Recently I went to see Arj Barker’s comedy show at The Palms, at Melbourne’s Crown Casino.
I’ve been a lover of comedy since I first watched Bugs Bunny and then Maxwell Smart in the 60’s. You can never laugh too often nor too much.
We arrived at the venue in plenty of time to enjoy a meal before venturing to the third floor of this gigantic entertainment mecca. The Palms is a great venue. We were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to find our way to our seats, and how the layout of the room really guarantees that there are no bad seats.
There was a little frustration getting a couple of bottles of water before the show. Having grown up in a pub, my Dad showed me the fool proof way to tend bar, a way that guaranteed nobody waited longer than they should. “Start at the left” he’d say, “And move to the right one person at a time.” Doing so means the bar moves fluidly and as each patron is served and moves away from the bar, the next person moves in. Everyone gets served in turn.
I am often amazed that in such a modern venue, where the drinks are a little more than just expensive, that staff are not given this most basic training. We left the bar without drinks to make sure we didn’t miss the show.
The evening’s entertainment opened with Sydney comedian Joel Ozborn. First, I acknowledge the courage of any comedian deciding to open for someone as extraordinary as Arj Barker. Joel strode onto stage in a relaxed manner and began to chat with his highly expectant audience.
He had some funny lines and as he relaxed into his routine, there were many good laughs around the room, particularly when he poked fun at the “ugly Aussie abroad”. He gave us a good warm up without overstaying his time on stage, then gracefully made way for the main act.
I’d like to see Joel in his own show sometime. I have a sense he would be very good.
Then on came Arj Barker. Immediately you feel this man is as relaxed on stage as he would be on his sofa at home. He connected with the entire audience immediately and relaxed into a well-prepared routine. And it all flowed from there.
I think there is something special about a comedian who can take common situations and concerns, some perhaps sensitive, and whilst having moments of serious and challenging dialogue with his audience, leave us all laughing so hard we needed a pause button.
He explored relationships, using his fairly recent marriage to his long-term partner as the foundation for some meaningful and often obtuse observations of relationships. Making fun of himself, and how he is in a relationship, whilst at all times remaining deeply respectful of his wife, brought many moments of deep stillness, followed by roars of appreciative laughter.
His recollection of the fable of the giant oak tree and the blade of grass in the hurricane as a means for creating a method for navigating marital tensions was genius as he simultaneously made fun of how we all often miss the deeper meaning of the writer’s message and use the written word as a granite like reference point in our lives.
He then moved on to explore the concept of honesty, a subject not often raised in a public forum, using modern parenting as the playing field for his exploration. He talked of the dishonesty we show to kids, telling them how special they are, and celebrating “commonplace and expected” milestones as if they were some form of outstanding and elite achievement.
I’d love to share snippets of this, but it is just too brilliant to do justice in written words. There was a point where I was doubled over, and at the same time, wishing for a pause button. It was coming too thick and fast for me to adequately digest. I thought my partner was going to pass out. She has the very best laugh.
And so he went on to the evolving human race and the impact of technology on each new generation, and the snippets of resentment felt by the generation before as they pointed out how lucky the new generation is and how hard their life has been. Again, pure genius and too much to even recall.
As the show came to an end, we had a fourth “theme” to laugh our way through as Arj ran an extended commercial for his merchandise, inviting audience members from the front row to participate. Again, it was genius, this time our host demonstrating how brilliant he is with spontaneous comedy.
And the whole lot was brought together as he went back to finally describe how the current younger generation might have the conversation with their offspring, about how their life has been made so simple, and their own hardships and regrets, especially the regret of not having bought that comedian’s DVD, that comedian who turned out to be some kind of oracle.
The show was genuinely liquid gold and way too much value for the meagre $55 per ticket that we spent.
To cap it off, Joel came back on stage, Arj and he interacted, with Joel being promoted by the star, his website being highlighted and joked about, followed by Joel walking off to sulk through the audience, and Arj following him right to the back door where he announced that it was all ok, Joel wasn’t upset, he was just making his way to the merchandise stand. Again, more appreciative laughter, the show ended and our too hosts headed to the merchandise stand to sign autographs and meet their guests.
This was a seriously (no pun intended) great night out. Don’t miss Arj Barker as he tours the country. Find a show near you at https://alist.com.au/artists/arj-barker/.
I had very sore abdominals for three days.