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Fringe review: Arj Barker – We Need to Talk

Adelaide Fringe

Arj Barker’s 2019 show is just as charming, in a shouty and involving way, as his last. The audience came, in part, to hear themselves critiqued and were very happy with the result, often breaking into raucous laughter. ★★★★

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Arj Barker is one of Adelaide’s favourite visitors at Fringe time. The role of comedians is essentially to share pleasure, often from skewering arrogance and ignorance, or revealing awkward truths about ourselves. He primarily shines a light on the latter, with personal anecdotes that offer telling observations on human behavior. We might glimpse our own there, whether we admit it or not.

Along the way, Barker invites the audience to consider the nature of comedy. That’s obvious at different points; none more clearly than at the very beginning when he announces he will beta-test four short and very different jokes to gauge audience response and, therefore, taste.

The idea is that he will then fine-tune his repertoire accordingly, which is nonsense, of course, but funny in its own right. With notebook and pen in hand, he quickly has everyone in fits. A little scatological joke was the killer.

Barker’s show in the Arts Theatre moved quickly around several key subjects: technology, millennials, ambition, parenthood, marriage and, indeed, being a comedian.

His focus on technology garnered strong response, especially when he dealt with his supposed new invention, Hunger Strike, an app that tackles the issue of people photographing their meals in restaurants. There would have been many red faces in the theatre when he delivered the punchline.

If there was a slump, it was around the string of parent/child scenarios when they were also technology-related. That was drawn out a little too much.

The biggest laughs came from his very physical rendering of a parable about an oak tree and a blade of grass as it related to marriage. It was delivered with exuberance and a keen understanding of audience reaction.

Barker’s traditional spiel about his “merch” was incorporated with a keen eye to both selling it and maintaining humour about making ends meet as a travelling artist.

Overall, it was a generous show (more than the advertised 60 minutes) that left the audience revisiting various jokes, including those who were queueing for the desirable Barker merchandise afterwards.

Arj Barker’s show runs from February 19-23 and again on March 1-2 in the Arts Theatre. See more Adelaide Fringe reviews and stories here.

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