A FESTIVAL favourite, with more than two decades of performing experience under his belt, audiences know what to expect from an Arj Barker show.
That is, finely honed material which is beat-perfect in its timing and delivered in a tone halfway between irony and exaggeration - with occasional puns.
Unusually for Barker the night begins with a big musical number, possibly one of the most low-key, high-energy openings you'll ever seen.
He promises us about 85 per-cent new material. Go Time sees Barker in a philosophical mood, expounding his theories about the proper work-life balance and the importance of living in the here and now. While at first glance these may appear to simply be elaborate set-ups for gags about getting laid or hating Little Orphan Annie, you get the feeling Barker really believes in what he's saying.
Watching Barker after some of the other acts in the festival, it's clear he's a whole cut above most in the craft of writing comedy and he knows exactly how to hit the right tone, how long to spend on a big set-up, how to return to a comic riff, and he often even self-reflectively refers to how he does it.
It's impressive and it's very funny. After two decades Barker may not have significantly altered, changed or matured in either style or approach. But considering he was great to begin with, that's no bad thing.
What, exactly, am I trying to achieve by going to see an Arj Barker show? Australia is already very well aware of Barker’s droll-to-mock-outrage schtick, his askew observations upon the everyday. He’s become an honorary Aussie for to his slacker persona. Go Time doesn’t promise any huge leaps in concept. So why see him?
Because I wanted to see if he’s still adorable and still funny. What do you know… he is. While his trademark has always been a certain mellowness (read: pounds of weed), this now-38-year-old is genuinely mellow. Despite the high-octane title, Barker is more chilled, has harnessed some existential zen thought-processes and is even more self-aware. At times, he shoots for inspirational, almost spiritual.
Go Time is a very personal show, mostly due to the intimacy of the delivery. Barker can make the audience feel like he’s creating this breezy, personable material on the spot, just for them. On a Tuesday night, we get gently ribbed for our stinginess. He (metaphorically) brings us mere metres outside to Melbourne’s trams and restaurants. He brings us backstage to tonight’s usually forbidden pre-show beer. Whether he does this every night seems moot – he’s just talking to the few hundred of us, tonight, right now.
A couple of lode-bearing callback gags based on the “build a bridge and get over it” chestnut keep the material from floating away completely, a couple of socially-conscious riffs on the Amazon and third world health issues also help ground the set, and his patented mic technique – delivering BOLD and italic adornments – bolster the dynamics.
It’s also surprisingly clean – gentle on the sex, drugs and swearing, and delivering on childlike wonder. Go Time is another easily digestible, giggle-worthy set that you never want to end because it seems effortless. Don’t disappoint me when we inevitably become buddies, Arj.
Most of the audience at the jam-packed Opera House would know American comedian Arj Barker from his role in Flight of the Concords, as Dave: the pawnshop owner who trades mostly in bumper sticker cultural assertions, lady-snaring equipment, and self-written manuals on how to grow sausages in your own organic garden.© Dave is kooky, unique and unflinching.
But we don't get Dave in Arj Barker's world-touring show, Go Time, and judging by the feedback, the majority of audience members are happy about that.
Barker is an affable American funnyman, inclined towards hippy-go-lucky philosophy. The philosophy encapsulated in Go Time – and I do love a good moral-of-the- comedy – prioritizes the heart over the head.
Jobs are there to be completed, not created. Tomorrow is a concept that you don't have to get onboard with. Don't wait until tomorrow, ask me tonight; I might be game. Have that beer before you go on-stage, because the sun will explode all over the face of the earth sooner or later.
Carpe diem. Follow your heart to the arcade and have yourself a maudlin sandwich. Unapologetic schmaltz. So far, a far cry from Dave.
Aside from his sensibility, the style and subject matter of Barker's sketches is much safer than Dave's. He doesn't want to get involved with the Aussie-Kiwi rivalry. He has no comment. He supports UNICEF and he wouldn't joke about that kind of diarrhoea.
Truth be told, he covers his back too much, as if a political correctness bee stung him in the past and now he needs to circle around the hive and point at it. He makes very few people uncomfortable (this makes him perfect for corporate outings and families), aside from his closing diarrhoea joke. Sigh. This is out of place, as there isn't another moment of cringe comedy in the show, and it doesn't tie into the Go Time… unless he means ‘need to go time'?
There is a lot of meta-comedy in the show that goes down really well with the audience. I think that self-referentiality is well-suited to a New Zealand audience, as the Kiwi sense of humour loves to draw attention to awkwardness, awkwardly. So the idea of jokes failing, or a comedian realizing he hasn't done enough research halfway through a joke is lapped up.
