Barker’s act was preceded by Aussie comedian Joel Osborne who, despite a shaky start, managed to pull a few (well-deserved) laughs out of an initially reluctant audience before heading offstage to summon the evening’s real draw card.
Arj is still clearly loving Australia silly and the feelings are mutual as attested to by an amiable audience that filled his Majesty’s on the opening night. Arj kicked off with by thanking the kindness and “welcomingness” of Perth - the city named by a cat with a lisp.
Barker’s style is punctuated by abstract leaps of logic which find him ruminating aloud on everything from the fate of the suicidal, soap-on-a rope to the sadistic properties of water, which apart from being the cause of either dehydration or ‘tusamis’, also prove to be the common denominator between Hitler, Stalin and Charles Manson.
If his repertoire does, as he insists, consist for the most part of material of a more puerile nature - a forgivable sin in light of the fact that Barker is the proud, new owner of a magical “shit-writing notebook” - this only serves to prove that the humble genre of toilet humour is still alive and well in Perth. He also ranged from detached social commentator to strong vocal advocate for some ambiguous causes, all this punctuated by moments of pondering expecting the audience to follow his natural, albeit bizarre train of thought.
The tenacity of Aussie flies, thirst-inducing properties of Vegemite and the Aussie compulsion to abbreviate every word consisting of more than one syllable are all given a nod, but the stores of Aussie jokes are never plundered completely.
Barker is beyond teehee good - his wry, observational brand of humour resonates well with contemporary Australian culture and showcases a surprising degree of insight into some of the idiosyncracies of Australian culture. One of the show’s funnier moments found Arj noting his aversion to the Melbourne Cup, sympathizing instead with the equine sector of the show in a particularly funny scenario which involved him showcasing his operatic talent. Finishing up what was a considerably long routine - 90 minutes - Barker promised not to hold the audience up anymore, comparing the latter end of his routine to a quasi ‘hostage situation’.
I’m sure he has kept his old fans just as loyal and added a few more devotees to his already sizeable fan base.
Mary Tobin presents
NEW AND IMPROVED
Venue: His Majesty's Theatre | Perth
Dates: Tuesday 27th Nov - Saturday 1st Dec