ARIA Award-winning Arj Barker is on the money with both the download on lavatory etiquette and revelations about personal relationships.
Audiences at Barker’s shows seem to expect being the target of his jibes but he was gentler this time. In self-deprecating mode, he conjured problems with marriage counselling and whether to have children before deftly moving to climate change and the existence of aliens on Earth. Pardon me? This last topic was a bit like a funny TED talk or, as he described it, a way of getting both a comedy show and a lot of education at the same time, whether or not you believe in extra-terrestrials.
Barker ventures readily into discussing the nature of humour itself, which can be a sly way of getting his audience to stop and consider what they expect from being in their seats in the first place. It’s something he seems to relish — a somewhat serious contemplation, before he flips it.
He also uses space well, moving off the stage at times to remind people about the way the act of performance separates the comedian from those watching, and bridge the gap.
It’s too easy to list Barker’s other subject matter, which includes the environment, relationships, smoking, football, the government, and, tellingly, toilets. That doesn’t convey any of the way in which he keeps his audience engaged in contemplating the foibles of human behaviour, and constantly laughing for the whole hour. It’s well practised but offered with warmth.
There is always a merchandising edge to Barker’s close but he delivers it with such a self-aware and, yes, comic, bent that he would be forgiven any charges of commercialism.
A genuinely funny and philosophical man, with a show very much worth seeing.
Arj Barker’s show runs until March 14 in the Arts Theatre.
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