Since winning the coveted Perrier Best Newcomer Award back in 1997 Arj has firmly established himself as one of the golden boys on the international comedy circuit. He performed massive sellout seasons at last year’s Adelaide Fringe Festival and Melbourne International Comedy Festival, as well as a four-month tour around regional Australia.
For a comic constantly at the top of his game, it is always a challenge to hone new ideas and fashion them into comedy gold. Keeper of Crapper is Barker’s self-made comedy jokeshop where he works with an audience to refine new material.
From a punter’s point of view, this is a chance to be part of the process. ‘I’ll be sorting through new ideas,’ says Arj. ‘I will have my notes out. It will be me fleshing out new material…’
Barker has already had two sellout Keeper or Crapper shows this month, after finding the process valuable when he used it to work up new material last year.
‘Its a nice safe environment. A lot of the stuff I have never tried before. It can be hard working things out in front of an audience expecting fully formed jokes so this format is perfect. And Byron has that relaxed vibe.’
Although this isn’t Australian Idol – at the end of the day, Barker is creator, contestant and judge. ‘I don’t get the audience to veto – they are not going to vote at the end. I do however, record the response.’ Like most comedians, Barker was a bit of a class clown who grew up into one of those clever drifters with no real career path.
‘I was into snowboarding. I was working at a ski resort and I guess I would have continued in that. It was fun. I only tried comedy as a bit of a laugh. I got challenged by a friend who said I should try it. I was hooked immediately. I had written a few jokes, and I got up there.’
Like most comics, Barker is always mining for the ‘comedy gold’.
The fascinating thing is that very often its a complete surprise to the comic as much as it is to the audience. Take for example, Barker’s infamous ‘little piece of shit on the toilet’ routine.
‘Years ago I was doing an open mic in San Francisco – and I was desperate for material – I was digging through an old notebook and it said sometimes when I was taking a leak and there is a bit of shit on the toilet seat, I will try to pee it off – when I said it all the men in the audience lit up and I realised it was a fertile concept as most guys could relate to it.’
When it comes to subject matter, Barker is interested in universal human issues.
‘Like health and death and the environment,’ he says, ‘stuff about ageing and time is always my favourite because it never stops being true.’
So does Barker ever run out of things to talk about?
‘I don’t think I’ve talked about everything, but I do hit walls when I can’t think of anything funny about anything. When I feel like this I dig out old notebooks and try to work on them. I usually always have a notebook nearby.’
So what should people expect for Keeper or Crapper?
‘It will be a fun night – I’ll try some new material and I will also dig out some classics. People might see their favourite jokes and sometimes I even do some requests at the end!’
Arj Barker performs at the Community Centre on Friday May 30 and Saturday May 31.
Bookings 6685 6807.