Liz Barrett Reminds Us to Take It Easy on Her Wry Debut Gettin’ By

Comedy Reviews Liz Barrett
Liz Barrett Reminds Us to Take It Easy on Her Wry Debut Gettin’ By

There’s a chapter in Jia Tolentino’s excellent essay collection Trick Mirror called “Always Be Optimizing,” about how society has fetishized the concept of constant betterment through exercise, diet, beauty products, and any number of other things that can be sold to us—especially women. Reading that essay felt like a light being turned on; sure, I was aware of the exploitative nature of these discrete elements, but the idea that making these activities in and of themselves rewarding so we buy into them, when in truth so many are far from pleasurable, was a revelation to me. Just as enlightening, and deceptively simple, is comedian Liz Barrett’s solution to this perpetual cycle of self-improvement (which never really stops, because then you wouldn’t keep paying for gym classes or eating sad lunches at Sweetgreen or whatever): rejecting it wholesale.

The New Jersey-born comedian starts out her debut album Gettin’ By with this freeing concept. After a deep sigh, Barrett shares her secret to living well: “I am having a great year because I have given up.” Given up on losing weight, given up on pretending to like salads, given up on giving a shit about what other people think. It’s this final choice that makes Barrett’s droll, wry sense of humor so entertaining. 

Between her deadpan delivery and shrugging, sarcastic observations, Barrett’s comedy is a perfect marriage of tone and content. She jokes about vegetarians, sober friends, newlyweds, and in-laws with an acerbic wit that she just as often aims at herself. Barrett initially started comedy over a decade ago, amidst struggling with her career and infertility, and that dark edge, the desire to laugh at whatever bullshit is thrown your way, forms the solid backbone of her set. At times that can mean certain punchlines feel predictable—her crack about Naked and Afraid comes to mind—but Barrett is such a confident and charming performer that these moments are easy to gloss over.

One of the most refreshing aspects of Gettin’ By is Barrett’s approach to current affairs—that is, not mentioning them. I’m not saying comedy needs to be apolitical (far from it) or that Barrett herself is, but rather that she avoids repeating the same lines we’ve heard over and over again about the state of the world. When you watch as much stand-up as I do, you end up hearing a lot of the same beats about politics and globals events (e.g. “The pandemic was great, I didn’t have to talk to anyone” or “The pandemic was horrible, I was trapped in my apartment and lost my mind”). Barrett skips the middle man, instead going to the logical conclusion of living in a world where climate change is a deadly threat and capitalism steamrolls over humanity: just focus on gettin’ by. Sometimes getting through to the end of the day is enough, and she imparts that sentiment while making you belly laugh.

Immediately familiar and relentlessly funny, Gettin’ By is for everyone who’s questioned the viability of nuts as an afternoon snack.

Gettin’ By is available now wherever you listen to comedy albums.

Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.

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