Arj Barker is not your typical stand-up comedian. His set, which he’ll be bringing to Revelstoke as part of the Snowed In Comedy Tour on Jan. 24, is full of audience participation, such as papier mache projects and activities with your neighbours.
“Everyone, bring a funny hat,” he asks me to tell people. “Any hat that you think is funny and bring it in a brown paper bag and wait until the end of my set.
“It’s not like stand-up comedy where you just come and laugh. I’m trying to take it to a new level.”
Okay, none of that is true (I think). I can hear his fellow comedians laughing in the car as we talk. They just got off the ferry from Victoria to Tsawassen and were on their way to a sold-out show in Vancouver when I reached Barker on Saturday.
The Snowed In Comedy Tour is coming to Revelstoke for the second time. Organized by comedian Dan Quinn, it was started as an excuse to hit the road, do lots of snowboarding and throw in some shows at the same time. This year, Quinn is joined on the tour by Pete Johansson, Craig Campbell and Barker.
Barker joined the tour after being told about it by Johansson. Barker started snowboarding in the 1980s so he was a natural fit.
“We had the conversation about a year ago and here I am in a van with all the other comics,” he said.
Barker is probably best known as the clueless Dave from the HBO show Flight of the Conchords. Of course, he’d been performing stand-up comedy for more than a decade before he got the role on that show, appearing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, several Comedy Central programs; and writing and performing in the Off-Broadway show The Marijuana-Logues.
These days, Barker spends half the year living in Australia, where he has developed a big following.
“Maybe I was in the right place at the right time?” he said when asked to explain his success there. “There weren’t too many foreign comics there at that time. I also think that they thought that since I’m from America, I must be a big deal, so they put me on TV shows easier.”
While working in Australia he met Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, the duo behind Flight on the Conchords. Eventually he landed the role on the TV show. I asked if that gave his career a boost. He said that it definitely helped but there are also lots of people who haven’t connected him to his character.
“The point is, tonnes of people aren’t coming to my shows and its starting to piss me off,” he joked, adding: “That really helped because a lot of people who love the show would come out and give me a chance.”
As a stand-up, Barker, who is of Indian descent, eschewed ethnic humour. Instead, he said he just likes being silly. That and good observational humour.
“I thought about doing ethnic humour but then I decided being a billionaire wasn’t for me,” he said.
Arj Barker performs with the Snowed In Comedy Tour at the Traverse on Tuesday, Jan. 24. He is joined by Dan Quinn, Pete Johansson and Craig Campbell. Tickets are $20.