Californian comic Arj Barker has been a regular feature on the stand-up scene since winning the coveted Perrier Best Newcomer award way back in 1997, but he really hit the big time when his buddies Bret and Jermaine asked him to be in a little show called Flight of the Conchords. We caught up with him between gigs at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival…
Hi Arj, how’s Melbourne? It’s going great. I’ve had nothing but positive feedback so far, so knock on wood.
Do you like playing festivals? I quite like it because I don’t have to pack up and leave every night, which gets exhausting. There’s always a few people who want to have a few drinks, although I don’t go out every night like I used to.
Not as wild nowadays? Nah, it’s just I see the importance of getting good rest and being fit for the shows more than I used to. I didn’t used to worry about it as much. I guess I take it a little more seriously now.
You spend a lot of time in Australia. How come? I suppose a part of it is a lot of people want to come and see my show here and it’s a big country. Australia’s my best market at this point and I tend to go where the action is.
No other reason why you keep coming back? Same reason why you stayed here eh? Ha, I think we both know what we’re talking about…
For sure… So any favourite places? I love the area around Byron, up there in the hills, the hinterland.
Nimbin? Ah, not necessarily. Nimbin’s cool, I’ve been there a few times, but I just find it very beautiful up there in the hills. Byron’s a pretty good town when it’s not too crowded. That’s one of my favourite parts of the country for sure. I do like this country. It’s different from other places just because evolution-wise it’s a different branch on the tree. It’s a weird place.
I heard a rumour about a third series of Concords? Where did you hear that? That’s news to me. Well, that would be good news but I understood the opposite. You never know, I’m doing some live shows with the boys in May, we’re playing Wembley.
D’oh! Okay, so how did your role, Dave, come about? I knew the boys just through comedy, through being on the road and that. Then one day they just said: “Do you want to be on the show?” No-one could know what was going to happen really, I always approach things a little bit cautiously. I didn’t think, “this is gonna be huge”.
You’re often giving Bret and Jermaine advice about women in the show. Was that like real life then? I think they saw me a little bit as that guy. Not that they really came to me for advice, but I think my role is roughly based on their perception of me at the time that we met. I might have been a little more like that, I was more like “yeah man, come on man, lets go and get some ladies”. I was in New Zealand and I was chasing the parties a little bit, that kind of thing. Everyone on the show is sort of an exaggerated version of themselves, all a little cartoonish. I don’t think they ever thought I was that idiotic.
So what’s your current show like? It’s a solid standup show. I’m not trying to reveal any deep insights but I do cover some fairly heavy shit. But then I also talk about cats, so there’s something for everyone really.