Comedian Greg Barris Thinks Tom Selleck is a ‘Baby Saving, Mustachioed Saint’ [INTERVIEW]
Greg Barris is a staple in New York’s downtown stand-up scene. He’s the creator of Heart Of Darkness — a psychedelic showcase of comedy, live music and science. Yes, science.
When he isn’t traveling with The Heart of Darkness show, he is making music with his band ‘The Wigmaker’s Son.’ Their first release takes listeners “on a magic carpet ride through time waves, anoints Tom Selleck as a baby saving mustachioed saint, puts the reptilian army on notice and forgives all your sins.”
Greg sat down to talk about Magnum PI, Heart of Darkness, wigs and his side job owning a pizza joint.
GuySpeed: How much of your inspiration has come from your family who owns a wig-making business?
Greg Barris: Well, my band is called ‘The Wigmaker’s Son.’
GuySpeed: Right, so how much comedic inspiration came from that line of work? We think it’s kind of a funny thing. You know someone makes wigs but you don’t always think about it like “that’s a family business.”
Greg Barris: My grandfather was a wig maker. My brother’s a wig maker. My dad’s a wig maker. The job itself doesn’t provide much inspiration but there were always a lot of eccentric people coming into the wig shop.
GuySpeed: Were they upset that you didn’t get into the family business?
Greg Barris: Nah, they were really supportive and have always been supportive of anything I’ve done.
GuySpeed: Is it something to fall back on? We all have a fall back plan
Greg Barris: I don’t think so. I don’t know what I would do. I don’t know how to make wigs. My father and grandfather both started when they were kids. It’s too late for me.
GuySpeed: Your bio says that you’re also the co-owner of a pizza place. Maybe that’s Plan B?
Greg Barris: I guess so.
GuySpeed: How did that happen?
Greg Barris: I sorta fell ass-backwards into the pizza world. My grandfather owned a restaurant — the only restaurant on a elevated train on Coney Island — like on the actual elevated part of the train. One day, I was doing a show and was walking back to my friend’s apartment with a case of beer. I was starving, and this pizza place was closing up. I knocked on the window, hoping to get some pizza to go with the beers. The owner and I hit it off. He is showing me around and we go down to the basement. It was a great place to put on a show. So, I started doing a show in the basement of this pizza place for like a year-and-a-half. That was about 8 years ago. Over the course of the last eight years I’ve just become intimately involved and then a part-time owner. We actually just opened a second location.
GuySpeed: You recently anointed Tom Selleck a “baby-saving mustached saint.” Is there any way to explain that in a couple words?
Greg Barris : I make these stickers with my friend who’s a band director, Dema Durchin. He’s a very talented artist and one of the stickers that he made a long time ago said, “Tom Selleck saved my baby,” and it had Tom Selleck holding a gun with a baby in his arms. It’s basically just us loving Tom Selleck.
GuySpeed: Explain a little about the Heart of Darkness show
Greg Barris: It’s a variety show that I’ve been doing for like seven or eight years now. It’s sort of a different format than in the past. There’s always a different live band on stage. It’s like three different bands that come together to make this six-piece band and each show is themed. There are always two comics and some musical guests and a guest speaker. We try to theme the show around the speaker and then everyone tries to do something that touches on that theme. I have to pick a band that can play with the comics, so to speak, or the musical guests. The speaker’s usually like a fringe scientist.
GuySpeed: Where did the idea for all this come from?
Greg Barris: Well, it sort of just built on itself over the last several years. I was working on a documentary, years ago, about consciousness and science. I was interviewing a lot of science people and they were so interesting I wanted to bring it to a live show. For example, I recently had a quantum physicist join us on stage. We do like a question and answer thing. The show is always evolving and changing into something else.
GuySpeed: Where do your comedic inspirations come from?
Greg Barris: All over the place really — I love live comedy. I also really like Gene Wilder and Bill Murray. Also the show ‘Look Around You.’ Ever see that show?
GuySpeed: Describe it and maybe we’ve seen it
Greg Barris: It’s a British show by this guy Peter Serafinowicz, he’s a genius and he made this almost like a weird PBS science show, but it’s absolutely absurd. It’s just very, very absurd and dry. There’s not really another American show like it.
GuySpeed: So, because of your personal tastes, your comedy tends to lean toward funny but also kind of a learning experience?
Greg Barris: Yeah, I try to learn stuff myself and try to fit some sort of learning experience in my shows.
To learn more about Greg, check out his website gregbarris.com.