United States Residents Can’t See Arj Barker’s “Balls”

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

Here’s a clip which serves as a promo for Arj Barker and his recent DVD release entitled “Balls.”

If you’re in the United States, baring some downloading (of a, um, nefarious nature), this might be all you see of it. The DVD is encoded for “Region 4” and is intended, at least right now, for release only in Australia. And it seems likely to stay that way. Arj Barker’s previous DVD release “Arj Barker Live” is also unavailable in the U.S., at least not on common sites like Amazon. Both were put out by ACMEC, an Australian label.

Arj is a big draw down under and it’s an interesting trend - that a stand-up could be bigger someplace else rather than their native land. Often people say that comedy doesn’t travel well, but I think there’s gradually becoming more evidence that this is not necessarily the case. Of course, you may make the argument that Australian, being an English speaking country, isn’t really a case for this.

But here’s a second example: Pablo Francisco has become a huge draw in Sweden. At Montreal’s Just For Laughs, I talked to a staffer at MySpace Comedy who was in awe at the amazing turnout for a Secret Stand-up show they put on there featuring Francsico. Again, it’s another country that has a large amount of English speakers, but it’s not the native tongue.

Which makes me wonder a bit - both Barker and Francisco are well liked comics here - but is there anything inherent in their comedy that makes them perhaps more appealing overseas. Any thoughts?


I wrote A-List Entertainment, the company that handles Arj Barker in Australia, about the possibility of “Balls” reaching the U.S. C.E.O. Artie Laing told me:

Arj Barker’s DVD BALLS will only be released in Australia and N.Z. He wants to produce a DVD specifically for the U.S. when the time is right.

So there you have it.

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Posted by Jesse Thorn on 08/18  at  07:37 PM

I’m just surprised Arj isn’t bigger here.  Maybe Conchords will help change that.

As far as why… he’s toured a lot there, for many years.  He puts in the work.

Todd Jackson
Posted by Todd Jackson on 08/18  at  07:46 PM

Fingers crossed about Jermaine and Bret’s ability to pimp other stand-ups.

The work is definitely a big reason. I’m just kind of wondering if there was any impetus that made him do the work - i.e. an early positive reception. And a reason why that reception might be so good.

But yep, hard work always a good thing - both here and abroad.

Posted by JackSzwergold on 08/19  at  12:25 AM

I’ve wondered that myself, but have no clear answer.  I think Maria Bamford is also huge in Australia and New Zealand.

I wonder: Are comedy venues in Australia and New Zealand just different than the U.S.?  I mean it seems that in the U.S. it’s brick walls, drinks and “wacky” names.

Posted by Johabbed on 08/19  at  09:22 AM

As a Swede, I’d say that Pablo Fransisco’s popularity in Sweden is due to a combination of our internet-savyness and moderate English language skills.

I think that Swedes were generally rather early adopters when it came to downloading stuff, and a lot of people discovered Pablo when you could (illegally) download his Comedy Central Presents back in the early 2000s, via Kazaa or other means.

And while Swedes are relatively decent at understanding English, the fact that it is a second language is still a hindrance. Most people will miss the nuances of Demetri Martin or Mitch Hedberg jokes, and not be tuned into American news or culture enough to fully enjoy a guy like Lewis Black. Whereas Pablo Fransisco’s sounds obviously are universal and the few jokes that go with them are pretty broad.

It’s not a Jerry Lewis-in-France or Hasselhoff-in-Germany type of situation. Fransisco is hardly anything close to a household name, but he does have enough of a following for a few sell-out dates per year.

Posted by Rebecca O'Malley on 08/19  at  09:44 PM

Good question, as usual.

I don’t think it’s really new, though.  Bill Hicks was always bigger in England than in the U.S.; but I always attributed that the fact that he had so much political material and made fun of American culture in a way that let British audiences feel quietly superior.  Even recently I’ve seen Greg Proops and a few others do something similar; though, frankly, making jokes about George Bush in Europe at the moment is just pulling easy applause lines.  A bit lazy, I think, in some cases.

Maria Bamford makes sense to me.  Not because she is political, but she is frequently misunderstood and under-appreciated here and I think it would really make sense for her management to seek out places where audiences better appreciate what she is trying to do. There are always subtle differences of taste and humor amongst cultures and there is no reason not to seek out the audience that most enjoys your work. 

But none of that explains Arj.  I can’t put my finger on what there is about his material or style that might appeal more to an Australian audience. 

BTW, I contend that there is no reason to do anything nefarious to see his performances because *real* comedy nerds hack their DVD players to make them multi-regional.  :-)

Posted by Simon on 08/23  at  04:00 AM

I’m a real comedy nerd. I ordered both Arj DVDs from http://www.sanity.com.au and they arrived within a week. Balls is the better of the two, I feel with all-new material.

Posted by Rebecca O'Malley on 08/23  at  11:18 PM

Simon—thanks for the tip on where you found these DVDs!

From one nerd to another - cheers - much appreciated.

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