Grumpy Barker clashes with heckler

Zoe KeenanGeraldton Guardian
Comedian Arj Barker visited Queens Park Theatre last week.
Camera IconComedian Arj Barker visited Queens Park Theatre last week. Credit: Picture: James Penlidis Photography

One woman got more than she bargained for at Arj Barker’s show on May 9 at Queens Park Theatre after she was almost kicked out by the man himself within 10 minutes of the start.

After a clever singalong performance to open the show with Steven Gates from musical trio Tripod, the crowd were left smiling — ready for the main act.

As Barker hit the stage he received a loud welcome and with a few laughs straight off the bat I got comfortable in my seat knowing this was going to be a good one.

That lasted all of 10 minutes before another comedian — or so she thought — in the second row interrupted Barker as he was getting to a punchline.

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At first I thought he was going to feed off her joke and make fun of her, as comedians usually do, but we quickly found out that’s not how Barker rolls.

The 30-year veteran comedian asked her to shut up and said he did not appreciate people interrupting his show, saying he’d travelled a long way to Geraldton to perform.

The heckler kept going but he wasn’t having it. Barker took a step towards the front of the stage, aggressively telling her if she wasn’t going to shut up, to get out. She finally decided to hold her tongue and Barker continued with his show — clearly affected by the interruption when he fumbled slightly over a joke about Brisbane.

While I can understand where Barker was coming from, perhaps it was rude to interrupt, I also think some interjection is expected from an audience of comedy and some of the most entertaining parts are when the comedian takes the mickey out of hecklers.

I am not one for confrontation so I was pretty uncomfortable and, after chatting to other patrons after the show, I found I was not the only one.

Towards the end Barker did apologise for the rough start, making jokes about that “one person in the crowd” which were a laugh for all but that “one person” who responded with a one-finger salute.

For the most part I did find his show funny, after all Barker has been doing it for 30-odd years and knows how to make an audience laugh.

Some of my favourites from the night were his jokes about Australian slang and how we say s... in every sentence.

I also enjoyed his jokes deriving from his experiences going gluten-free and eating “organic fruits”.

Being newly engaged he told a host of relationship jokes about having a good life until that point and wanting to kill each other — clearly very relatable to many in the crowd.

Unfortunately, throughout the show my thoughts did drift back to the awkward confrontation at the start. It was a bad first impression — and it stuck with me until the end.

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