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Tour Spotlight: Q&A with Arj Barker

Friday 20 September 2013

Tour Spotlight: Q&A with Arj Barker

Californian comedy heavyweight Arj Barker is currently touring the country with his new show Go Time. Eventfinda caught up with him to talk Go Time, Flight Of The Conchords and why he inadvertently Googles himself most days.

How’s the tour going?
Really well, we’re two weeks in and every show has been really fun. Two weeks on this leg and I’ve already been in Adelaide and Melbourne and some shows in Sydney - I mean the show is red hot and the audiences love it.

In 2011 when you were in Sydney you had a whistling heckler who you had to eject from The State Theatre.
That was really unfortunate and it’s very rare that that happens. Sometimes you’ll get people who might say something to me but it’s usually in a positive way. They try and say something funny, I prefer just to do my show and let them relax and laugh. Any kind of hostile situation is extremely rare. Even a friendly one is rare.

Do you have a process when preparing for a tour?
I usually do some warm up shows. Because I don’t want to come out and start a new show without knowing what I’m doing. So I’ll do a few shows at a small club or mess around in the States and prepare it. I just try to enjoy myself too, because I know soon I’ll be on the road and there’s a certain responsibility there where you have to work five or six nights a week and be in certain places at certain times – it’s just a different lifestyle so I try to enjoy when I’m not doing it. I’m having a great time when I’m on the road too.

What would you say inspired Go Time?
Go Time really sends a positive message about living from your heart. It’s a show with lots of different aspects but it’s all new material, it does have a positive message but I’d rather people come along and see what that is. My rule is jokes first, message second. I’m here to make people laugh, I’m not trying to be a prophet or a motivational speaker.

You’re touring with Joel Ozborn, obviously you don’t want a comedian funnier than you but what are some of the criteria you go by for your opening act?
A big part of it is ‘are we good friends?’ We’re going to be touring and spending a lot of time together, I need someone I can hang out with a lot of the day and have a good laugh with and Joel is definitely that. As a comedian he works really hard and is just getting funnier and funnier every year. He is getting to that point you mentioned but for the moment I’m comfortable with how well he does. A couple nights he killed so hard I told him that maybe he needs to hold back a little bit on the gas.

Most kiwis know you best as Dave from Flight Of The Conchords, do you have a favourite ‘Dave moment’ from the show?
I guess I like the scenes where it was me and Brett and Jemaine and we were hanging out because that was true to life because those guys were quite good friends of mine before the show came about. So it’s all natural, just chatting with your buddies, and also talking some shit, which is what Dave did. I think that was an aspect of my personality that they picked up on when they put me in that role. I’m not as big of an idiot in real life as the character Dave but there were aspects of their perception of me in that character. For instance, there’s that one scene where we’re just walking down the street and I’m talking about the gang chopping his whole body off, you know when you’ve got one of your buddies on either side of you and you’re bullshitting? It’s a real pleasant day at work.

Do you think Brett and Jemaine moulded much of Dave around your personality?
When I actually first met them that was about ten or twelve years ago – I’m really bad with exact dates – but I was really, really, really, persistently trying to chase girls back then - I mean I haven’t completely given up yet but I’ve settled down a bit so I think they picked up on that. They like me plenty and they know I’m not a bad guy but I think that was sort of peculiar to them or they thought it was funny so when they put the show together they thought of me as that guy. I didn’t take it as an insult or anything, they had a good laugh. They just thought I was this crazy American comedian I guess.

You’ve spent more time here in Australia than in America over the past few years, we’ve practically adopted you, so when are you moving here for good?
I’ve always loved California so much, it’s my home and I’ll always want to go back there so I don’t know. I’ll probably continue to share by time between the two.

Have you bought a property here yet?
Na, I stay with friends, they have spare rooms and I can stay whenever I want. 

When you type your name in Google one of the related search terms is ‘does arj barker have a girlfriend?’ Have you ever Googled yourself?
I noticed that one too so I guess that answers your question. But to get to my website I type Arj Barker in Google, and then it’s the first hit.

You don’t know the URL of your own website?
No it’s just quicker than typing because it produces a link. But I don’t Google myself, I don’t look up what anyone is saying about me, I don’t read my own reviews, I don’t trust the Internet community enough. I know a lot of people say nice things but there’s also people who need to have a go and say unnecessarily mean things. I’m a sensitive person and I just don’t need it. Also I feel like if I’m doing a good job I’m aware of it. If I’m doing good shows I know because people are laughing, it’s an instant review every night. I don’t need reviews to get in my head; either way, even if it’s a good review what am I supposed to think, I’m great? And if I get a shitty one am I supposed to be depressed at the mercy of some writer who I don’t even know because of their opinion of me. I just ignore all that to be honest.

I only Google myself to get to my own website quicker so I can see where the hell I am the next night. I don’t have it memorised and that’s the easiest way sometimes. ‘Where the fuck am I going this week? I gotta be in Australia tomorrow, shit.’

But as someone who’s a self-professed sensitive type, that must have been a boost for the ego.
I was curious about that, I was like ‘why did that show up, did I type that in?’ I should know right? I dunno I guess a lot of people type that in. Maybe it was the girl that I’m dating.

Thanks for your time Arj, enjoy the rest of your tour.
Yeah thanks for your time. I hope you find lots of events.



Arj Barker's Australian tour finishes up on December 22. Head to his website for more details and to buy tickets.