Keith Barany to dole out some laughs at the Egyptian this weekend
February 28, 2012
Stand-up comedian Keith Barany (pronounced bare-a-knee) has entertained audiences around the world for 25 years.
He has written material for TV programs "Politically Incorrect," "The Jerry Seinfeld Show" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live," and also traveled to military bases to give troops a lift during.
Stateside, Barany specializes in private-group shows.
"Those are mostly country clubs, corporate events and charity fundraisers," the comedian said during a phone interview from a stop in Chicago, Ill. "I don’t know why that has happened, but it does seem to be the case."
Barany will jump off the private-shows boat for a bit and perform at the Egyptian Theatre with special guest Brandon Vestal, on Friday and Saturday, March 2 and 3. Tickets are available at http://www.parkcityshows.com
Formerly a math teacher, Barany began doing stand up because he says he has "no other marketing skills."
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"The reality is that I approach comedy in a different way than other comedians, in that I see comedy as a social service," he said. "I have always thought that people’s lives needed an escapist experience on a regular basis, and since I have this skill that not everybody has, I want to make it available to people whose lives are intense or challenging enough as they are.
"However, in the last five years, I have started coming to the conclusion that people’s lives aren’t all that difficult and we’re all just whiny little maggots," he said with a laugh.
Early in his career, Barany looked to Jay Leno as the stand-up comedy model.
"In the late 1970s and throughout the ’80s, he was a god for people who were students of comedy," Barany said about Leno. "He was cutting edge, hilarious and interesting, so I don’t quite know what happened to him.
"To this day, I don’t know how in 1992, when he took over ‘The Tonight Show,’ he forgot how to do comedy, because as a stand-up he was the gold standard for 15 years and was a powerful influence in the industry."
Moving on to other comedians at that point, Barany began to pay attention to an up-and-coming performer named Jerry Seinfeld.
"Right on Leno’s heels in the comedy clubs, everybody started talking about Jerry, and that was five to seven years before his TV show," Barany said. "I have to admit, even though I think of David Letterman as the guy who has the longest longevity in terms of being comically relevant, Seinfeld influences me in the way I perform certain routines, but not in the way I write material."
While most comedians try to find their audience by becoming famous and having their audiences find them through TV, Barany wasn’t interested in fame, and tried to forge his own way, even if that meant cleaning up the language of his routines.
"When I started out, I wasn’t a college act, because, even when I was 22, I wasn’t interested in performing for 22 year olds," he said. "I was trying to figure out a way to reach smart 45-year-olds."
So, Barany began entertaining private groups, instead of comedy-club audiences.
"My understanding was that when a 45-year-old steps out to go to a comedy club, they already know they may not be thrilled with the some of the language, but accept that idea because they are going to a club," he said. "When I go perform at their fundraisers, corporate events or country clubs, I have to embrace the notion that the audience’s sensibilities need to be heeded.
"That doesn’t mean that I customize my material for each group, but I think it’s rude to come into a community who pays you legitimate money and asks you to entertain them and then turn around and make them feel dirty," he said. "I am clean at corporate shows and I am clean at fundraisers and country clubs."
That’s easy for Barany, because he doesn’t see his shows as a way to indulge in his need to vent.
"It you’re trying to be a service for the community you’re performing for, then it’s not uncomfortable to censor oneself," he said. "I would never censor myself at a comedy club, but not all comics can censor themselves for shows that aren’t in the clubs. Most comics have a tendency to become insular, because they spend all their time with other comics and end up not being functional in the main-stream community."
In keeping with his delivery, Barany likes to believe he’s not making things up when he does a piece.
"If you’re a natural storyteller, you can blur the line of what actually happened and what version would make the best story," he said. " I think I’m telling what really happened, but who knows?
"However, in recent years, I’m starting to get increasingly interested in observational comedy, the stuff that Seinfeld does," he said. "He points out what people do and then we laugh about our human foibles."
Pointing out flaws is easy and safe when a comic targets himself, Barany said.
"My career has also been mostly autobiographical stuff, because every joke has to have a victim," he explained. "If the teller is the victim, it’s called self-deprecation. If the person you’re talking to is the victim, it can get dicey and almost bullying, because you have a microphone, the spotlight, the quick wit all the tools that could make the situation into a David and Goliath scenario.
"My show is interactive, and I make sure it’s done in a way where people don’t feel victimized," he said. "I like to say that my material is lightning fast, playful, but non-abusive."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present stand up comedian headliner Keith Barany and featured guest Brandon Vestal on Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 to $30 and available at http://www.parkcityshows.com .