An Interview with Carl Barron

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Australia's most loved comedian is coming to London

Carl Barron's non-threatening observational style of comedy appeals to everyone. He has touched the hearts of thousands of people with his gentle, awkward, self-conscious, relaxed and original approach to comedy. The Australian comedian is a huge star at home and is gracing London with one of his rare visits to the UK for a night at the Apollo. Fresh off the plane after the long flight, Carl took the time to talk to London Calling about his show, his sense of humour and his childhood dream.

London Calling: Your show is called “Drinking with a Fork”. What does that mean?

Carl Barron: It’s not about anything at all. I just saw that expression one day and I liked it so I just thought I’ll call my show that but it doesn’t mean anything. My last show was called “One Ended Stick” and people used to ask me after the show: How do you have a stick with one end? There’s no such thing. So I just told people to stop thinking about it or it will do your head in.

LC: How did it all start out for you, how did you get into stand-up?

CB: It’s something I wanted to do when I was young and when I moved to Sydney, I just went to an amateur night at a pub. I always tell people it’s very easy to get into but it’s harder to stay in it. I just kept going and quit my day job and here I am. It’s going well.

LC: Do you feel any pressure? They do call you ‘Australia’s funniest man’. Is that something to live up to?

CB: Yeah of course, you do feel pressure. Mostly off stage. Once you’re on stage, the pressure goes away, you forget about it. I feel relaxed on stage. That’s the only time I feel relaxed, I don’t feel relaxed in normal life.

LC: You’ve been doing comedy for over 20 years, what do you think you have learned?

CB: You have these waves of finding it all really easy and getting lots of good stories. Then you have a wave of oh, this is hard and do I want to do it anymore? There is a theory from Graham Green, the writer, that no one changes really, they just become more of what they always were. So I don’t think I have learned anything at all, I’ve just become more me and done what I needed to do. Learn how to be natural, whatever that is.

LC: Who are your heroes in comedy, is there anyone you look up to?

CB: I loved Billy Connolly when I was a kid. I wanted him to be my big brother. There’s a piano player I like, Keith Jarrett. He’s a great improviser. I know it’s not comedy but when I heard him talk about how he improvises, I thought I’d like to be able to do that - to do comedy the way he plays the piano. He’s so instinctive, but you can only be instinctive when you know what you’re capable of. You can’t be a great improviser on the piano if you don’t already know the basics, so I am employing this for stand up: the more you know yourself, whatever that is, the easier it gets as you accept who you are. Then you can say this is what I do, who cares, it’s just what I do. If you don’t like the way you are, it gets very hard.

LC: In your routines you observe these everyday absurdities - human beings can be quite a funny species!

CB: They are. You walk down the street, you watch people and listen to them - I’m convinced we’re all mad!

LC: And you do like to make fun of yourself

CB: Everybody I know, where I come from, does. If you have any confidence in yourself, you’re just called down by your friends. I make fun of myself. You have to. There’s a lot to make fun of.

LC: You never resort to the offensive or rude or aggressive kinds of comedy, just the general fun of being human

CB: That’s it, literally. I wouldn’t say that I am a completely non-offensive person or I don’t swear ever, I’m not a puritan. But I don’t want to do it a lot on stage because I never set out to shock people. I’m here to entertain them. That’s what I want to do first and foremost. There’s nothing wrong with shocking people, I like some of those comedians, I really appreciate them. But that’s not my thing.

LC: The English praise themselves quite a bit on their inimitable sense of humour

LC: Do they? People don’t do that in Australia. It’s not really in our culture to do that. Anyone who walks around praising themselves, you’ve got to be a bit suspicious.

LC: The Apollo is a pretty iconic venue for comedy

CB: I didn’t know that! I’m looking forward to seeing it, I like big theatres. I started off in small ones so now I like a lot of people being there and it feels most comfortable for me to be on a big stage and move around. That’s what I love. And hopefully they’ll laugh!

LC: What else are you planning to do while in London?

CB: There’s this really old book shop, the oldest book shop in Great Britain. That’s something that fascinates me, I like collecting old books. Someone told me the V&A has the oldest museum restaurant in the world so that must be cool. I like walking around. I like doing quiet things. Meet someone, have a cup of tea, a nice book shop, maybe a glass of wine at night in some nice English pub. I’m not an exciting person.

LC: So where does it come from, the urge to go on stage in front of a lot of people?

CB: Good question. I just remember being really young, entertaining people, and I remember how good it felt, how happy it made them and it just stayed with me. It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do.

Carl Barron is at the Apollo on 3 March