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Indian American Comedian Arj Barker ‘Humiliates’ Breast-feeding Woman By Kicking Her Out of His Show in Australia

Indian American Comedian Arj Barker ‘Humiliates’ Breast-feeding Woman By Kicking Her Out of His Show in Australia

  • His decision has sparked a debate about the rights of mothers rights to take their babies everywhere, even a15+ event, and an entertainer’s right to perform without interruptions from infants.

An Indian American comedian has sparked a debate on his decision remove a breast-feeding woman from his show for “disrupting” his live standup act. Arjan Singh Āulakh, known by his stage name Arj Barker, was performing at the Melbourne Comedy Festival April 20, when he stopped mid-set to ask Trish Faranda to leave the venue with her 7-month-old daughter Clara. The event specified a minimum age of 15 for attendees.

The mother reportedly attempted to soothe her fussy baby with breastfeeding. Speaking to 3AW talk show, Faranda said she was “humiliated” by Baker’s decision, and insisted that Clara wasn’t screaming. “She was just being a baby, she gurgled a little bit, she had a bit of a whinge … nothing loud.” She was sitting towards the front of the theater as the tickets had been pre-allocated but positioned herself towards the end of the row for a “quick exit” if necessary.

She told multiple local media outlets that she initially thought it was just a joke when Barker asked her and her infant daughter to leave his show. Faranda  told CNN affiliate Seven News that while Barker was in the middle of his performance, he stopped and said, “Is there a baby here?” He then said, “’I speak fluent baby and it said take me outside,’” Faranda recalled, adding she had laughed along, not knowing whether he was being serious.

The California-based comedian, meanwhile, has defended his decision. He told ABC that the baby’s noises interrupted his train of thought. “On behalf of the other 700 people there who had paid to see the gig, I politely told her the baby couldn’t stay,” he said. 

He admitted that he “couldn’t see that the mother was breastfeeding, due to the theater’s bright lights,” he told CNN affiliate Nine News. But he dismissed criticism that his decision was related to anything other than noise.“I have nothing against babies – number one, the breastfeeding thing is a non-issue, it should be inadmissible, and I had no idea if she was breastfeeding or not because I was on a lit stage,” he said. “All I could see was a woman likely holding a baby – the breastfeeding was never part of it.” He would’ve acted the same even if was the father, he said. “It was purely an audio issue, it had nothing to do with her being a mom – I have nothing against moms.”

He also admitted that the decision wasn’t easy. He told Melbourne radio station 3AW that but he “did it for the show” and the audience, who deserved to see what they had paid for uninterrupted. “I can understand that it was difficult and embarrassing for her, and I do feel bad about that,” Barker said.

Steven Adlard, who was at the show told The Guardian that Farina’s baby wasn’t crying. “I was on the second level up and I could hear it,” he said. “Arj got distracted, he was trying to tell a joke,” he continued, adding: “He was trying to perform and he couldn’t, he wasn’t rude to her, he just said ‘All these other people are here to hear the performance, and they can’t’.”

The interaction sparked fierce debate in Australia about the rights of mothers to take their babies wherever they like, and an entertainer’s right to perform without interruptions from infants, who some argue should be left at home. A poll conducted by found out that that out of 15,000 votes, 96 percent of respondents agreed a comedy show is no place for a baby. Just four per cent, or about 530 voters, said babies should be welcomed at theaters. 

Faranda, a mother of three has done a number of interviews following the incident but has continued to attract backlash from the public. During an interview with A Current Affair on the Nine Network, the baby then started crying loudly Faranda was trying to speak. But she insisted it wasn’t anywhere near as bad during Barker’s comedy set. “Yeah, a maybe a bit louder but nothing louder than some coughing in the audience and I was vigilant, people were looking at us, so I thought ‘we weren’t really impacting anyone that I can tell, I think were OK’,” she said. 

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She won’t be going to any of Barker’s gigs again, she told 3AW. “I’ve been to lots of his shows before children, and you kind of lose yourself a bit when you have kids, and I was just trying to get back to something I enjoyed before I had kids.”

Barker, who performs frequently in Australia is known as the country’s “adopted son of comedy. He was born in California to a Punjabi father and a European mother. In an interview with Beat magazine, he said loves Australia for its  wildlife, beauty and friends. “It helps that the Australian audiences have been very receptive, and grown over the years, which makes it nice to spend time here,” he said. “They like to see my shows and I like doing them so it’s win-win. It’s a joy harvest.” 

He won the coveted Perrier Best Newcomer Award at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1997, and firmly established himself as one of the golden boys on the international comedy circuit. For years, he has been honing his craft at comedy festivals and clubs all around the world. On television, he is a regular guest on several programs. He has performed for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala and has made numerous appearances on late night talk shows, including the Letterman and Conan O’Brian Shows. He starred in his own half hour special on the HBO produced by Comedy Central. He played Dave on HBO’s world class comedy, “Flight of the Conchords.”

(Top photo,  Arj Barker/Facebook)

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