American comedian Arj Barker (Twitter arjbarker, Facebook Arj Barker, Myspace arjbarker, YouTube Arj Barker, www.arjbarker.com) tells us how he prepares himself for a show, how he keep his energy up while on tour and his other passion….mountain biking.
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Welcome, everyone. Rod from Sports Adventure here. And today I continue our fantastic interview series where I interview inspirational people from around the world to share their expert insights on men’s health, fitness, and mountain biking.
Today I have a real treat for our listeners. My guest is currently on tour here in Australia from the US and my wife and I was lucky to see him perform just a couple of weeks ago here in Port Macquarie. He is hands down one my favorite comedians. I would like to welcome Arj Barker.
Rod: Hey Arj, how are you mate?
Arj: Hi Rod. How are you? I am really well thanks.
Rod: Terrific. Terrific mate. Thank you very much for your time. As I mentioned before I know you are flat out, I have checked your calendar and you have got back to back shows for what seems like months on end here in Australia. So thank you very much.
Arj: No problem. Yeah, we have got a lot of shows coming up. But you know to be fair I mostly work on the weekends. So I used to work 6 nights a week sometimes more than that but now I try to space and have a normal life a little bit, more of a normal life.
Rod: Terrific. Well done. Mate that’s smart its hard yakka. Mate how is the Australian tour going, mate?
Arj: Very well. Very well. It was a little touch and go there because I got the flu as you know we postponed this interview because of that but luckily I didn’t have to cancel any shows and audiences were patient. I was coughing a little bit here and there. And yeah I made it through I am just relieved that I made it through that.
Rod: Yeah. Well done, mate. Mate, I often see you do the circuit here in Australia it must always be like a second home to you now. Why do you think Australians have taken to you so well mate?
Arj: I don’t know exactly why but definitely I felt comfortable performing here since day 1. And I guess I don’t know why you know I never analyze that too much because I just was thankful but I don’t think about. I don’t try to understand it too much because I just chalk it up to good luck.
Rod: Yeah. No, I think it is more than good luck mate. I think, as I said, you are one of my favorite comedians and my wife and I we often watch the comedy shows on TV when you are on board there. Mate, you are on top of the list so you have a great program. We think you are a star.
Arj: Oh thanks, Rod.
Rod: Mate, I have read you got started in comedy after you left school and you hosted regular stand-up nights at local cafes and things and I have imagined that would have really tough obviously of the back of when you were quite young coming straight out of school there.
And most people have really struggled with public speaking and comedy just takes it to the next level of difficulty for most people. Yeah, when you are on stage it is often just you and your microphone and your guitar. How do you prepare for a show, mate?
Arj: Well, I mean night to night I don’t do much I just you know a shower and go to the theater or whatever. But in the early days, it was scarier when I got on stage but it is also exciting it was a huge hit of adrenaline. Obviously, the first time is terrifying but it actually gets a little bit generally speaking it guess a little easier as you keep going. I mean I was immediately hooked on it when I started doing it. So it wasn’t really a challenge to continue once I had done it. It was a challenge doing the first one.
I remember I put it off. I was meant to do one night and then I sort of just crawled into a ball and didn’t want to get off the couch and then next week I made myself go down there.
Rod: Well done.
Arj: But it immediately kind of hooked me so I liked the thrill and I liked the challenge. But night to night, these days you know 20 something years later I just have to make sure I have got a good show prepared and stuff. It is more or less become my like my job and back then it was sort of like an absolute adventure.
Rod: Yeah. Sure.
Arj: But it is still fun but things nothing stays the same after you have been doing it for 25 years.
Arj: It is more of a job. So I don’t panic every night which I don’t think my heart will be able to take.
Rod: No, that’s exactly right. Yeah. You are spot on.
And mate as you are on the stage and as you correctly said you look so relaxed and you own that stage mate and I think that sets you apart from a lot of other performers that’s for sure.
Arj: Oh you know that is nice after all these years. I didn’t notice I get even more and more comfortable on stage and that’s something that it goes up by tiny, tiny degrees. But you know sometimes I think “Wow I handled that situation better than I would have 5 years or 10 years.”
Rod: Yeah, you are spot on. Mate, as I have mentioned, I have had looked through your website there and you have got a massive tour. You mentioned you try to keep most of your shows to the weekends now, but I noticed the Brisbane leg you have got almost three weeks straight…
Arj: Yeah, that’s true.
Rod: And you know few back to back nights there which is massive. And mate you are a human you are just an everyday bloke like the rest of us. And some days you must feel flat. You must just not feel like going to work if you like. How do you switch yourself on for a show and get yourself in the right frame of mind to really fire?
