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Arj Barker's eviction of mother and baby from his Melbourne comedy show puts spotlight on concert etiquette

Arj Barker's eviction of mother and baby from his Melbourne comedy show puts spotlight on concert etiquette


Superstar comedian Arj Barker made headlines at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this weekend when he asked a mother to leave his show after her baby started making noise during the show.

The incident raised multiple issues, including the inclusiveness of breastfeeding mothers, but also the need to respect performers in the artistic field.

So what happened?

Arj Barker said he asked the breastfeeding mother to leave his show because the baby's cries were “ruining her train of thought”.

“On behalf of the other 700 people who had paid to see the concert, I politely told him the baby couldn’t stay,” he said.

Barker said he felt bad about the situation and offered the woman a refund as she left the show.

The woman who was asked to leave, Trish Faranda, told Channel Ten's The Project that she did not expect to be drawn into controversy by taking her child to the show.

A woman holding a baby.

Trish Faranda spoke to Channel Ten's The Project about her request to leave Arj Barker's show.(Channel ten)

“I just thought it would be really nice to do something that I hadn't done in a while. I just wanted to get back to kind of my pre-baby me,” she said.

“I had no idea it was going to become what it is.”

Speaking Tuesday, Barker said he wanted to make it clear that he had nothing against breastfeeding.

“Breastfeeding is not a problem. I didn't know if she was breastfeeding or not because I'm on stage,” he told Channel Nine's Today show.

COMEDY BITES 2016 Public

The incident raised the question of whether it would be acceptable to bring a baby to a comedy show.(774 ABC Melbourne: Simon Leo Brown)

“When you're on a lit stage, seeing the audience is like looking into a dark room while someone shines a flashlight in your face.

“I could see there was probably a woman in his arms, that’s all I could see, breastfeeding was never a part of it.

“If it was the father I would have acted exactly the same way, it was because the baby was making noise.”

What do the actors think?

Many in the comedy community supported Barker's decision, although none of the comedians contacted by ABC would say so on the record.

But a leading figure in the comedy world says the mother broke an unwritten rule by bringing her seven-month-old daughter to the show.

Australia Talks Arj Barker Comedy Debate

Comedian Arj Barker said he offered the woman a refund after asking her to leave his show.

Morry Morgan is the founder of Hard Knock Knocks comedy school in Melbourne and said comedy shows should be treated with the same level of respect as other performing arts.

“Honestly, I don’t think this conversation would be happening if we were talking about Les Misrables or Miss Saigon,” Mr. Morgan said.

“I think it stands to reason that a baby that young would never have been placed that close to the stage or even in the room.”

Could this have been handled better?

Ms Faranda said she would not have had a problem with being asked to leave the show if it had been handled better and said she found the comedian's behavior “intimidating”.

“I was ready to leave if I felt like she [the baby] had an impact on others. It was more the way it happened, if you know what I mean,” she said.

“He could have just, off-mic, said 'you know this really bothers me, does it bother you?' And I would have happily packed up and left.”

Ironically, The Project hosts politely asked Ms Faranda to hand over her baby to her partner last night after the child's crying disrupted the interview.

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