Comedian Arj Barker Causes ‘Outrage’ After Asking Nursing Mother to Leave Show

Comedian Arj Barker Causes ‘Outrage’ After Asking Nursing Mother to Leave Show

Comedian Arj Barker used to be “Australia’s favorite American comedian” but did his status change after this weekend’s international headlines? According to some histrionic news sources, Barker is causing “outrage” after asking a nursing mother to take her seven-month-old baby out of his comedy show.

First, the facts: Barker was on stage at the Athenaeum Theatre for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Saturday night. The sounds of a gurgling baby caught his attention and he asked the mother Trish Faranda, and her baby Clara to leave. (They didn't.) When the baby noises restarted later, he asked her again. When Faranda finally left, she said, about ten other audience members also exited in solidarity.

Faranda admits her baby was giggling and gurgling throughout the show. When the baby started to “whinge,” Faranda began nursing. “I was actually breastfeeding when he came and stood in front of me and he was basically telling me to leave,’ she told 3AW Melbourne. “People were laughing and I don’t think he was joking. So I said to him, do you actually want me to leave? And he said, ‘Yes I do.’”

“I felt humiliated,” the woman said, explaining that some audience members jeered her on the way out.

Barker’s side of the story? He explained in an Instagram post titled BabyGate: Let’s Clear the Air. “The Atheneum was pretty full and everyone seemed in a great mood. Then I heard a baby — not crying but ‘talking’ as they do — a few rows from the stage. I made a few jokes about the baby not disrupting my show, and they were well received, then moved on.”

But when the baby “called out again,” Barker became “quite concerned. If a noise or movement distracts people mid joke, the payoff can be greatly diminished.”

Barker then made what he called a difficult decision. “On behalf of the other 700 people who paid to see the gig, I politely told her the baby couldn’t stay. She thought I was kidding, which made the exchange a bit awkward. I felt bad about the whole situation and stated this on the night more than once. I offered her a refund. Theatre staff should not have seated a baby in my audience in the first place.”

That’s the bigger issue, according to Barker. “The show is strictly age 15 plus as clearly stated on the ticket site.” Some online complainers defended Faranda’s right to nurse, but Barker says he couldn’t see her breastfeeding in the dark. Instead, he was just trying to stop the noise disruptions. 

Some on social media are outraged, of course. “The way you handled this was disgusting!” wrote one Instagram commenter, while others noted that a baby “gurgling” was equivalent to someone coughing. Would Barker kick them out too?

But Steven Adlard, a Melbourne-based director who was at the show, says it was way more than that. “It wasn’t a little bit of gurgling, it was crying. I was on the second level up and I could hear it,” he told The Guardian. “Arj got distracted, he was trying to tell a joke, he quite politely stopped and said ‘Would you mind? Could you please leave?’ and she just sat there, and the baby settled down, and a few minutes later it started again.”

Another Instagram commenter also says she was at the show, claiming that Faranda was “hushing the baby every time it made noise so she knew it shouldn't be. I am a mother myself, a single mother at that for many years, I would never have brought my baby to a comedy show. It is not acceptable and it's very selfish.”

For the record, Barker says he has nothing against babies. “I was one once, for two years.”


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