Arj Barker: LYAO Review

It’s rare to find a young comedian with a solid act. Often they have one or two inspired observations couched in 80 minutes of material a better comic would have left crumpled up by the trashcan. Arj Barker’s LYAO doesn’t suffer from this affliction, avoiding it almost entirely. Instead we get a solid set that registers well with the concert hall and at-home audiences alike.

Many young up-and-comers seek solace in the easily attained dirty comedy. Heck, even the best comedians are wont to wander this territory every now and again. Some walk in and never come back out; they set up permanent shop in the slinging of sleazy one-liners, and for folks like Rodney Dangerfield it works wonders. Conversely, others choose the “Christian Rock” comedy route, they aspire to bland, edge-less comedy they know conservative audiences will devour simply because it manages to deliver a stand-up routine of Family Circus-caliber entertainment without ever breaching that squeaky-clean code of ethics that particular audience holds dear. “It’s wholesome and funny” its fans cry. Meanwhile the rest of us are left questioning how anyone could find the likes of Brian Reagan funny while cheering on the rise of intelligently humorous acts like Arj Barker.

He never dwells in comedy that’s entirely about people’s private parts or comedy that you’d feel comfortable recounting at your grandma’s wake. It’s just genuinely funny. It derives from Barker’s ability to string along the audience with a seemingly innocuous statement with everyone waiting for the twist ending that makes it funny. Arj delivers every time, and more often than not the jokes usually ring true.

Barker keeps the tone light and casual. At one point he holds an accusatory conversation with his water bottle. In the wrong hands it would all seem so inane and trite, but Barker’s offhand approach to every joke makes it work. He never seems to earnest to get the audience to laugh, he’s calm and collected and keeps the routine afloat and flying by, and when it’s over you’re left thinking, ‘I just might watch that again someday, or at the very least unashamedly recommend it to a friend.” That’s always dangerous ground with stand-up comedy DVDs. “Here, watch this. Whether you think it’s funny or not is a reflection of our friendship’s depth.” Rarely does that end well.

Arj Barker’s LYAO is exactly what it needs to be, a solid outing that doesn’t just hint at future promise, but shows the full talent of a comedian on the rise. And it’s funny. At least it’s not as heart wrenching as Chris Titus’s faux-valentine routine – it’s funny, but every laugh hits you like a punch to the gut. There’s no bitter aftertaste here, just clear-cut comedy.

LYAO comes in a somewhat unfortunate package in one way, but a great one in another. As a plus, it's paired with the audio CD which means you can rip the routine to your iPod and take it anywhere. The negative of this situation is that it was packaged like a CD with the DVD seemingly as an afterthought, consequently it's in a jewel case and not a typical DVD case - which is just inconvenient. Inconvenience vs. a two-tiered product, you decide.

DVD Bonus Features

Two little featurettes add a nice comic punch in the extras section. The first is a pretty funny, smart commentary on Buddhism through a bizarre music video called "Sickest Buddhist". "Sickest" in this sense meaning the most awesome, and not the Buddhist with influenza or the Buddhist who most enjoys torturing kittens. Finally, a skit called "Doomerang" shows Arj doing his best/worst Australian impression as he teaches through bad example just how not to use a boomerang. "Sickest Buddhist" is funnier, but both are entertaining.

"Arj Barker: LYAO" is on sale January 26, 2010 and is not rated. Comedy. Written by Arj Barker. Starring Arj Barker.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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