For two years on the beloved HBO comedy “Flight of the Conchords,” Arj Barker played a geographically-clueless pawnshop broker who couldn’t tell the difference between New Zealand and England and was unaware that New Jersey was part of “the States.”
The role had a particularly high dose of irony, given that Barker is a comic who travels all over the globe to practice his craft.
He’s especially well-known in Australia and New Zealand, where he met Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, the Kiwis who created “Conchords.”
“I’m always excited about exploring new places to perform. I’ll take gigs all over the world. I’ve performed in different parts of Europe, Hong Kong, South Africa. That’s part of the fun of being a comedian,” says Barker, who headlines at Cobb’s this week, and opens this week for Clement and McKenzie’s “Flight of the Conchords” tour in San Francisco and Mountain View, too.
Barker, who spends part of his time in Australia, grew up in the Bay Area, attending high school in San Anselmo, where he hosted an open mic night at a small club called Café Nuvo.
He also worked tirelessly to get on the bills of San Francisco’s bigger venues, like Punchline and Cobb’s. With the help of a supportive Bay Area comedy community, he eventually found his way to headlining the notable clubs, which paved the way for his globe-trotting.
“It was a great place to grow up as a comedian,” said Barker. “I learned so much about being a comic while living in the Bay Area.”
While his part as Dave on the TV show gave him attention as a comedic actor, Barker always has maintained a disciplined standup touring schedule.
“I like the freedom of standup,” says Barker. “You just kind of say what you want, do what you want to do, and you get this immediate response. It’s a pretty rewarding experience.”
But he’s also looking to expand his oeuvre, working on a scripted comedy show he hopes to start pitching soon to producers.
Because it’s still early in development stage, he won’t offer extensive details, other than that it isn’t a traditional 30-minute sitcom.
He still remains committed to his first love, standup, and says he always looks forward to playing Cobb’s, where he cut his teeth.
“So many people come out for these shows—some I haven’t seen in years,” said Barker. “Cobb’s is basically my home club, and who doesn’t like coming home?”
IF YOU GO
Where: Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. June 30, 8 and 10:15 p.m. July 1, 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. July 2, 7:30 p.m. July 3
Tickets: $20 to $25
Contact: (415) 928-4320, www.cobbscomedy.com