Arj: There are occasionally days when you don’t really feel like doing it but you just do just like anyone when they go to work you know if someone works construction or they are doctor, lawyer, a teacher, or whatever you know or just bus driver, grocery store clerk there is got be days they don’t feel like going to work but they do. They shower. I got always bring up the shower I don’t know why maybe I am trying to hide something. But I go to the show and I do the show. But to be honest, once you get out there in the crowd applauds as you walk on, it doesn’t leave a lot of room to worry about whatever it was weighing you down before whether it is a relationship problem or you are not feeling well or you are just tired. All these things, for the most part, go away. Even when I had the flu and I had to push through and do these shows, once I was on stage I couldn’t really think about how shitty I felt because it is a very sort of in the moment experience. And also you do get some adrenaline from the audience from the rush of being in front of people.
Rod: Sure. Yeah, now I can only imagine what that must be like, mate. And I said that show that my wife and I saw you at just at the local theatre here at Port Macquarie and for the most of that show, the whole audience was just erupting and the group that I was in and around we are in hysterics for the entire show and that must be a real buzz. Obviously, youd feel that and that particular theater it is probably a little more intimate than a lot you must be perform at and even the back rows aren’t that far away from the front of the stage so that was a good vibe.
Arj: That gets you through the response from the audience. It gets you through most things so yeah that’s why it is not too bad. It is a built-in sort of insurance against not wanting to go to work.
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Rod: Yeah. Yeah. Certainly. Yeah. Mate, you have spent months on end traveling, as I said, you are in Australia you have been here for some time. You have got quite a while to go. Your away from your family and friends back in the States and many of us have traveled for work and the first week or so it is a real novelty and you are out about doing things but after that, it is just hard yakka. How do you do it, mate? How do you keep on going? Obviously, that’s your bread and butter that’s your job but yeah do you have any particular routines that keep you motivated keep you moving through?
Arj: I mean it will sound a little cliche but exercise maybe it is not cliche but it is a pretty well-known thing for a lot of people that exercise helps you in so many ways you know it keeps your energy up, it keeps you psychologically feeling happier, it boots your immunity. I mean I call it the magic pill so I go to the gym frequently wherever I am and get that boost because of it just like helps in a lot of ways. I mean any day when you wake up doing a little bit sort of dull and whatever you don’t really feel like your spirits aren’t that high, it will always makes a big difference to go down to the gym. And whether or not I am in the States or here and I think a lot of your listeners and readers probably already know this truth you know if you get on the bike… I also am a mountain biker and I know your blog is somewhat mountain bike based. That’s one of the subjects.
I grew up in Marin County just north in San Francisco under a mountain called Mount Tamalpais and that’s a real hot spot for mountain biking. In fact, it is one of the if not the birthplace of mountain biking. So you know Santa Cruz that’s just down the coast. Some people are familiar some of the bikes that are made in that area – Fisher, Santa Cruz I think there is Tan am has a bike. Anyway, I am getting off the subject.
Rod: No, you are right mate.
Arj: But if you know to get out and go for a ride I mean you are not going to be in a bad mood. You can’t be in a bad mood and on a good bike ride.
Rod: Yeah, you are spot on there. No that’s exactly right and I agree with you about the gym and bit more so about bike riding. It is a fantastic buzz that you get from it and I think anyone that hasn’t tried it needs to and that’s a little bit of my mission to get middle age blokes out in about out from the behind the desk and bit a time for themselves get out to bush, get a bike, dust off your old bike and whatever it is and live again and be a kid again and have fun. Yeah, something I think we loose sight of it as we get older we get few commitments and it is something we forget about. But you are right mate some of the places you have mentioned that is the starting place for mountain biking and you have got some awesome areas around there that I have read about or seeing up on the videos and mate that’s like heaven to mountain biking.
Arj: Have you heard of the city of Fairfax? Does that ever come up?
Rod: Yeah, I have heard of.
Arj: That’s a real hub. That’s where my aunt lives in California and I stay to her house. There are all different trails that you can ride from anywhere in Fairfax, and I don’t know if the 100 miles of trail but there is a lot of trails out there and all different levels. You can go and all day rides or 1-hour rides. There is also flow trails which is pretty cool. They put in a couple of years ago. A famous one is called Tamarancho loop that’s a really good loop, it is about an 8-mile loop mostly single track. I don’t think that’s a beginner ride. But the thing about the single track – I am sure you will agree – is you know there is not a lot of room for error.
Rod: Yeah, you bet.
Arj: So a lot of time you know you have a ravine on one side or trees on either side and you just… you know I often go on the fire roads because I like to be able to look around and look at the trees and daydream a little bit. But on single track, you can’t have the focus 100%.
Rod: Yeah, you bet. Yeah.
Arj: Because if you go one foot on left or right, you know your bike will not be on the trail anymore and this is not good.
