Arj Barker is not your typical stand-up comedian. His set is full of audience participation, such as papier mache projects and activities with your neighbours.
“Everyone, bring a funny hat,” he said. “Any hat that you think is funny and bring it in a brown paper bag and wait until the end of my set.
“It’s not like stand-up comedy where you just come and laugh. I’m trying to take it to a new level.”
Barker is about to join those harbingers of hilarity and powder, of the snow kind, when the Snowed In Comedy Tour returns to Vernon Feb. 4.
The brainchild of Dan Quinn, the tour is back for its fourth year at the Performing Arts Centre, and is presented by the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce as part of Winter Carnival.
Returning to the stage this year is Quinn, a Vancouver comic/snowboarder, as well as Canadian-born stand-up dude Craig Campbell, who is returning from his now home in Devon, England.
The boys will be joined by Barker and Pete Johansson, both newcomers to the tour.
An American-born comic probably best known for playing clueless pawnshop worker Dave from the now defunct hit HBO comedy Flight of the Conchords, Barker joined the tour after being told about it by Johansson.
Barker started snowboarding in the 1980s so he was a natural fit.
“We had the conversation about a year ago and here I am in a van with all the other comics,” he said.
These days, Barker spends half the year living in Australia, where he has developed a big following.
“Maybe I was in the right place at the right time,” he said. “There weren’t too many foreign comics there at that time. I also think that they thought that since I’m from America, I must be a big deal, so they put me on TV shows easier.”
While working in Australia he met Kiwis Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, the duo behind Flight on the Conchords. Eventually he landed the role on the TV show.
Although the show definitely helped boost Barker’s career, the comedian says there are lots of people who haven’t connected him to his character.
“The point is, tons of people aren’t coming to my shows and it’s starting to piss me off,” he joked, adding, “That really helped because a lot of people who love the show would come out and give me a chance.”
Unlike comics such as Canadian Russell Peters, Barker, who is also of East Indian descent, says he tries to eschew ethnic humour. Instead, he said he just likes being silly. That and good observational humour.
“I thought about doing ethnic humour but then I decided being a billionaire wasn’t for me,” he said.
Barker is also the creator of the off-Broadway hit, The Marijuana-logues, and has been seen in three Comedy Central specials and has made two Late Night with David Letterman appearances.
Johansson also brings a wealth of international and TV experience.
The Kelowna-born comic now lives in London, England, and performs at some of the top venues around the world.
The Snowed in Comedy Tour takes place at the Performing Arts Centre Saturday, Feb. 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 for adults and $25 for students, available at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca. There is an adult content warning for this show.
–– With files from Alex Cooper with the Revelstoke Times Review.