Arj Barker Lyao
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Arj Barker: Lyao

I guess Iíve always enjoyed listening to stand up comedians. I used to hang out with friends listening to Bill Cosby or George Carlin just to break up life with a few laughs. We could usually see some of these funny men appearing on Ed Sullivan or Johnny Carson but usually they were disembodied voices. One advantage of the albums though was they were uncensored and for kids it was the only way to hear someone telling off color jokes. Now with comedy specials on HBO and their somewhat watered downed cousins on Comedy Central this is definitely the age of the standup comedian. Helping this along is the unrated DVD where we can watch the acts of new up-coming comedians. One of the latest such comedians Iíve encountered is Arj Barker with his initial release ĎLyaoí. There are a lot of different types of formats these performers can take ranging from observational humor where the mundane is closely examined for humor to the quick punch lines of the rapid fire short jokes. The best way to describe Arj Barker is an absurdist, going off without notice to completely nonsensical tangents. He is a bit of an acquired taste requiring a bit of getting used to. This offering does provide both a DVD and CD on separate disc so you can sit at home watching or play it in the background as an old fashion party album. Donít expect a lot of moments that will live up to what LYAO means in cyber speak but I donít think there is a set of initials for randomly chuckling. Perhaps it is because we just had a few evenings here with DVDs of George Carlin and Robin Williams but even with the bar set impossibly high Barker still has a long road ahead to even be in the shadows of those men.

One of the main things that keep the laugher down here is the pacing. His humor generally consists of rather involved stories that are excessively long so by the time he gets around to the pay off the interest has diminished. One more than a few occasions he has to pause to provide an explanation for the previous joke. Of course those explanations make little if any sense and only marginally redeem the story. He is a sedate manner about him so instead of jumping around the stage he basically stands there microphone in hand relating to his audience. Part of the way he draws them in was by including some jokes tailored to the venueís city of Minneapolis. After a couple of jibes about it being a twin city and expressing his doubts over the Stateís claim of containing 10,000 lakes Barker bounces from one topic to another with little in the way of connective tissue to hold the act together. He does start out mellow increasing his ire at a painfully slow pace culminating with forced outrage signaling the conclusion of his act. Perhaps in a place with a two drink minimum the environment may be more conducive to appreciation of Barkerís style. Much of what he does comes across just below the level of being perceived as socially disruptive. He never mangers to go over the line; perhaps that is his greatest attribute of going close to the line but never crossing it completely.

The basis of his act is taking a typical normal observation and taking it to a place you would never imagine. For example he starts off talking about the current problem of piracy concluding with the statement that nothing than is a ride in Disney land should be fear inspiring. Another case in point is his take on global warming is to blame the sun. After all if you burn the toast you blame the toaster as the source of the heat not the bread. He does seem that he has a strong following particularly with younger crowds. Much of that is due to his perchance for humor pertaining to the computer age. Each of the chapters on the disc is name for some internet set of initials. This is brought to bear with a portion of his act that discusses things like cell phone texting where the software tries to second guess your message and completes the word for you. I guess the new petty annoyance of modern living like this were bound to make it into a stand up act and I do admit that his speaking in automatic completion was funny to listen to if only because of just how true it was. Like a lot of comedians your reaction to his routine will heavily depend on your age group. I may be fairly computer savvy but I am also beyond Barkerís target demographic. He has potential but needs to hone his skills to achieve a much needed broader appeal. His language is on the adult side so it would be best to keep this out of reach of the kids but overall if you can get into his material sit back and have an hour of fun.

Posted 02/21/2010

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