Arj Barker Organic

Raphael Solarsh

Organic produce that will leave people on both sides of the kale divide laughing out loud.
Arj Barker Organic

Arj Barker's Organic. Image via Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Everything has organic options these days and depending on which side of the ideological, or in the case of Melbourne perhaps geographical, divide you sit on, you’ll view it as either a clever piece of marketing hoodoo that justifies paying significantly more for a self-righteous premium or a principled choice to consume in a more natural and sustainable way. That makes it an interesting choice for a show, but festival goers will be reassured to know that Arj Barker’s Organic leaves the self-righteousness in kale country, where it belongs, and delivers a vintage performance that will leave his fans satisfied regardless of their dietary preferences.

Part of what has endeared Arj to Australian audiences is his ability to ‘get’ Australians, both in terms of humour and idiosyncrasies, and shall we say ‘hang s**t’ on us for it. He has always been a partial outsider, but partial only. He has worked with New Zealanders, Flight of the Concords, and has been appearing on our screens and stages long enough to have acquired some kind of tacit authority to make fun that only those with a personal connection to their subject matter are usually afforded.

Other than that his material is wide ranging from Trump to his maturing relationship skills and the strange new social rules that surround TV shows. What is Organic about though? At its heart, that subtle shift that happens somewhere in your thirties where compromise becomes an accepted reality and the normality that most people spend their twenties desperately trying to avoid finds a uneasy equilibrium with your life choices. It’s not selling out, it’s not ‘growing up’, it’s just understanding, well... something.

That all sounds very serious but the truth is that it’s weird and funny too because of how you start to see yourself more completely and your relationships with others. That uneasy equilibrium results in some strange situations, intense feelings about triviality and set of personal values that often conflict. It’s only buying organic but still eating the occasional Maccas burger, it’s choosing an electrical supplier that boasts of its renewable credentials but still driving to the supermarket 500 meters away because you feel lazy and so on.

It’s reading too deeply into the existential meaning of comedy show. Organic is great because despite of this it still keeps you laughing and hoping that Arj’s Australian connection keeps strong.

Rating: 4 out 5 stars

Arj Barker


Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Melbourne Town Hall

31 March – 21 April


What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Raphael Solarsh is writer from Melbourne whose work has appeared in The Guardian, on Writer’s Bloc and in a collection of short stories entitled Outliers: Stories of Searching. When not seeing shows, he writes fiction and blogs at and tweets @RS_IndiLit.