Arj Barker: "Acme is one of the clubs I try and get back to every year when I'm in the States"
Comedian Arj Barker is in that odd club of entertainers who are widely recognized in a country or countries, but not so much in their own. In his case, it's the Australians who have embraced him. "I think you get a little head start when you're from somewhere else, because you're instantly more exotic," he reasons. He wouldn't mind duplicating that success here, though. "It's a little sad that my own country doesn't embrace me, but no guilt trip," he laughs.
While the two countries are a bit different culturally, Barker changes his set very little when he performs here. "I have one new joke where I very modestly discuss -- as modestly as possible -- what it's like being a celebrity," he says. "I'm hesitant to try that joke in the United States because people would be like, 'What the hell? What are you talking about? I've never heard of you.' But I might just do it cautiously in the States, because it's a very funny joke."
Barker still can't figure out exactly why the Australians have taken to him, but he has a working theory. "I think my sensibility seems to click well with the audiences there," he offers. "I think maybe it helped me get some good spots because I was from overseas. That might have gotten me that little bit of attention to see what I was doing. But I think the reason it maintained and evolved into something more substantial is because I just seemed to gel with their vibe." He then adds: "I also want to say that I also gel with the Minnesota vibe, because Acme is one of the clubs I try and get back to every year when I'm in the States. And that's why I filmed my Comedy Central one-hour special in Minnesota. That was my first choice. I really put my money where my mouth is."
One thing Barker appreciates about Australia is the more chill air-travel industry within the country. "They don't have a version of the TSA, it's just normal. You don't have to take off your shoes most of the time, and generally there are just fewer people so it's less intense."
He also appreciates the wildlife in Australia, even when it encroaches on the California native's space. "They have a lot of bizarre animals over there," he says. "I have a python living on the roof of my house." If you go to his Instagram account, arjbarker, you can see a photo of the huge creature. "They are native snakes and as such you're not allowed to harm them. Not that I would. I love snakes. We also have seen venomous snakes on the property, and I don't mind them as long as we stay away from each other."
Those aren't the only beasts to be found roaming free in Australia. "I think there are packs of wild French bulldogs there," he reports. "They're not dangerous, but they're really cute. So if you see them it can really impact your schedule, because they're so cute, and it can really get you off-course if you have something to do that day."
On the flipside, there are things he misses about the U.S. "I don't know if it's wanderlust or something, but I love coming back to a place like Minnesota in the summer, and going for a run along the river, getting some good barbecue, going to the show. I miss some food in the States. They don't do barbeque quite the same in Australia as they do here. And I just like to travel and move around."
IF YOU GO:
Acme Comedy Co.
708 N. First St., Minneapolis; 612.338.6393
8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10:30 Friday and Saturday
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