2007_01_arjbarker.jpg Arj Barker will be appearing as part of The Marijuana-Logues at Comix on January 18th, 19th, and 20th. In this interview he shares his opinion on the holidays, the worth of children, and his love of Australia.

How were your holidays?
They're okay. I'm kind of glad they're over. I don't know if that's a good attitude, but yeah.

Do you find that you enjoy Christmas as much now as you did when you were growing up or maybe not as much?
No, not really. I think I'm in that in-between stage. I think people like Christmas again once they have kids.

Why do you think that might be?
I guess because they're "rediscovering it through the wonder of a child". I'm putting that in quotes by the way. I don't say things like that.

Would you say then that children are the future?
Until we manage to prolong life. Eventually they are.

What sort of steps do you think we should take for bettering children and, in turn, the future? Should we keep kids healthy, mentally educated, things of that nature?
Yeah, those are good things. I have nothing against kids, but I don't think adults are any less valuable. I think we should treat kids more equal like when you see "baby on board". Well, what? Adult on board, what's the difference? I shouldn't hit somebody's car with a person in it.

Do you think then that there should be, just like there's special programming for children and toys for children, there should be special programming for adults and toys for adults as well?
Yeah, well, there is, but yeah.

Do you think then children should be educated about stuff like pot while they're in school?
Well, they are to a certain extent, I think.
What do you think of America's treatment of pot, pot users, and pot culture?
Oh, it's ridiculous in a lot of ways. You can get thrown into prison for pot, but it's all argument. It's not as harmful as alcohol, but alcohol is legal.

Have you ever had any run-ins with the law because of marijuana?
Yeah, slightly, but not too much. One time I got pulled over and they found a pipe in my pocket. They weren't too happy about that.

How long have you been a pot user?
I'm actually not a heavy pot smoker, but I first tried it when I was about thirteen probably.

How old were you when you decided that comedy is the profession for you?
Well, I started out in comedy at about nineteen.

Did you find that your use of marijuana affected your comedic sensibilities?
Yeah, maybe a little bit.

Do you ever write jokes while high then?
Yeah, sure. I have. I don't know the exact count, but yeah, definitely.

What do you think if someone comes up to you and they say something like, "Did you write that joke while you were high?"
I'd probably tell them I don't know because I probably couldn't remember.

Would that be something that you could take as a compliment or an insult or either way maybe?
I wouldn't probably even care that much.

What do you think of pot culture?
I don't get that involved with it really. I don't fixate on pot that much that I really need to.

The version of The Marijuana-Logues coming to Comix in New York, how is that going to compare to the version on the CD?
Well, it'll be quite similar, but there will probably be a few different things.

How long did it take for you, Tony, and Doug from when you decided to do The Marijuana-Logues to the version on the CD, how much tweaking and how many different runs of the show did you do before you were comfortable with recording the CD?
We did a lot. We'd already been doing it for months before we did that. We'd already been nightly in New York for over a month.

Were you trying different jokes and if a joke didn't work so well, you would just take it out? What would you do in that respect?
Yeah, we tried different things, but it's a slow process so you don't change too much of the show on any given night.

When you were first doing it, was it an off-Broadway type of deal?
It was off-Broadway in this little theater on 7th Ave called The Playhouse.

What sort of audiences would turn out?
We got a mixture of potheads and theatre-goers, which was sort of strange.

What was the reaction like from both parties?
Generally, it was good. It's a pretty easy show to enjoy. It's more of a comedy show than a theatre show.

Can you tell me about the CD that you're selling on your site?
Yeah, I have my comedy CD. I'm a comedian first and foremost. I have a comedy CD and a DVD out now. There's pot jokes on it, but it's not all pot jokes.

Would you say that, second to America, Australia is the country that you spend most of your time in?
Oh, yeah, easily. In fact, I would almost say Australia is my number one country right now.

What's stopping you then from just moving to Australia and staying there?
I've got some stuff going on here so I can't just walk away. I'm in an HBO series coming up this year. I have a small part in that, but it's regular so I can't just walk away from the United States.

Can you tell me more about the series? Is this going to be the Flight of the Conchords show?
Yeah, that's right.

And what is your role going to be on that?
Right now, as far as I know, I play their best American friend in New York called Dave. He's kind of a know-it-all, but I don't know much more because they're still writing it.

Having spent so much time in Australia, what are some aspects of their culture that you'd like to see adopted by the US?
They're pretty laid back, which is good. They're not that different, but they might be a little more laid back in general over there.

How would you describe their sense of humor?
It's a little bit more cynical than the states maybe, but not that different. Yeah, it's slightly more British in that it's a little more dry and cynical.

Having performed around the world, how would you say America compares to other places in terms of what they find acceptable as humor?
Well, sometimes audiences here are a little bit naive. If they don't get something soon then they might go, "Ohh" because they don't really get the joke. It's kind of frustrating
What sort of crowds do you prefer to perform in front of?
I like a crowd that came to see me especially, like when I get in Australia. That's the best, when the audience is there to see you as opposed to you just showing up at a comedy club where they happen to be at.

How popular is comedy in Australia?

Do they have a lot of comedy clubs or do you perform mostly in theatres down there?
You can kind of compare it to rock 'n' roll over there. It's really popular.

What sort of places do you usually perform at while you're in America?
Pubs mainly. In Australia, I'm in theatres mainly. There's always exceptions to these things, but that's the general.

When you're performing at just a normal comedy club do you ever tweak your material?
Yeah, definitely, yeah. You've got to be on your toes, I guess.

What sort of signs do you use to read the crowd?
I just look at them and think, "Is it a college crowd? Are they this, are they that?" Sometimes I do the attention span. If I think the crowd looks like they don't have much attention span, then I want to do more obvious jokes, hit them over the head a lot quicker. Whereas if it's an intimate, alternative hip cafe situation then I know people aren't drunk and they can follow a train of thought so I might do something a little more cerebral.

Outside of doing this run of The Marijuana-Logues at Comix and the HBO series, are they any other projects that you're able to discuss?
I'm going to Australia and performing at the Sydney Opera House for three weeks in February, that's a pretty big gig.

Who's going to be opening for you there?
Nobody, it's just me doing my own show.

What do you think it is about your comedy that appeals so much to Australians?
Not sure, but it just clicks really nice.

Are there any Australian comedians that you think readers of gothamist.com should look into?
Yeah, Dave Hughes is awesome. Wil Anderson, quite popular, very funny. Greg Fleet, hilarious. There's a bunch of good guys down there.

What do you like to do after your performance?
If it went well and I'm in a good mood, I usually feel like celebrating with a drink or two, but there's no set rule. Sometimes I just want to go home.

Arj Barker will be appearing as part of The Marijuana-Logues at Comix on January 18th, 19th, and 20th. Tickets are available online.