Interview: Arj Barker
<strong>Arj Barker</strong> talks to <strong>Keir McAllister</strong> about Edinburgh, Chicago and Scandinivia
Keir: It’s been a while since you’ve been here – are you looking forward to coming back to Edinburgh?
Arj: I’m really looking forward to it and it will be a totally different experience for me this time. I’m a lot more relaxed now, and there’s not the same pressure. This show is the strongest hour I’ve ever performed but because I haven’t gigged extensively in the UK for a while, I have the added luxury of drawing on two or three years of material.
I was reading an interview you did a while ago and you described your comedy as ‘character based observationalism with a hint of surrealism and a healthy dose of idiocy...’
I must have been on a roll that day... I just try to be funny.
Most people in the UK will probably recognise you from Flight of the Conchords, though you’re more well-known as a stand-up elsewhere in the world, is that a frustration for you?
No not at all – part of the reason I decided to come back to Edinburgh this year was because of that show. My name was out there a little bit and I thought this would be a good time to come back to the UK and re-assert myself on the comedy scene. I supported the Conchords on tour this year at the O2 Arena and the Apollo and then we went to Scandinavia. On the back of that I’m doing solo tours. Everywhere you go, people love that show and the response to me has only been good. I’m really grateful to those guys for having me on it...
How does doing stand-up in the likes of Scandinavia compare to doing stand-up in the UK and other parts of the world?
I’d like to think most of my comedy is quite universal but I always try and tailor some of the show for the people I’m performing to. Audiences want to know that you’ve put some thought into it and aren’t just regurgitating the same shit you said the week before in Chicago.
You tackle some big topics in your show – how important is it to you that your comedy carries a message?
I’m not out to shock people – surprise maybe, but not shock. I’m not about being offensive and the more contentious stuff I do – the joke is always on me. Inevitably there are times when there’s a message behind what I’m saying but there’s no theme – you don’t find out who my real dad is, at the end or anything – it’s just gags...
What are you looking forward to most coming back to Fringe and is there anyone you would recommend to see?
Lots of my friends are doing shows so I wouldn’t know where to start. I always go to Late and Live and the Phat Caves. I’ll definitely be checking them out. I've also taken up jogging recently – Edinburgh is such a beautiful city to go around, I’ll be that annoying enthusiastic American guy you bump into out jogging the streets.
Arj Barker - Let Me Do the Talking, Assembly @ George Street, 9.20pm 5-29 Aug (not 16)
See Keir at various gigs around town, including Best of Scottish at the Stand on 15 and 21 Aug