Work in Progress: Arj Barker, Comedian - People can sit back and think, 'Wow!'

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The Independent Culture
Arj Barker won a Perrier Award for Best Newcomer at last year's Edinburgh Festival, and returns this year

All set?

Absolutely. I've been preparing for at least a couple of hours and I think it's coming together, but it's very scary until you get to do the show. I did a preview last night, to a nearly sold-out audience. It was very playful and there was a spontaneous feel to it. We had a lot of fun.

So you'll be sticking to that form?

No, not really.

New material?

I'd say that the show is 85 per cent brand new, and what's old has been improved upon. Last year, I had more of a structure, in that I was supposed to have just gotten to England for the first time and I was very naive. That gets unrealistic. I'm still naive, but that's just because of how my character is - kinda dumb. But I'm also more used to England. A lot of people think I'm English.

You mean the Scots do?

No, they think I'm Scottish. Of course, all this is only until I open my mouth. Then they think I'm English and want to beat me up. (Only kidding).

Other changes?

I've been getting more into acting because I want to convey emotion, even if it's something as ludicrous as talking about a bar of soap. The classic subjects are still in there - dating and so on - but this year people can expect to sit back a couple of times during my show and think "Wow! That made something stir inside my chest". They may just be gas pains, but it also may be because Arj Barker is trying to say something that matters.

Any clues?

There's a true story, for instance, where I was ordering a Big Mac at a drive-thru in the countryside, and a cow had wandered up the fence just next to my car. I won't give away the ending but it was a very emotionally- charged moment and I think a lot of people are going to feel that. It's a little like the story of the homeless woman I did last year. I'm on my way to a show and see her picking up cans so she can sell them for two cents a can, and I think "Is this fair?" Then I ask the audience if it's fair and they say of course it's not. In the end I have to tell myself "Damn it, Arj, you go to the show. There'll be plenty of time for can collecting when you get back. That woman is aged and weak, she can't get them all." I like stories that sound poignant but end up ridiculous.

Do you know any Beckham jokes?

No, I'm afraid he'll kick me.

Arj Barker's show plays at the Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh (0131-556 6550), until 31 August