As promised, my interview with Arj Barker. Published in 3D World, Brisbane & Gold Coast
Comedian Arj Barker chats to KOMI SELLATHURAI about his dance skills, a case of halitosis and repeat complaints from audiences about his stand-up show, Let Me Do The Talking, coming soon to the Brisbane Comedy Festival.
Maybe it’s his drawl or the way he takes his time with the answers as if he were smoking a spliff in between questions, everything Arj Barker (eventually) says sounds funny. And that’s why Aussies can’t get enough of Californian Arjie Barjie. We love him here because he is so deadpan (I can hear his poker face over the wire), he makes colleague Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords look like a Hi-5er.
Taking inspiration from the Conchords song, I ask Arj what he’d do if there were “too many dicks on the dance floor?” “Leave or go to another club,” he says without hesitation. Are you a good dancer? “I can be when I am inspired. Once in a while I can really get in the zone. When I’m not in the zone, I’m really shit because I’m awkward and my heart’s not in it”.
Ironically, it is especially his awkwardness that makes him so endearing. On stage in Sydney last year, he lost his cool and then his momentum over a heckler. He walked around on stage uncomfortably only to be cheered on riotously by a crowd that obviously adored him. Yet, he received some serious complaints about his show, Let Me Do The Talking.
“It’s a great show from beginning to end. I’ve been working really hard on it but I’ve had a lot of complaints since the start of the tour and it’s always the same complaint.” What’s that, I asked concerned. “People say their faces hurt from laughing. If you get a chance to see it, you should. I can honestly say it’s a very funny show, probably my best show yet.”
Arj likes to take the piss and he enjoys the occasional prank. So when I confessed that I Googled his name and was surprised to find a picture of him in his birthday suit, he said, “Yea, that. It was meant to be a practical joke. I was house-sitting and I thought it’d be funny if I took a picture naked with his guitar. And when he sees it, he’d be like WTF were you doing in my house. I guess that picture got leaked.”
Oh well… He seems like someone extremely comfortable in his own skin. Does he laugh at his own jokes when he watches himself? “Well I don’t watch myself, only when I’m helping with the DVD editing. But I don’t really sit around and watch myself. I leave that to other people.” Maybe he’s a Johnny Depp type, far too critical about himself. “Well, I don’t need to. I know what I’m gonna say,” he says laughing.
And if you do get your hands on his latest DVD, Forever, you’d get a sneak peak into his previous dabbling in Flash animation, Arj and Poopy – a series starring himself and his cat Poopy that speaks in farts. “I’ve had a coupla cats but Poopy is not specifically based on any one cat,” he says as I ask him if the series was based on a cat he owned or how about a dog. “No, but I’m sort of an uncle to several dogs.”
Besides, with Arj’s lifestyle, it may be a little difficult to own pets. He’s been in Australia now for more than half a year. “I have a lot of friends here and I don’t differentiate good friends and family.” Despite his semi-residency in Oz, he flits around state to state in a manic nomadic way. Flying all the time can’t be fun.
“I sat next to somebody with not the freshest breath in the world. I generally don’t chat too much until we’ve landed. Because if you start talking in the beginning, you may have to chat with them the whole ten hours. And if they have halitosis, that can be a real problem.”
Oh Arj, just a little compromise for having made it as a comedian. What would have happened if he wasn’t a comedian though? “I think I’d be a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. But I think business would be tough since the internet came out.”
There’s never a dull moment when you are in a conversation with the Arj. He is the people’s comedian, in this case, the Australian people’s comedian. The kind you’d want to have a beer with after the show. But even the most likeable, easy-going people must have regrets or unfulfilled dreams. So I ask my final question: What did you believe in when you were 18 that you wish you still believed in today?
“Santa Clause. I was really gullible so I didn’t find out till I was 19.”
Mar 15 – 20, Brisbane Powerhouse, $39-$44, briscomfest.com