His explanation of the structure of his jokes is popular too. He uses one particular joke structure throughout the show, copyrighting it as he goes… which would be more successful if it was used more frequently and understatedly.
In general, Barker is very confident and charismatic on-stage. He gives bucket-loads of energy (without ever mentioning the bucket fountain, yay!) and his audience is amused throughout. Because his delivery is so good, the limitations really come down to his writing. If he sharpened and pushed the writing here and there, it would really take his comedy up a notch.
As it stands, his funny-guy-next-door performance seems effortless and easy, which is both a strength and a weakness.
The start of Arj Barker’s new show will catch you by surprise, when the comedian bursts from the curtains belting out a song!
Ok it probably won’t win him a Grammy but it rhymes and has meaning and soul and most importantly at a comedy show... it’s funny!!
With a promise that that’s the last of the singing, Arj lets rip in his usual dead pan way about the things he sees around him, the life lessons he’s learned and why all of that has led to this new show entitled Go Time.
Arj is a staple of the Adelaide Fringe and is well aware of our city’s quirks. I love the way he makes jokes at our expense but not in the usual “Oh your mall has some balls’ kind of way, and he does it so that you get that whole “yeah that’s absolutely true” vibe without being even the slightest bit offended.
You’ll also get a little free gift at Arj’s show this year, I won’t reveal what it is but expect to use it on your friends A LOT, and expect to figure out ways to make your own versions too.
Arj Barker’s style is relatable, his delivery sharp and cleverly formed. He’ll even explain to you the changes he’s made to his joke delivery this year so as to not leave us, the audience hanging.
In fact he made some audience members laugh so hard, I believe the man behind me may have broken the sound barrier while asphyxiating.
I won’t tell you how he wraps the show this time around, other than to say it's emotional, it's special, it's hilarious.
It's Go Time - according to Arj's new show.
The guy known to many as Dave from the Flight of The Conchords is back in his new show and offering up a few surprises to any of those of us who've seen him before.
Channeling Hugh Jackman at the start of the show was a masterstroke and showed a playful side to Arj that's previously been hidden in his last few outings at the festival.
Laid back and laconic are Arj's MO, with a dapper dose of self-referential and self-knowing thrown in for good measure. And added to the mix this year are some truly corny one-liners that are truly hilarious as he parades around the stage.
Arj doesn't do "punchlines" per se, but puts together a series of ideas and ideals as he extols his observational ways on life; from the philosophical punts and points about jobs, his nephews and the environment, Arj is incredibly adept at deconstructing the comedy as it goes along.
He's got a knack of engaging the audience and getting them on side with some smart asides which permeate the show in the most unexpected of places. A surreal jaunt into why you should never buy poetry on the street is a weird aside but one that leaves you in stitches. Likewise, a story about an ex girlfriend takes a turn into a discussion about medieval fairs.
The only minor disappointment in his set is a closing diatribe about diarrhoea; it's not in poor taste just a bit of a surprise from Arj who doesn't need to divert into lavatorial humour. (It's a similar complaint that I've had with other comedians this year) Thankfully though, the crowd laps up every minute so I guess it's on them.
All in all, Arj Barker is a masterful comedian; he jokes at one point about playing the crowd like puppets and to be honest, he really does. We lap up every minute as he regales us with his tales as he takes us on a journey of mirth and amusement. Exuding charisma and charm, there's no one better to spend 90 minutes with - and it's just a shame I had to rush off afterwards to another show rather than chat to Arj afterwards in the foyer, as he sold his wares. Because Arj is someone you want to spend more time with - either on or off stage - and that's a real credit to the extremely warm and affable persona he's made.
If you don’t know “Arj Barker, the comedian” then you will almost certainly recognize him as “Dave from Flight of the Conchords“. Arj is back on our shores with an 85% new comedy show (so he says) and one which I found to be quite the scintillating experience.
The show kicks off on a bit of a musical high; Arj serenades us with a comical vocal performance where he promises to deliver gags until we all “L-O-L”. His set is a display of extremes that mesh together seamlessly – he is energetic yet low key and his material is unquestionably entertaining yet also surprisingly contemplative.
Arj eloquently describes Go Time as a “smorgasbord of treats” and this is definitely true. He goes from talking about the dangers of ordering spring rolls to how hide-and-seek has been ruined by technology to his very witty Utopian view of the future. Where he strikes comedic gold is one particular gag that becomes a running feature throughout the hour – I will not divulge any more as I really do think it is best coming from the man himself!
