Is Arj Barker an honest comic? Perhaps, but if you want to enjoy some laughs at his show, 'Arj Barker Comes Clean', at The Garden of Unearthly Delights as part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival, best to take everything he says with a pinch of salt – or not.
Hard to say what to make of the San Francisco comedian when he’s got 30-plus years of experiences and material to relay.
Nevertheless, Arj is completely honest when he says his show is “the best hour of BS around”. Though, according to Arj, it’s a vague title for the show, there’s plenty of dirt he will be dishing. “The show’s been updated to include COVID and lockdowns and all of that,” he says, “[and] I do discuss the failure of my marriage, I use things in my own life as premises for material.”
“At the time, when I thought of that title, I thought I was maybe going to discuss how much I live in Australia – people don’t think of me as living here, they think of me as always on tour out here – put it this way, I’m more Australian than people think at this point, which is cool, and I thought maybe I’d reveal that more in the show, but in the end, I never did.”
Even though Arj claims a vague title for the show, he’s still rolling with it, he’s still adding to it piece by piece – there’s something about performing these various skits which means Arj doesn’t want to let the show go yet, and certainly something his audience are enjoying, so he prefers to keep it on the table. “The show itself is still getting better, and when I have a new show, I want to tour it to every market that I can before I turn over the material,” he explains.
“It’s very early days for this show, it’s really just had one initial run – so this time, I’m coming back for a whole run at the Garden, right in the middle of the action. It’s definitely going to be a really fun run.
“I haven’t been at the Garden for quite a few years, so it feels like I’m coming home. It’s going to be good.”
Even after three decades, Arj agrees he still manages to surprise himself that he can deliver fresh material after discovering new things about his life, material that people can relate to and enjoy.
“I still find it a challenge to create good material, and I still feel a level of reward when I’m able to do that. I wouldn’t say after 30 years it’s easy.
“I think the performing part, once I have a good piece of material that’s really solid, the performing part isn’t difficult because I’m used to it. The hard part is having good material and working it out and getting it just right.”
So is Arj, even now, still learning? “Absolutely!” he says. “I think the biggest mistake you can make would be to think you knew everything about your craft, anyway, because you can always get better at something.”
“I think a famous example was the guitarist of Metallica [Kirk Hammett], at the height of their popularity, he was taking lessons from. . . Maybe Joe Satriani, I can’t remember. But he [Kirk] said ‘I don’t know enough yet’. He could have just said, ‘well, I’m the guitarist of Metallica’, but there he was, taking guitar lessons, which is pretty funny.”
“You can always learn more. To think you’ve mastered something would be a big mistake, I think.”
Arj Barker plays The Spiegeltent at The Garden Of Unearthly Delights (Adelaide Fringe) 19 February-21 March.