by ashlee voorsanger                                                                                                                    ...

MEET LIZ BARRETT: Queen of Deadpan

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by ashlee voorsanger                                                                                                                               photo by Phil Provencio

I'm standing in the back of the Manhattan's Beauty Bar waiting for Liz Barrett to get off stage. There's not a seat to be had in the back of this funky bar / nail shop / comedy spot, as the followers of "Grin and Barrett" (Liz's monthly comedy show) have packed the room for the third anniversary show.  The drinks are flowing, the laughs rolling, and the pink glittered walls sparkling as comic after comic delivers a killer set.

Once the show is over, Liz thanks each of the comics, and as many of the audience members as she get to, for supporting the show.  She graciously works the group of women who have giddily assembled to tell her they are her newest fans - a couple already quoting some of her signature bits.  She offers to buy them a drink.  

She extricates herself from the post-show chaos, and grabs a seat (replete with old school beauty salon hair dryer helmets), finally able to - almost - relax.  She sips her vodka soda (with just a splash of cran, "no one knows what a SPLASH of cran is anymore," she laments), and exhales.  "Well, another show in the books.  It was a good show, right?," she asks, as tipsy audience members continue to stop by and thank her for a great night.  "Sometimes, just having ONE person tell you they forgot about their bad day during your set, makes the whole thing worth it."

packed house for Grin & Barrett at Beauty Bar                                                                                     photo by Phil Provencio

While busy curating her own career, Liz has managed to cultivate a devoted following for her monthly show "Grin and Barrett," as is evident tonight.  The show has remained free, while consistently featuring "credit heavy" comedians (Conan, The Tonight Show, Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central, to name a few), as well as newcomers who are fast on the rise.  She also delivers one of the most diverse line ups in the city, and has been selected, twice, as a top pick for comedy by Time Out New York.  When asked about the stresses of producing her own show, she singles out, "Getting asses in the seats.  An Audience.  I stress every month about how to get people there."  The show has regularly been standing room only at it's new home, Beauty Bar (14th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues).

In discussing her hopes and goals for the show, Liz replied "I would like to get to the point where I just have smaller line ups, bigger names, and longer sets."  Given her ability to put her head down and make it happen over the last few years, this seems a given.

She was born in New Jersey, but roamed the country as an Army brat before settling in NYC 12 years ago.  After a not so funny layoff, she signed up for a comedy class, and the rest is - well - history in the making.  It's been said that success is not a straight line, and no where is that more painfully obvious than the arts, and perhaps in comedy specifically.

In fact, mid-way through the aforementioned comedy class, Liz was about to hang it up.  Feeling stalled and unhappy with her progress, she told herself "this is it" and stayed up most of the night working on new material. That attitude has served her well, not only was her next class a triumph, it would sow the seeds for the trademark deadpan that is now delighting audiences in New York and beyond.

Liz Barrett delivering the deadpan.                                                                                                        photo by Phil Provencio
Years ago, she remembers seeing Louis CK at the famed Comedy Cellar.  At the time, he was "just another comedian" and stood next to her eating fries.  She certainly couldn't have known then, but in just a few years, she would headline her own show at Carolines on Broadway (May 2016).  It's important to note that "just a few years" on a calendar, and "just a few years" on a COMEDY calendar, are quite different.  Hours are spent honing material: writing, rewriting, performing, revising, trashing, un-trashing, hating, editing, loving, doubting...  Several nights a week are spent waiting for scant minutes on an open mic to polish and tweak said material... Not to mention, the financial investment of simply getting to and from mics, shows, writing sessions, classes, marketing, therapy (if you're lucky).  The lifestyle is not for the timid, and many incredibly gifted comedians end up pursuing other interests.  When asked about her headlining gig at Carolines, Liz admits, "When I came around the corner and saw my photo on the poster outside Carolines, I cried (even though there is no crying in comedy).  All the nights when I thought I should give up, I know thought - OK, I can do this."

Drawing inspiration from "the absurdity of life," her dead-on deadpan connects with comedy lovers from every background - who are, as she is, just focused on "gettin' by."  2016 has seen Liz headlining Carolines, as a finalist in the Laughing Skull Comedy Festival, and regularly on stage at numerous clubs in NYC, Chicago, and San Francisco to name a few.  She was a guest on Sirius-XM's Bennington Show, and recently started to work with the website Ruthless Spectator and Rob Bartlett.  Time Out NY recently said, "The acerbic, NYC-based comic brings her signature brand of dark, batty stand-up to Carolines. With recent appearances on Gotham Comedy Live and at the Boston Comedy Festival, Barrett is quickly on the rise. Catch her before she goes supernova."  And the Barrettheads (her growing fan base) are listening.  

Get to one of Liz's shows soon, and maybe one day you can say you saw Liz Barrett when she was "just another comedian eating fries" next to you.

TWITTER: @lizcomedy
INSTAGRAM: @lizcomedy

FACEBOOK: GrinBarrettComedy
TWITTER: @GandBcomedy

Photographer Phil Provencio:
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