Arj Barker The Mind Field

By Nick Bugeja

Australia has well and truly adopted American comic Arj Barker as one of its own. Like Ross Noble, Jimeoin or Stephen K. Amos, he’s been a staple on the Australian comedy circuit for decades and cultivated a solid fanbase which shows up for him across Australia, whether appearing in Melbourne or Mildura. It’s not hard to see why Australian crowds are drawn to Barker’s style of comedy: he has a unique comedic voice, and a suite of quirky jokes which are still accessible to a wide audience.

Barker’s latest show, The Mind Field, opens with a flurry of puns and double entendres which serve as a light entrée dish for what is to come. These jokes are often at Barker’s own expense, and many of them are some of the strongest lines across the entire show. He runs through material, with aplomb, on his own insecurities and the misunderstandings they create, the disappointments of buffets and ‘all you can eat’ establishments, and why we should be sceptical when told that people travel to a town or city to just to visit a specific restaurant.

The core of Barker’s performance—as per the title of his show—revolves around the idea that there is no external, objective reality in and of itself, but rather is constructed by our own consciousness. This requires some exposition which is, rather surprisingly, not littered with jokes. Once Barker makes his way through the exposition, there’s a real payoff: he fires off a litany of jokes which are, in equal measure, philosophical and facile, and it is this combination of seemingly antithetical qualities which makes this part of the show excel.

Barker’s The Mind Field is a wide-ranging show which touches on the personal, the philosophical, and the downright silly. Barker’s range is beyond that of many other comics, who prefer to confine themselves to either a high or low brow brand of comedy. Relying much on his natural talents as a performer, and some strong writing of individual jokes and sequences, The Mind Field will satisfy Barker fans and those few unfamiliar with his comedy. Punters may even take away some newfound insights into the nature of reality, and the role we play in shaping that reality every day.

The Mind Field is on at the Athenaeum Theatre until 21 April.

Arj Barker – Organic

By Elyce PhillipsArj pic

Back for his 10th MICF, Arj Barker shows why he’s a regular festival favourite with his new hour of stand-up, Organic. It’s a solid set of jokes, sold by Barker’s energetic delivery.

Australian comedian Joel Ozborn, who regularly tours with Barker, opened with a 15-minute set of competent stand-up. Ozborn got the audience laughing, but there was nothing revelatory about his comedy. I found myself responding by thinking, “Yes, I see how that’s a joke,” rather than laughing out loud. However, the response from the audience was positive, so I suspect my opinion differed from the bulk of the room.

Barker was welcomed with a rapturous response from the huge Palais crowd. After 10 years of performances here, he knows how to please an Aussie audience. His local knowledge is impressive, and he won the crowd over early with some material about the vulgarity of Australian sayings. Throughout Organic, Barker explores themes of growing up and settling down. He’s older, but not a whole lot wiser, delegating most of his responsibility to his live-in girlfriend.

Barker is adept at taking well-worn concepts and making them feel fresh. Jokes about Uber, Game of Thrones and co-habiting with your partner were all told with a unique perspective and often packed an unexpected punch at the end. It was refreshing to see a stand-up do comedy about his girlfriend and not only avoid tired old tropes, but also seem to genuinely like her.

Organic is more of the same from Barker – well-crafted comedy delivered by a professional. It’s a great example of hilarious stand-up and is sure to please fans.

Note – A word of warning to those booking tickets to Organic and planning to see another show afterwards – the MICF website lists it as running for 60 minutes, when it’s closer to 90. Barker performs a 60-minute set, but there’s also Ozborn’s opener and a bit of merch talk at the end.

Arj Barker – Organic is on at the Palais Theatre until April 16

Winners of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Awards 2013

By Lisa Clark

What an amazing fabulous festival it has been.

As usual the winners of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Awards were announced on the final night at the Festival Club in the Hifi Bar. This year American UK resident Rich Hall was rewarded for his fifteenth show at the festival in Melbourne. We give our heartiest congratulations to all the winners (as well as all the nominees. how do they choose between them?)

The Full List of Award winners is below.

Funny Tonne Award – Nick Taras who saw 147 shows

The Golden Gibbo – Simon Keck for Nob Happy Sock

highly commended by The Golden Gibbo – Standard Double by Kate Mclennan and Wes Snelling

The Piece of Wood – David Quirk – Shaking Hands with Danger

Directors Choice Award – Mel Buttle – How Embarrassment

People’s Choice is Arj Barker – Go Time

Best Newcomer – Luke McGregor – My Soulmate is Out of My League

Barry Award – Rich Hall.

Given out previously…

RAW Comedy – Demi Lardner

Class Clowns competition –  James Warren