All the jobs I ever had: Heart of Darkness host Greg Barris

Tour guide Greg (and his dad) at Cypress Gardens.

Greg Barris – restaurateur, grey pants enthusiast, proud owner of gorgeous curls of hair, forgiver of sins, cook book collector and straight-up hilarious comedian – has been employed by at least 13 different companies since he was 13 years old. Greg, 30, is currently a co-owner of L’Asso, with restaurant locations in the East Village and NoLIta. He also hosts Heart Of Darkness (most often performed at Park Slope’s Union Hall). Heart Of Darkness is an evening packed with comedians, musicians, academics, philosophers, hair dressers and any other kind of freakishly fascinating type. Reggie Watts and Janeane Garofalo are regular guests and Greg will, without fail, forgive you – you personally – of your sins. All of them, you filthy sinner. Greg also performs standup at various clubs throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan and often shares his unique brand of comedy with Los Angeles. But it was a long road to get there that involved telemarketing, boot selling and getting fired from a comedy club … for making a joke. 

1. Head Start Hair for Men, Winter Haven, Fla.: Housekeeper

Thrust head first into the workplace by family obligations, Greg’s very first job (at around age 12) was as housekeeper for Head Start Hair for Men, his father’s wig company. Don’t think this nepotism led to an easy go of it. Greg was expected to clean the shop as completely and in as much detail as would any adult housekeeper with several years of experience. Greg recalls needing constant supervision due to the frequent fisticuffs that broke out among the housekeeping staff (which consisted of Greg and his brother).

2. Cypress Gardens (now Legoland Florida) – Tour guide, Announcer (pictured above)

As a high schooler in Central Florida, Greg was spending his summers and weekends at Cypress Gardens but not in a fun way.  He was a boat tour guide through the botanical gardens, hosted the famous Cypress Gardens ski show and ran lights and sound for the ice skating and circus shows.

3. AM 1360 – News anchor
At the ripe old age of 15 Greg was a news anchor for AM 1360, “The Soul of Central Florida”. He read the news twice daily. “It was supposed to be funny. I don’t know if it always was.”

4. Dominion Studios – Founder, Videographer and PR
Just before graduating from high school, Greg started his own company, Dominion Studios.  The studio was originally for shooting and editing wedding videos but eventually encompassed PR services as well.

5. Sprint PCS Call Center – Telemarketer
Remember when you used to call and actually speak to someone at your cell service provider about what kind of package you should get on your awesome flip phone? If you used Sprint PCS, you may have spoken to Greg. If you did, he probably sold you a premium package because in the time he was at Sprint he became their third top salesperson in all of these United States of America. Greg not only made Sprint a ton of money but he also did pretty well for himself. “They didn’t have the labor laws we have now. So you could work 24/7 as long as you didn’t fall asleep. I made $40/hour and I would work all day for a few days a week.”

6. ADT Security Services – Door-to-Door Sales
For a grand total of two weeks, Greg did door-to-door sales for ADT Security Services. He spent a week and a half training and less than a week in the field. Going to recently robbed neighborhoods selling security just didn’t seem quite right to him. So he quit.

7. Ha! Comedy Club, Manhattan – Barker

“This period of my life was super dark,” Greg says. During his time at Ha! Greg was featured in an article The New Yorker ran on the club and its barkers. The article paints an only slightly nicer picture of the experience than Greg does. According to Greg, “Ha! is the worst place ever.”

While there he worked 7 days a week making $2.50 for every customer he got into the club (after the first five) which was usually about $150/week. He was not only a barker but generally a grunt of all trades. Only moments after commenting to Adrian Nicole Leblanc of The New Yorker, “at least I don’t have to clean the bathrooms,” Greg was asked to clean the bathrooms. A regular patron often demanded of Greg, “Dance with my wife while I get the car” (and vice versa). Upon further reflection Greg added, “Ha! is a hell hole.”

For those who aren’t familiar, the Ha! barkers are the people in Times Square who ask if you like to laugh and you wryly answer, “No.”

8. Caroline’s Comedy Club, Manhattan – Phone answerer
Greg’s job at Caroline’s was (mostly) answering the phones. When he received two calls from the same person for the same wrong number he gave the phone to a comedian nearby who proceeded to reverse prank the caller. As it turns out the caller was a frail old man and the call led to some confused panic on his part. “So, I got fired from a comedy club for a joke.”

9. Basement of L’Asso, Manhattan – Bartender, poker host, et al

Greg’s first introduction to L’Asso (a restaurant in which he is now a partner) was as a bartender and poker host in their basement. The basement operation wasn’t entirely what you might call “above board” (figuratively or literally) and was eventually shut down but the restaurant itself is still thriving (see item 11 below).

10. Eleven Vintage (now Quality Mending Co.), Manhattan – Cowboy boot salesman

Via MoodBoard

During the most recent resurgence of the urban cowboy trend (circa 2005) Greg was in the eye of the dust storm. Eleven Vintage (now known as Quality Mending Co.), a hip vintage clothing store on Elizabeth and Prince, was bursting at the seams with cowboy boots and Greg was the man selling them.

11. L’Asso  – Owner, PR, et al (currently)

After working in the now defunct basement fun-zone at L’Asso Greg worked his way up the ladder. All the way to the top of it, in fact. He is now co-owner of the famed pizza restaurant which recently opened its second location. As a partner Greg creates dishes, does PR and creates an annual pizza pin up calendar, among other things.

12. Heart of Darkness, Brooklyn – Host and Forgiver of Sins (currently)

Greg Barris today.

Originally performed at The Improv Orlando, Heart of Darkness began as an average standup show (five or so comics doing 20-minute sets). The show has undergone countless incarnations at a multitude of venues including more than one basement, fringe festivals and most recently Union Hall. The Union Hall shows sell out every performance and include live music by The Forgiveness, top tier comedians, a musical guest who performs with the band, a “scientist or person of noteworthy intelligence,” also known as a “Mind Warrior” and usually an unpredictably odd act, ie. the “electric chaircut”. Greg hosts the show, opening it with songs and closing it with his unique, hilarious and oddly moving act of Forgiveness, which you have to experience to truly appreciate.

The next Heart of Darkness is on June 16th at The Bell House in Gowanus and Greg’s calling it “the biggest and greatest ever” and “the biggest show imaginable” and it will include a 14 piece band among other things. Get tickets here. Also check out this recent video on which Greg collaborated with Adam Epstein and a sexy puppet. Keep up with Greg on Twitter @GregBarris.

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