Ty Barnett and Ian Harris are 'Divided'
Stand-up comedians Ty Barnett and Ian Harris will team up to present insights about facing all of the challenges of midlife, parenting and relationships — all the while pontificating on political and religious beliefs that often keep us ... well, "Divided."
"We came up with the idea because I'm black and Ian's white," Barnett says during a telephone interview from Los Angeles. "We have different outlooks on what's going on in the world, but the thing that we have in common is that we can put humorous spins on topics that people are concerned about."
Barnett and Harris will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17, in the Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland. Tickets cost $20 or $35 and can be purchased online at theevolutionofcomedy.com.
Barnett and Harris worked together on various projects for about 15 years before the idea of hitting the road together occurred to them.
Harris helped direct Barnett's comedy film "Issues," "as in, I have them," Barnett says. It's available at iTunes. He's also made appearances on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson." He was a finalist on NBC's "Last Comic Standing" and had his own special on Comedy Central.
Harris integrates skepticism and critical thinking into his comedy. He released "Ian Harris: Critical & Thinking" in late 2012. His first comedy film was "It Burns When I Laugh." He's appeared on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and Comedy Central.
Harris hails from Southern California, while Barnett is originally from Chicago and "pays child support in Seattle," he says.
"They say the hardest things to make funny are religion and politics," Barnett says. "We're able to put a satirical bent on these subjects that leave people laughing when they go."
"Especially these days," Harris says. "Race, religion and politics are the hot buttons polarizing America right now. Our goal is to create social commentary that sheds some light on these subjects and makes audiences laugh while providing insights at the same time.
"That's what the greatest comics — Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin — gave their audiences. An inside look at the folly or irony," Harris says. "If you watched Pryor perform, you would certainly laugh. Then you'd walk away with a different, thought-provoking take on an idea."
Barnett cites Chris Rock as one of his biggest influences.
"I haven't seen his new movie yet, but I will just because I like the guy," Barnett says. "Chris' 1996 HBO special "Bring the Pain" is a perfect example of being funny and thought-provoking at the same time. He says a lot of almost shocking things, eye-opening things that will make you laugh.
"That's what we want to do with this tour," he says. "We want people to come out and have a laugh while hearing something thoughtful and observant. When comics start out, they tell the jokes they think will get the most laughs. Then they develop their own voices and thought processes. That's when they put themselves out there. Audiences will see them for who they are, for their experiences as a father, husband, whatever."
Looking at Barnett and Harris, one could think they share nothing in common. Barnett looks like a clever, laugh-a-minute guy while Harris looks contemplative, more like a mad scientist.
"That's my nickname," Harris laughs. "Angry guy on the rooftop is usually next."