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A chat with Arj Barker

You're a legend Dave.

by hellomyfriend » Thu Nov 05, 2009 9:00 pm

A chat with Arj Barker
Miranda Cashin | 5th November 2009

You’re heading up to Gladstone next week

Yeah, I can’t wait!

Have you been to Gladstone before?

Yeah I have

What did you think of it?

It was a bit hot – I imagine it’s going to be hotter this time. I enjoyed the whole Queensland leg of the tour so I said ‘I want to go back to all these places again’ and hopefully people will come out to the show. Actually all the shows have been really well attended so far, so I’m really optimistic.

Are Queensland audiences different to other audiences?

Every audience is different to other audiences cause that audience has a personality onto itself. But generally no, they’re really good, really supportive. They’re really appreciative when you come out because they say ‘a lot of people don’t come to this city’ or whatever. A lot of internationals might only go play in Melbourne or Sydney but I enjoy taking the time to go out to the country and come to these cities.

Is there any particular place you like to perform?

Yeah – Gladstone! It’s my favourite.

Can you tell us a bit about your Original Style Bits ‘n Pieces show?

Yeah sure. It’s one of my best shows and it’s well over an hour of stand-up, I also do a little bit of music, just little musical bits and there’s a short film. The whole thing is just…I think it’s my best show to date. I think people won’t be disappointed when they come out. They’ll definitely get their money’s worth. I’ve definitely been playing to the biggest audiences so far on this tour. It’s been sold out…I don’t know what to tell you, just that it’s a really good tour.

I’m touring with an Aussie comedian called Joel Osborn who is an up and coming comic from Sydney. He opens the show and he’s bar up. Sometimes I want to tell him to tone it down – if he does so well then maybe I won’t be so good looking. It puts a little bit of pressure on the old guy but we’ll get through it! It just makes the show better.

Are there any particular comedians and performers that inspire you?

Well we were just talking about Bill Murray – I love his work. I know he’s not a stand-up but he’s an excellent actor, very down to earth personality it seems like. I also like Ricky Gervais, he’s incredible, very funny. Chris Rock.

Do you prefer doing stand-up shows or more TV work?

Well it’s very different so…I consider myself a stand-up first and foremost, at this point it’s probably the thing I’ve done the most but I do enjoy dabbling in acting and presenting and all that. I’m also doing a new research segment, a paranormal for a 7pm show. I’m doing all sorts of stuff, but stand-up is my main skill and I’m determined to keep working hard at it. And Gladstone to me is going to be a great show. All the other shows are just warm-ups for Gladstone.

How did you get involved in Flight of the Conchords?

They’re just buddies of mine and they just gave me a call up and said ‘do you want to be on our show?’ and being a good friend I said ‘well fellas it’s a little inconvenient but yes I’ll be on your television show.’

Do you enjoy touring with them when you take the show on tour?

I’ve supported them on tour in the states a couple of times which was super fun as the audience was really large. We played in large theatres to 5000, one was 8000 in Colorado, just packed. The energy is unbelievable – it sort of reminds me of Gladstone in that regard. The excitement – you can feel it!

Are there any plans to bring The Flight of the Conchords tour down here?

I’ve heard them say that they would love to tour Australia but I know nothing of their actual plans and what they have in store. Everyone’s kind of busy, Jermaine’s doing more acting, he’s in a film that’s just come out in the states. Bret’s probably getting more involved with his music projects and some acting. So I don’t know, I can’t speak for them on that.

Do you get heckled much during your shows?

No, very rarely. I prefer that cause I just like to do my show and I work hard on the jokes and try to get them as good as possible. A heckler is just someone who’s just really disrupting, but it’s definitely very rare and doesn’t happen very often so that’s how I like it. That’s one of the reasons I like touring Australia. The audience’s are very polite and well mannered and they just sit there and let you do your thing. They laugh at all the jokes – and that’s how I like it!

So are Australian audiences more polite than other audiences?

Yeah they are definitely less disruptive. In the States a lot of the time, I play more clubs in the states where there’s more tables with drinks and you find that people don’t really come out to see comedy – it’s more about the night out than the comedy with less regard for the performer. Sometimes you get disruptions, not so much heckling but just people who are just basically a little bit obnoxious. I haven’t encountered that kind of scene in Australia and I prefer it that way.

Do you have to adjust your show depending on the audience and the town you’re in?

I think you do. I think every night you make an adjustment but they’re very subtle generally but sometimes you get in a situation where you have to really work a lot harder to capture everyone’s attention and one trick is you might bring it in a little bit and so they’re forced to focus a little more on what you’re doing, instead of going louder to talk over people. You kind of do a reverse, it’s a little technique and it doesn’t work very well, that’s why it’s little known. But I’m working on that one! That’s sort of top secret. But definitely have to make adjustments and it never stops being challenging. You ever know what you’re going to encounter, every night’s a little different. It never gets boring being a stand-up.

What elements are essential for a great comedic performance?

An audience! That’s probably the most key. Good jokes, a good audience. A lot of the time people focus so much on the comedian – a stand-up comedy show is a dialogue between the audience and the comedian. I’m one of the few comedians who will sometimes have a show that’s not crash hot and I’ll blame the audience. And I’ll say ‘well I did everything right, I was ready, I showed up prepared, good energy and some crowds just don’t want to know. It’s very rare but occasionally it’s not the comedian’s fault if the show didn’t go well. You need good jokes and good energy and it just happens, but it’s a dialogue.

How would you describe your sense of humor?

Hmm I’m going to have to pass on that one – other people can answer that.

Were there ever any other careers you considered pursuing other than comedy?

Well yeah I was pretty interested in snowboarding and was thinking about becoming an instructor. I wouldn’t have gone pro or anything! I enjoyed that and other than that I didn’t really start worrying cause I was only in my early twenties when I started doing stand-up. At that point I didn’t really think of it as a career, I was just having fun. And it always was fun so it sort of tricked me into having a career.

I heard that you used to have a physics blog

Yeah I used to answer questions on my blog and I’d answer all the physics questions like ‘whats the shizzle with my nizzle?’ and I would answer questions. Sometimes I actually knew the answer, some times I only half knew the answer and sometimes I’d just freely make it up. It was a good challenge.

So you’re a bit of a science guy?

I do enjoy reading about science and I find it fascinating to contemplate how large the universe is and all the possibilities. And also all the unknown things out there is what’s really exciting to me and the possibilities. One theory is the multiverse theory that there could be multiple universes and if you think how large our universe is and multiply that by infinity – that’s like really big! That’s like bigger than here to Gladstone!

I read somewhere that were addicted to online poker, are you still addicted?

No, I’m not really but in my show I am! So if you see the show just dispend your belief but I’m not addicted to online poker anymore – I’m more addicted to golf now!

How did Arj and Poopy come about?

It was just a project between me and a buddy. He’s a great animator and he likes my show and he just wanted to animate some of my jokes and work together on it.

Is Poopy based on a real cat?

No, not really, but Poopy is a real cat. He’s a cartoon cat but he’s a cool cat as far as cartoon cats go.

Arj Barker will be at The Gladstone Entertainment Centre on Wednesday November 11. Tickets are still on sale through the Entertainment Centre.

source: http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/story/2009/11/05/chat-arj-barker/
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