Master of brutal deadpan Arj Barker returns to Fringe
US comic backs recent Flight of the Conchords role with Edinburgh show
This article is from 2010.
The deadpan Arj Barker makes a long-awaited Fringe return, telling David Pollock that these are his salad days
This will be San Francisco comedian Arj Barker’s first working visit to Edinburgh in a decade, and he promises to pull out the stops for an audience which might only recently have become familiar with his work. ‘The show covers a range of topics, from the environment to pirates, my personal life to mattresses. It’s good solid stand-up, that’s what I do. But just be prepared to laugh and cry.’
Long-time Fringe-goers might not need reminding that Barker was the Perrier Best Newcomer in 1997, the first of four consecutive years he appeared in Scotland. Yet ten years spent breaking into what he describes as ‘other markets’ (his name is well-established in Australia, and when The List tracks him down he’s touring to largely ex-pat audiences in Thailand) mean that British audiences might know him best for his recent role as laconic New York pawn-shop owner Dave Mohumbhai in Flight of the Conchords, owner of one of TV’s most brutal deadpans.
‘I decided I should give the UK a look, and this show’s really a way of re-introducing myself to the fans. Obviously the popularity of Flight of the Conchords has given me a nice boost, but I don’t rely on the show to endorse what I do, you know? Would I have come back if I didn’t have that behind me? Maybe I would. But maybe I wouldn’t have been quite as hopeful.’
Despite past and hopefully future television success, Barker eagerly declares his love for the stand-up life. He works hard at it, aiming to write an entirely new show every year, although his lengthy absence from Edinburgh means that we will get a ‘best of’ selection of his last two or three years’ work. ‘I’ve achieved what I always wanted in stand-up,’ he says, ‘which is to have people want to come and see me, rather than just showing up at the club. These are the good days for me. I’ve worked hard to get to this stage and I want to enjoy it.’
He reminisces fondly of the good old days in Edinburgh some more. ‘It’s a beautiful city, I remember walking home early in the morning and seeing the sun come up over the castle. I’m kinda sentimental about those days, to be honest. And I never lost money on it.’ Here’s hoping it’s a happy homecoming.
Arj Barker, Assembly Rooms, 623 3030, 7–29 Aug, 9.20pm, £12–£14 (£11–£13). Previews 5 & 6 Aug, £5.