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Comedy Review: Arj Barker

May 9, 2013 Theatre

NZ International Comedy Festival

SkyCity Theatre
May 9, 2013

At the end of his show last night, holding his index finger and thumb really close together, Arj Barker said: “Reviews matter this much”.

I had spent the previous hour or so, from the time he came on stage 10 or 15 minutes late, making copious notes about his show, really trying to feel my way to the essence of what he was trying to say. There is no glory in comedy reviewing, but that doesn’t mean you should just phone it in, so there I was trying to act with integrity and there he was, telling everyone it doesn’t matter. I’m not going to lie and say that didn’t hurt.

The show was called Go Time and it started with a funny little song which he did while wearing a microphone headset, to leave his arms free for dancing. From that moment, I began taking notes and I hardly stopped for an hour. I took more notes than I had at any other comedy festival show. I wrote things like: “After music no. puts h/set away, gets wired mic. – why do comedians use wires? What’s that abt?”

Of course that kind of insipid insight will never make the final cut, but it’s the kind of hard foundational work that tells you I am someone who takes his job seriously.

I’ve got lots of other notes too: about Barker saying things like how what you do is not who you are; about how the thought that tomorrow doesn’t exist frees you to live without ego or fear; about other inspiring philosophical points.

Here was a man who has been a full-time comedian for years, and he was telling people, many of whom had probably come straight from terrible office jobs where their managers say things like “step change”, that they can think about life in a different way.

The message was that freeing your mind from the fear of what might go wrong allows you to really make some shit happen: that’s go time. Barker would often say something along those lines and invariably follow up with a few jokes, but that was all good because the jokes were just the physical embodiment of the message: take risks; do something exciting with your life.

How much does any of this matter? I’d like to hold my index finger and thumb really close together and say, “This much”, because my feelings are still hurt, but of course it matters. This is life, and you should live it well. Your life might not be as important or flashy as a stand up comedian, but if you’re going to do something, you may as well do a proper job of it.

I think Arj Barker is very funny and it is worth going to see him at SkyCity Theatre tonight or tomorrow.


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