Rod: No, you are spot on mate. And as you correctly mentioned single track when you are on it is just you and the bike and your focus on that trail in front of you and you think about nothing else. You block out all your worries, all your stresses and mate it is heaven.
Arj: It is. But I always feel guilty when I take a friend that doesn’t ride very much on that thing. So far no one has gotten hurt but I always stress you know this is serious business because there is downhill bits like are really fun you know. But again you don’t want to go up that trail when you needed 30 k or whatever 5 k past trees, I am guessing because I don’t know kilometers as well as miles per hour but you know 15-20 miles per hour I have been lucky but I have had friends you know who get hurt. No one has gotten seriously hurt but you know. People get choppered out of there sometimes.
Rod: Yeah, no that’s bad news. Mate, that’s terrible.
Arj: If you are few miles in and you know you have busted your head or broke your leg. I don’t mean to be negative but I am always struck by how little room for error there is on some of the singletracks.
Rod: No, you are right. And you got to be prepared. You got to have the right gear and yeah…
Arj: And there are single tracks and there is a really narrow single track that’s proper. But there is also ones that are a little bit maybe a meter wide you know. I don’t know if you still call that singletrack. I think we would back home. Yeah, I guess there are all types.
Rod: Yeah now that’s sound fantastic. And you get out a bit when you are back at home as well, mate?
Arj: Oh yeah well I mostly to get a ride when I am in California. I have actually never gone and this is embarrassing to admit but I have never gone mountain biking in Australia yet. And I know there is plenty of good trails and plenty of good places to go but I just… I don’t even own a mountain bike out here. I do have a street bike which is a sort of mountain bike style so at least like I can pretend. But I got a real nice bike back home but I don’t have one here.
Rod: Yeah, mate if you get any time between shows when you are in around the coast or near Port Macquarie, I would love to take you out to some of our local trails and just show you around a bit and yeah that would be a blast. I would really like to do next time you are in town.
Arj: Yeah, well it won’t be for a little while but that sounds good. Excellent try to tee it up.
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Rod: Yeah, terrific. I will keep an eye for the next time you are in town. Mate, if you had one secret to give about the life of a comedian for everyone else it seems like a quite a glamorous type of life obviously there is all the overseas comedy festivals all that sort of stuff we see on TV but the reality all that I can imagine is quite different. Do you have a secret?
Arj: Yeah, let’s see. Yeah, well I would say you sort of already hit on the head. I mean for most comedians anyway I mean there are few superstar comedians that maybe live like royalty or have people you know who fly on private jets but generally speaking us comedians it is a pretty humble lifestyle you know. We spend a lot of time on cars, into a gig, and eating whatever… And not necessarily eating that was the best need I kind of getting buy on the road eating whatever is available. Like I am not saying it is not bad or anything but it is not like lavish or anything. I mean it is good. I guess I could live a lavish lifestyle if I spend all the money, but I just use to get a car with the buddy and we go to the gigs and we stay at somewhere clean but we don’t try that. We are not on holidays you know…
Rod: Yeah, you bet.
Arj: Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know what people’s perception is exactly so it is hard to say. I don’t know if that’s a secret. But it is definitely…
Well, I give you a secret most show people will probably think when you just played a show for 500 people or 300 or 800 people or 1000, they probably picture you are like drinking Champagne in a hot tub you know or something. I mean 29 out of 30 shows I go I just go straight back to the hotel with a support act we still will stay at the same hotel different rooms hopefully. I just go and I may call my wife you know to say goodnight or I read or watch TV but I generally just go back to the room and then go to sleep a little while. I am usually kind of tired these days as I got a little older. It takes it out of me. Back in the day, I used to go on party after shows but yeah I am pretty tame I guess that’s my secret. I am not a wild man these days.
Rod: Mate you are spot on as we get a bit older we don’t bounce like we used to. And for me, in particular, I have certainly toned all my drinking right down now I just concentrate on what I eat and making sure I back up the next day because every day is a winner for me. So if you spend a next day hangover, it is a waste of a weekend for me so I can’t get on the bike.
Arj: Yeah there is a definitely a balancing act because there is a room for a too much booze. And although obviously it is tempting and I enjoy a cold beer as does everyone else.
Rod: Yeah, you bet.
Arj: And you know occasionally I have a few and everything. But thankfully I have the discipline that sort of see that’s not great for me to drink all the time. I try to eat well but I am not super… I generally just try to not eat too much and avoid deep fried and tons of sugar and stuff. I am not keeping anyone particular diet or anything. But I’ve been cutting back on meat a little bit actually. I order vegetarian more when it’s available than I used to. I just find I digest so much quicker and easier, you know? It is just easier on the tummy you know.
Rod: And it is more available too now. I find a lot of restaurants and I usually find at least one or 2 meals that are vegetarian as well which is a lot of change from not all that long ago.
