The glow of iPhone screens splashed across youthful faces whose lean bodies were wearing witty t-shirts – all awaiting the arrival of the equally trendy grunge man of stand-up comedy, American Arj Barker for his Let Me Do The Talking show.
In keeping with stand-up purity, the stage of Canberra Theatre was minimal, meaning that the comedians had to provide the laughs with their own wit and originality. Would the audience be entertained?
As the lights and phones dimmed, we were surprised by the bonus of warm-up act Joel Osbourne, who has recently been entertaining the troops in Afghanistan and has appeared on national TV shows. Osbourne had us in stitches with his ability to improvise with wit, and adapt to the audience tones and actions. Other jokes were set-up and bounced back later on, inspiring a new fit of chuckles, and he kept the tempo up with his pacing of the floor and barking out exaggerated voices.
There must be a comedian rulebook out there; one that says ‘thou shalt include local jokes’. Thankfully we escaped the usual ‘oh you live with politicians’ spiel and enjoyed some good-old town rivalry gags. Even when one of the jokes didn’t quite go as planned, Osbourne turned it around and recovered well, with all the magic of a tumbled gymnast.
After Osbourne’s set, the giggle motors were suitably revved and waiting for the experienced and well-known Arj Barker to take to the stage for his Let Me Do The Talking show. Barker is popular in Australia, just like other international acts Billy Connolly and Jimeoin – who have harmonised to the style of Australian humour. Indeed, Barker played on his observations of Aussie culture with moments of ‘that is soooo true’. Also hitting the sweet spot of the mainly Gen Y audience was his take on the environmental movement and the hypocrisy of small-minded trendies and businesses who use ‘green’ for ‘greed’.
Barker explained early in the show that the theme would be about ‘positivity’, but it was clutching at straws to see the relation – not that this mattered really. We’re there for a laugh, not a performed essay. A random-lyric ‘what the…?’ song summed up Barker’s entire set at the end; it was funny, but completely unconnected to anything.
Barker had planned his show thoroughly, and there wasn’t much audience interaction or improvisation. This led to a waning in interest, particularly as the show was so long, without the advertised interval - anyone who has sat in the Canberra Theatre knows that you go there for a good time, not a long time. With a bit of editing, Barker’s show would have been a polished gem.
Arj Barker’s Let Me Do The Talking certainly gives value for money, with plenty of tear-wiping laughs sure to please his long-time fans, and win over some new ones.
Let Me Do The Talking
Venue: Canberra Theatre Centre | Civic Square, London Circuit, Canberra
Dates: 26 - 27 October 2010
Bookings: 02 6275 2700