Even over the phone, I can tell acclaimed comics Ian Harris and Ty Barnett have been pretty good pals for a while. The two jokesters will unite at the Rialto this Saturday, April 16, for their "Divided Comedy" stand-up show, which explores their opposing and according opinions on hot-button topics such as politics, race, religion and parenting through comedy. Harris and Barnett jokingly back-and-forth while they give me the down-low on their personal-professional friendship and their stand-up show they promise will "unite a divided nation through laughter." This interview has been lightly edited and condensed. —-
How did you guys meet?
Ty Barnett: We met about 17 years ago when Ian was performing in Seattle and he said, "Hey, if you ever come to L.A., call me up and let's do something." Most people are full of shit when they say that. He was not full of shit. He let me come and stay on his couch with his then-girlfriend who's now his wife. He was my first friend in Los Angeles. Ian Harris: Yeah, we met when we were working together in Seattle and we haven't worked together since. That's why we made this tour.
Any other reasons you decided to take this tour?
TB: If you look at our poster, Ian looks like a skinhead, it's true, but he's the furthest thing from that. Our viewpoints are different in some things, but they're similar in some things, too. The thing is, we've been able to maintain this friendship personally and professionally for 17 years. If we can do this, let's show these other people you can have different views about life and different perspectives and everything. It doesn't have to be one thing or the other. IH: We've gone back to the '60s in so many ways—telling people they can't be somewhere for who they are, judging people sitting at a counter for their genetics. We do some heavy topics and lighter topics [in the show], but I love to talk about religion and people's beliefs, [and] obviously there's a lot of racial tension going on in America right now.
Recently, comedians have kind of avoided college towns like Tucson because they say University students tend to be pretty PC. What do you guys think about that, and will it affect your show?
IH: I like college towns, college cities because the people we get aren't usually the students, they're the professors, so it doesn't [affect the show]. It used to be that college was the place where you weren't PC—it was the place to go and expose yourself to things not in your small town. Nowadays, it's not that, but you still have [students] who are open-minded. TB: Neither one of us will say things [in the show] that people will look at as offensive. We're not coming at it from a standpoint of "You're wrong in what you believe, you're stupid in what you believe." It's more "Here's an idea of how you can look at this." People shouldn't feel worried about being offended, you know—we know how to tailor to our audiences this material. We've been in the business for 17 years. IH: I'm always telling friends and family who come and see me [perform], "Watch out, I'm going to offend you!" And I've had people people come up because they didn't agree with something I said, [but] I've also had people come up to me and say, "I didn't find that remotely offensive. It was cool." TB: That's part of comedy, and that's part of saying something worth saying.
Could you summarize the show in a few words or a phrase?
TB: The perfect mix of two opposite sides of the spectrum coming together for a hilarious night looking at all the stuff you're scared to think about. IH: Also, the very unique part about our show is we literally come together on stage and do an audience Q&A. If you've always wanted to ask a black guy a question, if you've always wanted to ask an atheist a question—here's your chance ... Sometimes we'll ask the question in a serious way, and sometimes we're going to ask it in a funny way.
Anything else you'd like to say about the show?
TB: You're going to laugh. And if you don't like to laugh, you're dead inside. I'm sorry. IH: We know there's a ton of stuff going on this weekend in Tucson, and we get that. But (A), if you like comedy, this is one of the best shows you're going to see and (B) nothing like this has ever come through Tucson, to my knowledge. TB: And if you don't come to the show, the terrorists win. Don't let them win.
"Divided Comedy's" doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8. The Rialto is currently offering two-for-one admission on Ticketfly for $10 per person, or $20 per person those who don't want to buy two tickets. Get yours here. For more event information, check out the Rialto's website.