Arj Barker – Original Review | Review by Steve Bennett

Arj Barker – Original Review

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Much-travelled San Franciscan comic Arj Barker’s almost oxmoronic persona is that of an angry drifter… a man happy to saunter aimlessly through life, but prone to randomly becoming enflamed by sudden righteous passion about some perceived wrong, however surreal or inconsequential that thing may be.

In that vein, much of his routine is low-intensity conversational patter. He chews the cud over this and that, being agreeable and making friends, while saying nothing particular to make you sit up and make notice – even though his quirky charisma is always enough to hold an audience.

But then he’ll have a moment of lucidity, as if he’s momentary got some great truth into his head he wants to impart. In a fluid transition, the laid back character recedes and the quality of stand-up moves up several gears. The ideas driving the comedy become more bizarrely inspired, his speech becomes more emphatic, and the jokes get sharper and funnier.

A couple of minutes of this and he gradually eases back again, showing that he’s only messing, never wanting to jeopardise the off-the-wall playfulness that defines his act. He’s an experienced and skilled performer, after all, who knows how to manipulate the ebbs and flows of energy to his advantage.

The material ebbs and flows, too, however. There are some cracking gags and inventive routines in his set – but then also some obvious lines as heavily signposted as Spaghetti Junction. But the best of his work is a joy: sarcastic, dry, sometimes punny and almost always from a uniquely oblique angle. Even if the quality can’t be sustained, there’s more than enough of the good stuff to ensure an entertaining 20 minutes or more…

Review date: 10 Jun 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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