Carl Barron doesn’t barbecue the world with his humor. Instead, he skewers our modern idiosyncrasies like a row of prawns, and leaves the audience to marinate on his observations.
Even when Barron’s offstage, the Aussie comedian’s hilariously expressive face and constant language play come together in a constant stream of humor.
CONVICTS caught up with Barron on his recent trip to New York for a set of five sold-out shows. We wandered aimlessly around Brooklyn and got his word on the end of the world, the irreverence of Aussies, and keeping his flow while on stage.
Hey mate. How’s coming to New York been?
It’s kind of freaky coming in to New York, ‘cause my backyard used to turn into this red dirt that went for miles. There’d be birds. I can’t find one [bird] in Manhattan. Where do the birds breed? There’s no trees. When they built Manhattan they said, “Look, let’s get rid of all the trees first. I don’t want any trees. I find trees offensive.”
Seems like a logical explanation. Tell us how you got your start in comedy.
When you start off doing comedy, you play to twelve people in a pub and they’re drunk and you might get forty dollars for a gig. Which was pretty good back then. Forty dollars cash. Then a few months later you might get a ninety dollar gig, and then you’ll get on some TV show and start touring. There was never any decision, you just went along with it. But it is the only thing I ever wanted to do. I don’t know if it sounds like false modesty, but every gig you just think, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it tonight. This might be the night that I actually die, horribly.”
You’ve performed all over. How do the audiences vary around the world?
They’re all the same, audiences around the world. It’s a dark room, people are laughing, either a lot, a medium amount or a little. But the people are genuinely the same. But all the American acts sort punch it out. An Aussie walks on stage and goes, ‘Oh yeah, how are ya, it’s warm in here, innit?’ We don’t punch it out as much.
Does the Aussie character have an effect on your humor?
A Canadian friend of mine, she goes “The good thing about Aussies is also the worst thing about them: they don’t give a shit about stuff.” It’s irreverence or something.
Where do you think that attitude originated?
It’s a combination of having low self esteem and a chip on your shoulder. It’s not taking any shit. There’s something a bit of downtrodden about coming from convicts. People used to say to me, ‘You know that’s not proper English.’ But Aussies aren’t proper English. They’re a bunch of mongrels. We’re the pound, it’s where they put all the unwanted. I really don’t how it come about — I think it’s the heat.
Do you have to tweak your performance for American audiences?
Half the time I just do it cause I can’t be bothered taking it out, cause it wrecks my flow.
How does that process of testing out jokes work?
I was talking about being belted at school the other day. I went to a strict Catholic school in the eighties — the seventies, fuck. And we used to get caned on the arse, and that was just normal then. But you tell people now who are younger and it’s just, ‘What?’. It didn’t bother me, you know everyone talks about being belted like you have some psychological damage, I think it made me a better person. I really do. You go out the front of the class, all the kids are looking, you bend over, whack, “You dickhead,” get back there. There was no real nastiness involved, You’ve gotta get whacked on the arse. So I was doing that the other night and it was silent.
What does your pre-show routine look like?
I always have a beer. One beer. If I’m nervous I’ll have one and a half. Backstage, I tie my shoelaces really tight cause I get paranoid they’re gonna come undone. It’s like, I always tuck my shirt in, you know? Yeah, tie the shoelace, have a beer, and, just you know, stretch, get the blood flowing. It sounds stupid but I think it helps warm your throat up. I still say ‘red-leather-yellow-leather,’ ‘she-sells-sea-shells-by-the-sea-shore,’ — it helps.
When you’re up there flowing, as you say, do you connect with individuals in the audience or the audience as a whole?
I don’t like seeing faces, I get distracted by faces. It’s all about getting a flow on stage that you build and build and build. If someone heckles, or if you talk to the audience, it kind of breaks the flow. It’s nice to talk to the audience but it breaks the flow then you’ve gotta rebuild it up.