Arj Barker returns to Brisbane with this powerhouse show. Part of the Wonderland festival, Arj is supported by Australian comedian Joel Ozborn.
Arj is as witty as ever. Show material ranged from the hardships of being married – his very understanding wife apparently approves all the jokes about their relationship – to bread and cavemen and the many, many bad sides to being on a gluten free diet. This was about as close as we got to linking the title of the show to a specific food joke theme.
However, the show itself flowed very organically. One of the smartest things about Arj’s show is that jokes keep reoccurring. They are set up far in advance and pay off nicely. Jokes 40 minutes in can refer back to a joke he made in his opening segment and it gives the performance a nice sense of not only continuity, but also the audience really feels part of the process. The audience is on the ‘inside’.
Arj has been in the comedy business for almost 30 years now and his performance has really evolved. His characteristic shouting is gone, but has been replaced by an equally idiosyncratic way of pulling the mike way away from his mouth when he wants to make an ‘outraged’ point. So instead of shouting, he can be a little hard to hear, which was distracting.
The entire performance was two hours, which is a long time to be listening to one voice and one style. Audience members were checking their phones and some even left early, which was a real pity. It would have had a lot more satisfying impact if it were shorter. When Arj said his song marked the end of the show and then tried to sell merchandise for a further twenty minutes, it was very difficult to sit through.
The spiel itself was really funny, and both performers thanked the audience profusely for turning up rather than sitting on their couches watching Netflix, which was both flattering and bodes poorly for the future of live entertainment. Normally, it would absolutely make people want to buy merch, but by that point, everyone was really tired. Perhaps the funny “buy our stuff” stuff could go somewhere else in the show.
In general, this was a really great, funny performance that is well worth heading out to. Arj almost feels like a friend by now, he’s been here so many times... Drop by and say hi…. And buy a sticker pack or two.