Arj Barker: Ego No Amigo

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

The number of comics adopting the personas of self-help gurus is booming out of control as much as the new age fad itself. America’s Arj Barker is the latest to go down this well-trodden path of enlightenment, presenting his new show – or seminar as he inevitably calls it – as a purple-robed swami guiding his followers through ‘the emerging awareness of humanity towards super-consciousness’. Yeah, right.

So far, so unpromising. And, true enough, there are a lot easy targets here, from yoga to an over-long advert for Barker’s fictional hippy retreat, that don’t really hit the spot, however well the spiritual overtones suit his natural laid-back Californian ethos.

Thankfully, though, there’s much more to the show than this; and it turns out Barker’s merely chosen his character as a useful peg on which to hang all manner of unconnected stand-up routines.

And mighty fine many of these are, too. From the risks of buying poetry off the street to a brilliantly sarcastic reaction to a ‘thank you for not smoking’ sign, much of the smart material certainly does offer a path to instant happiness.

Unusually for an American comic, wordplay is his forte, with an abundance of often stupid puns, cunningly camouflaged amid the narrative to wrongfoot the unwitting punter. And among them is a smattering of droll, quotable one-liners of pure inspiration. The set is liberally peppered with callbacks to earlier gags, too, providing at least the illusion of a neatly structured show.

Barker is, in short, a comic who knows what he’s doing. A sharp writer and relaxed performer, he proves himself more than capable of engaging and entertaining several hundred people, even despite the drowsy, languid heat of Melbourne’s Capitol Theatre.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Melbourne, April 2005

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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