Arj Barker – Comedian

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Cracking jokes for a living is hard work, and Arj’s dedication to perfecting his craft as a comedian has seen him pay his dues. This well travelled, funny man gives us an insight into his world.

> You’ve called Australia “Your joyous second home”. What first brought you here, and what do you love about it so much?

Well, initially I just came in to do some shows, but what I came back for was … more shows! I feel really supported here. Audiences are excited to see the gig and that makes me more excited to perform, and it’s just one big circle of love!

The gigs I do here are so good … for example, I did The 7PM Project last night, and it’s a great format for comedy – mixing news with humour. And it’s so easy to work with Aussie comedians such as Hughesy (Dave Hughes)

> When you are not here, where do you call home?

I think my home is in Northern California, outside of San Francisco. My friends are so used to me being gone, though, that they don’t seem alarmed by it anymore … they don’t even get sad anymore!

> When did you first get involved in stand up comedy?

It was a while ago, probably 15 years now. I didn’t have a lot to do you see, so comedy found me. I didn’t think of myself as an amazing comedian, and before I started I was never cocky about it. But I gave it a shot, and it worked out.

It was a gradual thing, though, and it took a couple of years to start getting paid work. But I was really dedicated and kept working and working and working, and I’m still here today. I didn’t really have a quantum leap where I went from not funny to funny … small audience to large audiences. I worked really hard all this time.

> Do you consider yourself funny when you’re on stage, or are you one of those faux pas ‘acting’ comedians?

Yeah, I’m funny, but like everyone I have to be in the right mood. A lot of us can be funny from time to time … sometimes it’s a trigger: moods, friends, family, goofiness, a couple of drinks! Others perceive me as being funny just when they look at me. Like the other day, I was in a store, and I asked the attendant a question, and he just kept laughing at me. I just said, “I’m not trying to crack a joke”, but he just kept on laughing.

> Who are your comic influences?

There is not one specific comic, but I have enjoyed contemporary comedians like Chris Rock and Louey CK. I grew up on Monty Python, The Office (original), Seinfeld. I like his show a lot, and even prefer the spin off show, ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’. I have a lot of respect for how meticulous he is, how he can make the mundane hilarious.

> You have been working on ‘The Flight of the Concords’. How did you get involved in that, and what do you love most about your character Dave in the series?

It’s been great. It was intimidating, ‘cause I didn’t want to screw up! I just kept imagining the producers saying, “Aw man, how did this guy get through the audition?” When you’re on set, you don’t really know if it’s working, you know … the humor button. You might hear a few chuckles, but is it really making the audiences laugh? But overall, it was exciting.

The boys, Jermaine and Brett, were awesome and two of the nicest guys you could work with, and they set the tone for the whole set. It was a piece of cake to get along with the team. New Zealand is beautiful too; I’d love to holiday there and go snowing, skiing and trekking!

> What is your pet hate about all the travelling you have to do?

Sometimes it can be a bit too much … but generally I pace myself and I am used to it. I have accepted that it’s my life, my job … and something is only a problem when you resist it. I spend a lot of time in hotels and aeroplanes, but it’s my job and I love it so much. If I fight it, I don’t achieve my career goals and dreams.

> When you retire, do you want to be in Australia, San Fran or NZ?

Retire, whoa! Hold on … I’m not retiring for months!

> You are touring in Australia until the middle of December. Do you plan on taking some time out and relaxing while you are here?

I do. When my schedule lightens up a lot, I’m going to make my way to Byron Bay and chill, relax, swim, suntan. I don’t surf. I’m more of a snowboarder, but when in Byron, you got to jump on a surf board at least once.

> Do you like playing to bigger or smaller audiences?

I like playing to bigger crowds, but only if the venue has a nice intimate quality. Performing to a small audience can be just as rewarding … like little coffee shops. I have done those small shows and had some great times. It’s like your having a conversation with that group, and some of my best work has been produced from those gigs too. It changes the performance a lot, but it’s interesting.

> Ever performed in front of a hasty audience?

Yeah, that’s happened! But not too often, thankfully. I think that as long as it’s not happening every night, that audience keeps you on your toes – they make you work.

> Before you got involved in stand up, what did you do for a job?

I was a zoo keeper.

> Really!?

Nah, I wasn’t. I just made that up. I didn’t do much before comedy … I hung a little wallpaper. I got by. I didn’t mind the wallpaper business, but that’s a little ‘80s now … I think I got out of the wallpaper hanging business and into comedy at the right time.

> Thank you Arj.

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