When some jokes do not get the response he was hoping for or when he discovers all too late that a bit was ill researched, he tells us that it’s all part of his new joke structure. I found this clever approach of critiquing his jokes to be incredibly endearing. His set consistently runs along this path of self reflection which makes for quite a candid and personal show.
Go Time is an insightful hour of profound and intelligent comedy with some really great laugh-out-loud moments – just as he promised in his opening number! It’s a rather mellow and philosophical show but one that is compelling, uplifting and extremely enjoyable.
At the end of his show last night, holding his index finger and thumb really close together, Arj Barker said: “Reviews matter this much”.
I had spent the previous hour or so, from the time he came on stage 10 or 15 minutes late, making copious notes about his show, really trying to feel my way to the essence of what he was trying to say. There is no glory in comedy reviewing, but that doesn’t mean you should just phone it in, so there I was trying to act with integrity and there he was, telling everyone it doesn’t matter. I’m not going to lie and say that didn’t hurt.
The show was called Go Time and it started with a funny little song which he did while wearing a microphone headset, to leave his arms free for dancing. From that moment, I began taking notes and I hardly stopped for an hour. I took more notes than I had at any other comedy festival show. I wrote things like: “After music no. puts h/set away, gets wired mic. – why do comedians use wires? What’s that abt?”
Of course that kind of insipid insight will never make the final cut, but it’s the kind of hard foundational work that tells you I am someone who takes his job seriously.
I’ve got lots of other notes too: about Barker saying things like how what you do is not who you are; about how the thought that tomorrow doesn’t exist frees you to live without ego or fear; about other inspiring philosophical points.
Here was a man who has been a full-time comedian for years, and he was telling people, many of whom had probably come straight from terrible office jobs where their managers say things like “step change”, that they can think about life in a different way.
The message was that freeing your mind from the fear of what might go wrong allows you to really make some shit happen: that’s go time. Barker would often say something along those lines and invariably follow up with a few jokes, but that was all good because the jokes were just the physical embodiment of the message: take risks; do something exciting with your life.
How much does any of this matter? I’d like to hold my index finger and thumb really close together and say, “This much”, because my feelings are still hurt, but of course it matters. This is life, and you should live it well. Your life might not be as important or flashy as a stand up comedian, but if you’re going to do something, you may as well do a proper job of it.
I think Arj Barker is very funny and it is worth going to see him at SkyCity Theatre tonight or tomorrow.
Arj Barker’s ongoing love affair with the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has earned him the position of one of Australia’s favourite comedians. But after 15 years of consistently entertaining shows, can Barker continue to deliver the goods?
Short answer: yes, indeed he can. Expectations are high as long queues assemble outside Melbourne Town Hall and within minutes of the doors opening every seat is filled. Whilst many comedians arrive onstage with self-deprecating humility, Barker makes his entrance with the bravado and showmanship of a rock star blessed with a sense of humour.
As Barker’s touting 85 percent new material – covering menstruation, diarrhoea and ejaculation amongst other things – those unacquainted with his performance may well be expecting the comedic depth of a 12 year old. And yet, through his natural charisma and wit, Barker is able to transcend this potential toilet humour and tap into universally comical observations. Through American eyes, Baker points out the hilarity of Melbourne’s tram-ridden streets and weekday beer nights. It’s this confidence and familiarity with Australian culture that allows Barker to connect with Melbourne crowds so easily.
Barker himself describes the show as “what audiences expect from me… and the last thing they expect from me” – which is certainly true from the moment he steps on stage (without giving too much away, think Barker meets Broadway). His self-reflexivity is the key to his funniest punchlines, at times deliberately confusing the audience before revealing the hysterical methods to his madness. This ability to intuitively direct and react to the audience in unpredictable ways highlights Barker’s status as a professional performer.
Amazingly, Barker actually delivers moments of infectious optimism, encouraging audiences to embrace the ways of Go Time by living life to the fullest. His unassuming persona prevents these moments from becoming too preachy, yet Barker does make an honest effort to inspire people on some level. Whether his message is undercut by the odd inevitable penis joke is up for debate, but it’s refreshing to see a comedian attempting to share his motivation rather than resorting to dry cynicism.
In addition to his 60-minute set, Barker commits another hour of the night to selling his ARIA-nominated DVDs and other merchandise in the foyer. Sure, $10 might be a rip-off for a page of custom-made stickers, but since Barker is happy to sign it, pose for a photo and stick around for a chat after every show, it’s money well spent for any casual fan.
Arj Barker’s Comedy Gala performance left me in tears of laughter, so I couldn’t wait to hear more from him. This well known comedian is back in NZ with a new show for the NZ International Comedy Festival 2013.
