Arj Barker is arguably Australia’s favourite American comedian. In recent years, he has spent more time in our country than his own and has come to understand our culture, perhaps better than we understand it ourselves. We chat to the comedian ahead of his upcoming regional show in beloved Castlemaine.
The last time we spoke was back in 2017 ahead of your ‘Organic’ tour which you took regionally, and you’ve just recently toured our region again this August with your tour ‘We Need To Talk’. How do you find the regional audiences in comparison to the bigger shows and big-city audiences?
I love performing in regional areas because although city audiences are great, they sort of expect me to swing my tour by them. Regional audiences, on the other hand, seem extra excited that I’ve made the effort, and although it’s not too much extra trouble, I love the vibe!
You’ve been in the comedy game for about two decades now – how do you keep coming up with fresh material that always seems to have us in stitches? Do you ever suffer lengthy creativity blocks?
Closer to three decades actually! Coming up with new material just take effort, plain and simple. It ain’t easy, but after all these years, I’ve discovered no short cut. That’s why I like doing work-in-progress shows (AKA Keeper Or Crapper), as they give me the freedom (and create the necessity) to throw some new ideas out there! I certainly do struggle with slow periods when trying to write new stuff, but the antidote is the same: Hard Work! And I can procrastinate with the best of them, trust me.
In the technology-driven world we live in, a lot of comedians are reaching audiences via social media and YouTube. What’s your opinion on that? With the accelerated pace of the internet, do you see it as viable to longevity in the industry?
It’s certainly opened up new avenues for people to get their stuff seen. I’m a little old school in my approach and tend to keep the focus on live shows and some TV, but I’d probably be more successful if I pushed the online angle harder. Having said that, I did launch a YouTube channel with Stephen Gates (from Tripod), but it’s sort of a hybrid of comedy and DIY. It’s called Do It Myself TV if anyone’s interested. We could really use some subscribers, to be honest!
You’ve visited Australia many times over the years – so much so you’re essentially an Aussie now – what keeps you coming back?
Australia, by this point, is more than a second home for me. So, therefore many things keep me coming back – or keep me from leaving. But if you want the REAL reason I keep coming back? It’s the great audience members and especially the ones that read Forte that seem to be the best. They are intelligent, good-looking, and most importantly not easily manipulated by flattery.
You’ve got an upcoming show in Castlemaine in October – Keeper or Crapper. Can you tell us a bit about this one?
It will be a heap of all the new material I’m working on that moment. Some stuff is nearly ‘there’, and other bits are needing a lot of work. But that’s why they call it what they do! One thing I can promise is that there will be some good laughs to be had, either with me, or possibly at me.
What’s next for you in 2019/20?
If all goes according to plan, I’ll just be touring, playing music (for fun) or walking my dogs.
Catch Arj at Theatre Royal Castlemaine on Friday, October 4. Tickets via theatreroyalcastlemaine.oztix.com.au