Arj Barker is an American stand up comedian beloved by Australian audiences. He’s been performing here for about ten years, and he insists there’s no real reason for his huge popularity here. His 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival show Get In My Head has already sold out two nights in the main room at the Melbourne Town Hall, and will surely continue to sell well for the rest of its twenty two show run.
Barker is liked by Aussie audiences for a number of reasons. Firstly, he’s laid back and optimistic. There are tinges of the characteristic American comedian aggression, but its tempered by a shrug and a laugh. Barker’s persona is polite, a little self deprecating but also self appreciative. He panders to the audience, and is both bombastic and cynical.
The second reason he’s so popular is his generic content. In Barker’s own words, he seeks to make “inclusive universal comedy”. A few of his jokes skirt the lines of good taste, and some of the audience recoil, which he picks up on. He explains himself, and though it is not an outright apology, the audience do seem to forgive him. It’s all very reasonable, and the material that plays with taboos and grossness is taken with a wink and a giggle behind the hand. He’s occasionally sexual, and his tangents are mildly absurd, though by no means confrontationally weird. There’s no real linking theme, though Barker does posit some ideas about the way in which people and society are changing.
Interestingly, Barker’s audience is made up of a smorgasbord of ordinary people, a lot of whom are over 45. Some of them struggle with his references, one older woman loudly wondered what bukkake was, and we can only hope she doesn’t Google it later. Everyone seems happy to be there.
Get In My Head is on at the Melbourne Town Hall from March 26th until April 19th. Check out the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Website for ticket and time information.