Arj: Yeah. Yeah. If you are looking at crazy if you just order some vegetarian.
Rod: Yeah, you bet.
Arj: I just had a veggie burrito for lunch, it was pretty good.
Rod: Good one. Very good. Mate, do you have anything else coming up in future we should look out for and obviously we will keep in mind a few tours in Australia in future but other bits of pieces?
Arj: I have got a YouTube channel now which is basically me teaching viewers how to build things like DIY sort of stuff. It is called Do It Myself TV. I am continually putting out episodes of that. It is sort of tongue in cheek, but it is actually genuinely informative, but it is also sometimes pretty silly. Its a lot of fun. I make it with another comedian one of the boys from Tripod. Hes called Steven Gates, he is the director and producer. He does a lot of the editing. I help the editing. I have learned a lot since doing it actually it is a lot of fun. There is so much great technology to mess around with now that’s not that expensive and you know you can have the same ability to edit as someone years ago when the professional would have had had and it is fun.
Rod: Yeah good one.
Arj: So that’s my YouTube channel that’s sort of a fun thing. We only have about 300 subscribers so if you get us 5 or 6 more or a hundred or whatever I guess it can’t hurt.
Rod: Yeah, you bet. I will drop a link in the notes after our chat, mate.
Arj: It is like a hobby making this thins so we are not that stressed about it. You know it is just fun, just fun. And I am learning as I am doing it. I am learning and teaching simultaneously because I have never done this. I have never used power tools before really so I just started to try and try to figure everything out so it is so much fun.
Rod: Yeah, a good one.
Arj: It is not unheard of that in the video I will go on YouTube to figure out how to do it. In the video, while I am supposedly trying to show people how to do it.
Rod: Good one.
Arj: You see it is a little silly.
Rod: Mate, I reckon a lot of blokes can relate to that because a lot of us we do office jobs a desk jobs we’re not tradies and we don’t have all the tips that those guys do and that’s awesome to watch those tradies they together and pull stuff apart like crazy. But for the rest of this we lean pretty heavily on YouTube.
Arj: You can learn so much from YouTube that’s a resonance. And you could also go to checkout to Tamarancho loop or Tamarancho flow trail and you can see footage of those trails I was telling you about.
Rod: Yeah, good one.
Arj: In case any other boys out there who want to see that’s pretty fun. None of them are my videos but there is a bunch of stuff. People strap GoPros and do the flow trails and stuff, it is pretty fun.
Rod: Yeah, that’s sounds great. Terrific. Good one. And where can people find out more information about your shows and your DVDs? Mate, I know you have got a number of things there.
Arj: Oh well my website arjbarker.com. Although currently the DVD shop is closed because Dirty Dld Joe is on hiatus and he does all the shipping. But hopefully we open soon. But meanwhile, if they want to it I won’t get mad if they download some of my stuff cheekly. I won’t say anything.
Rod: Yeah. Okay.
Arj: But I welcome after you anyway. I can’t speak with DVD company but I doubt it. No problem it will be safe.
Rod: Terrific. No, that’s great mate. I will put a link at the bottom of the notes there. Mate, again thank you very much for your time this afternoon, I really appreciate the chat. And that offer still stands next time you are in town if you have got a spare hour or 2 we will grab a couple of bikes and we will take it for a spin at some of the local trails here. One area that I ride regularly it is called Jolly Nose it has a swag of a really good single track, great fire trail, bit of downhill stuff as well but we will keep to the easier stuff and mate we will have a ball so I would really like to do that.
Arj: Yeah, I don’t know what my level is I am probably intermediate but I wouldn’t say I am an expert. I don’t go on anything technical, you know what I mean? I am not good on anything where you actually have to like jump over rocks. If it is relatively or somewhat graded I go on most things.
Rod: Yeah. Terrific.
Arj: I don’t have the urge to try to push myself on the mountain bike. I am willing to push myself on a snowboarding powder then I like to do those things.
Rod: Yeah. Fantastic. And I know what you are saying, mate. We don’t bounce like we used to and it seems to hurt a lot more and takes a lot longer to recover so yeah.
Arj: Thank you very much.
Rod: Yeah, you bet.
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So keep in touch and see you out on the trails.
About The Author
Rod Bucton, mountain bike fanatic from Mid North Coast, New South Wales Australia… helping middle aged men improve their lives with exercise, good nutrition and good health and while you’re at it follow Rod on Facebook or Instagram.
Like any sport, bicycling involves risk of injury and damage. By choosing to ride a bicycle, you assume the responsibility for that risk, so you need to know — and to practice — the rules of safe and responsible riding and of proper use and maintenance. Proper use and maintenance of your bicycle reduces risk of injury.