Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Arj Barker Is Fucking Underappreciated

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 7:30 AM

header_komedykorner.jpg
Arj Barker doesn't need me to write about him. He is appearing at Cobb's this week, and once a local comic (or a formerly local comic, like Arj) headlines a weekend at Cobb's, it means he or she has made it --- or at least some part of it.


But Arj deserves more of it -- at least here in America he does.

When SF Weekly named me San Francisco's Best Comedian in 2008, he was one of the first people to congratulate me. I must admit I felt -- and still do feel -- a little like a fraud for receiving that award while he was still living in town. I bet it was similar to the way Karl Malone must've felt when Michael Jordan congratulated him on winning the NBA's 1997 MVP Award.* As in, "I may be good, but I ain't as good as you!"

There is no doubt that Arj is a first ballot San Francisco Bay Area Comedy Hall of Famer.** Take it from the KKK, he's a Bay Arean through and through. Not only did he start here, he was also raised in Marin. And Arj writes JOKES! That's right: JOKES, not jokes. His jokes are new-school deconstructions of the joke-writing process, but they also demonstrate his deep fondness for old-school setup PUNCH! His routines are like a good superhero: fat-free and bulletproof. His jokes probably even read funny, which if you ever bought one of those cash-grab comedian books you know is not always the case.

We have worked together several times, but most notable for me was the timea few years back in Philadelphia at the Helium Comedy Club. Usually comics are like ships passing in the night; we don't have real conversations unless we're at the same club.

Well, that week Arj and myself got to spend lots of time together. We'll always have Starbucks.*** And I learned that Arj is a family man.**** I also learned that Arj felt like if he spent more time in Australia he would blow up over there. I appreciated what he was saying. Things have gone very well for Arj here in the States (three Comedy Central specials, Letterman, Flight of the Conchords, the Marijuana-logues, an always-burgeoning rap career), but we all know the difference between doing well and doing WELL! Arj felt like WELL was possible in Australia.

So, like jazz revolutionary Nina Simone, Arj decided to go where the love was. According to the word on the comedy street, Arj has been spending so much time there he likes vegemite. Our loss and their extreme gain.

Jokes.com
Arj Barker -- Together Forever
comedians.comedycentral.com
JokesJoke of the DayFunny Jokes

And here's where I get to the serious part. I believe Arj is not more acclaimed/famous in this country for one reason. I've told many comics this reason.****** I've never told Arj, because, well ... he never asked me. But now I'll tell you.

I believe the reason that Arj Barker is not a bigger name in this country is because of ... drumroll, please ... racism.

I believe that because of Arj's clearly "ethnicy" but also not instantly definable good looks and because he spends little to no time on the popular comedic trope of personal ethnic humor, Americans can't enjoy our favorite pastime: "Which one of them races is he?" And we spend so much time on that we can't invite him deep into our hearts where he belongs.******* Well, lucky for Australia, Arj took his ball of jokes and went on walkabout.

And lucky for us he didn't burn his American passport and will deign to visit us this weekend at Cobb's, even though he should be playing at the Oakland Arena.

* Who are we kidding? MJ never congratulated Malone.
** There is no S.F. Bay Area Comedy Hall of Fame that I know of. That's on my list of things to do with Nato Green. He doesn't know it yet. Oops, he does now. Also Arj's feature act and fellow Marijuana-logger, Tony Camin, is a second-ballot Hall of Famer because he had a juicing scandal in the '90s.
*** Inside joke between me and Arj.
**** Inside joke #2 between me and Arj.
***** Wondering why a particular comic isn't more famous is a popular hobby for comics: The Robert Hawkins Conundrum.
****** I'm not saying Australia doesn't have racism. One word: Aborigine. I just think their brand of racism is different than our brand.

Kamau's Komedy Korner is a weekly blog column about San Francisco comedy by W. Kamau Bell. Check back next Wednesday for more.
Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.http://www.facebook.com/TheExhibitionist

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , , ,

About The Author

W. Kamau Bell

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook

Slideshows

  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"