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Edinburgh Festival 99 Thursday, 19 August, 1999, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Arj Barker: No show at festival
Arj Barker: Doing a show about not having a show
By BBC News Online's Festival Correspondent Matt Grant

Arj Barker
Pleasance (Fringe until 30 August)

Arj Barker has returned to Edinburgh but forgotten to bring a new show. So he performs a one-hour routine about a Californian comedian struggling to write a show to bring to the festival.

Edinburgh Festival 1999
The concept lacks originality so chronically it had better be funny. Barker just succeeds, but at points he mainly just makes his audience cringe. He will try almost anything to provoke an amused response - anything except sit down and write a show.

Barker appealling to female audience members ...
The overall impression is still one of a bitsy routine, with not enough thought behind it and too much random material simply tacked together. Barker says all he has is five minutes of gags about koalas. Then he starts into five minutes of gags about koalas. It's supposed to be clever, but it smacks of desperation.

Don't get the wrong impression - if you have never seen Barker he is still a very talented comedian. It is not for nothing he was awarded the Perrier Best Newcomer prize in 1997 and is a star of the west coast comedy circuit.

... and succeeding after a show
But he would have done better to present the show as what it truly is: a string of isolated stand-up routines, with no connection at all except the person who wrote them and performs them.

The jokes roam across Californian subjects such as discovering your inner child and Barker's experiences in Australia and his trouble with a girl he met in New York.

It has been noted before that Barker sounds much of the time like he is performing a starring role at Central Perk in an episode of Friends. He has the same confident delivery and if the gags sometimes fall flatter than on television it is only because he lacks the canned laughter.

Ultimately, he still deserves five stars for trying, if far fewer for the end result. In the biography on his own Website, Barker lists his favourite foods as Italian and Scottish. He is clearly someone prepared to take risks when he comes to Edinburgh.

See also:

17 Aug 99 | Edinburgh Festival 99
17 Aug 99 | Edinburgh Festival 99
17 Aug 99 | Edinburgh Festival 99
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