weekend in the past two to three years have surpassed the other years.”
That doesn’t mean Barany’s decisions have been infallible.
“I’ve had one or two instances where I think someone will do really good, and for some reason they haven’t set aside personal problems that were happening in their lives,” he said.
Still, there are times when the comedian booked surpasses Barany’s expectations, such as Collins.
“I didn’t know too much about Carla’s work when I first booked her,” he said. “I usually sit in watch a whole comedian’s show before I decide to book them, and I never had the chance with Carla. She was great.”
Barany also enjoys emceeing the Egyptian shows when he’s in town. Unfortunately, this weekend he’ll be on the road doing his own show.
“The downside of having my own tours is I can’t be there in Park City as much as I like,” he said.
When he is in town, he takes the stage and gives background on the performers.
“I talk with the audience, and I tell them a story or two of how I met the acts,” he said. “Then I’ll share a funny story. The number of times I have done stupid things is astounding.”
Barany keeps his introductions and anecdotes short, so he doesn’t take a lot of time away from the headliners.
“I also like to treat our comics well, because we are so used to being mistreated,” he said with a laugh. “I always bring them out for a second bow. And every time I do that I see their faces in the wings, and they are usually going, ‘Are you sure?” ‘What are you doing?’”
Treating the performers with respect is a value that has trickled down from Barton and Amber Hansen, the theater’s artistic and producing director, Barany said.
“Randy has a tremendous touch of how to manage a team, and they both have shown me a lot of trust,” he said. “I’m sort of stunned of how they let someone who is unstable as me just go with things.”
When Barany isn’t booking acts for the comedy series, he is producing his own performances.
“I have an agency, and we specialize in PG to adult shows at corporate events and fundraisers,” he said. “I’m still in build mode, because I’m trying to get it to where I’m not on the road for too long.”
Barany also has other creative projects he wants to work on.
“I have a vision for a philosophy-driven podcast that features commentary by funny people,” he said. “Years ago, I had a radio show in L.A. that was like this, and I have cultivated a group of people who all have opinions. But their opinions aren’t conventional opinions. They aren’t trying to upset the crowd, nor are they trying to go along with the crowd. They just tell it how they see it.”
Although Barany plans to launch this podcast in a few months, he is still dedicated to producing Stand-Up at the Egyptian Theatre.
“I’m hanging onto that until they pry my dead fingers off the series, or the men’s room,” he said. “I just love, love, love the comedy series.”
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