His show Go Time begun with a musical number. If Hugh Jackman can do it why not Arj? This unexpected start was a great warm up for the crowd.
He has a laid back style on stage but his material is perfectly planned and well delivered. His stand-up has a real personal touch, which is expressed by this open and honest comedian. His warm likability allows him to almost meander through his anecdotes while never losing his destination. He manages to weave in both silliness and wordplay amongst his ideologies.
Some wonderfully insightful parts of the set where around how we live life and the need to embrace ‘Go Time’. The message? To enjoy life today as tomorrow doesn’t exist (despite what little orphan Annie says)! Calling himself ‘pretired’ the absurdity of waiting till your twilight years to enjoy yourself really does sound ridiculous when you think about it. His commentary on jobs and unemployment were excellently conveyed and well thought out.
I particularly enjoyed him deconstructing of his own jokes during the set. He openly voiced any criticisms they may evoke, assessing his material as he went along. Explaining his new joke structure, Arj found that he doesn’t always want his audience left up at the top of the graph, or joke climax, but maybe somewhere in the middle.
Looking back on it you could say he has some slightly surreal aspects to his comedy, but it didn’t feel that way at the time as his whole show is so smoothly delivered. Throughout the hour he jokingly promotes his merchandise stand where you could meet him in the foyer. A cheeky plug and a flirt with the audience was all part of the charm of Go Time.
Arj Barker is a wonderful raconteur. Go Time is a show you can just sit back in and enjoy the ride.
From toilet humour to philosophy, Go Time is a life loving intercourse from a charismatic comedian.
Arj Barker is probably the biggest draw at the Melbourne Comedy festival, playing the 1,500-seater main Town Hall room in the plum 9.30pm slot almost every day for three and a half weeks. That’s what being on Flight Of The Conchords will get you. That and a dedication to returning to Melbourne year after year to build an audience.
His style has evolved over the years, too, as his stoner San-Franciscan drop-out mentality has softened while he edges slightly more mainstream. These sensibilities are expressed less directly; instead he adopts an arrogant, stereotypical American swagger, and undermines it through irony.
His take on the environment, for example, is that it’s not our fault for ruining it, but the environment’s fault for not being able to cope with humans’ sheer awesomeness – a message pushed home with the sort of passion only possible from those unable to see any alternate point of view. It’s Barker by name and barker by nature as he delivers short, forceful sentences in a big performance for the big room.
But he’s not always driven by maximising the laugh rate, and there are some relatively extended sections without any big punchlines. Rather he’s happy to establish a wry, witty landscape at his own pace, building trust and rapport and making for a richer comedy experience.
His material about the Australians’ recklessly relaxed use of language helps enforce that empathy, as do the local references. Not that he needs to pander, as his piece about snakes ably demonstrates. Though it starts from obvious comments about the deadly antipodean wildlife, it becomes an impressively original train of thought, simultaneously whimsical and punchy.
After winning our confidence, Barker even manages to talk, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, about the illuminati and the shape-shifting lizards who control them. Our only defence, apparently, is his patented AQUA approach: Always Question Unvalidated Authority. It’s a big concept, but with Barker’s light touch, it becomes a fanciful routine in which a text message is given human characteristics – and it seems to be an impatient New Yorker.
But Barker’s as impressive talking about hotel towels as he is exposing the hidden agenda of the New World Order. I’d recommend the show – but don’t take my word for it. You should question such authority.
Comedian Arj Barker is back at the Adelaide Fringe after taking 2012 off from the event, and his return is welcome indeed. Last time out Barker copped some flak for rehashing material but here, as he tells us in the gleeful opening song and dance number, he’s back with brand new material … well, at least 85% of it is.
Arj Barker is the master of tangential and anecdotal joke telling. Where many comedians struggle to give any sense of progression to their set, instead delivering a series of gags that could exist independently of one another that sound more like a reading of jokes from a Christmas cracker than a show, Californian Barker is able to sash and sway from his central story with great skill.
Thankfully, with the new material, Barker has not felt the need to change his style of delivery and so it is the audience members can expect the unpredictable changes in volume and tone, the conversational and inclusive style, and here, new for 2013, a couple of cheeky song and dance numbers.
The highlights of the show are Barker’s playful use of invented idioms (‘Why don’t you take a filing cabinet in the bathroom … and sort your shit out’), his comments on Australian drinking culture and the use of his one prop, a table. As Barker himself says, ‘it’s not the best joke in the show, but it has the highest production value.’ Classic.
Early in the show, Barker tells us about corrective surgery on his eyes. It’s a good gag, but it’s also an interesting reflection on Go Time – laser sharp comedy that will bring tears to your eyes.