‘Babygate’: Comedian Arj Barker and breastfeeding mother spark ‘gig etiquette’ storm

Source: The Project

As Arj Barker and a breastfeeding mother embark on separate media blitzes about Saturday’s controversial eviction from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the furore has sparked a ‘gig etiquette’ storm.

Trish Faranda and her “gurgling” seven-month-old baby Clara were sitting three rows from the stage at the Athenaeum Theatre when Barker said the noise from the baby was “ruining his train of thought”.

He stopped the show and asked her to leave.

Faranda, who walked out with eight other supportive audience members in tow, told 7News the experience was “intimidating and humiliating”.

The Flight of the Conchords comedy veteran has since come under fire, as has Faranda.

Repeat performance

Holding the restless Clara, Faranda gave her version of events from her home in interviews on multiple radio and TV networks, including Nine’s A Current Affair and Today.

Ironically, viewers couldn’t hear the interview with ACA host Ally Langdon, describing the segment as a train wreck.

Over on Ten’s The Project, host Sarah Harris was slammed for a tone-deaf comment to Faranda during her interview about handing the baby to the father as the baby squirmed and made noises on the couch.

Barker defended his actions and hit the airwaves, appearing on Today, Seven’s Sunrise, and Melbourne radio stations 3AW and the ABC.

Clearing the air

“Feeling embroiled” about the whole thing, Barker wrote a lengthy statement on his Instagram titled ‘‘Babygate: Let’s Clear the Air’’.

He listed reasons for showing Faranda the exit, including that 700 other members of the audience deserved to see an uninterrupted show they had paid for, and that 97 per cent stayed until the end.

Importantly, he reminded readers it was a 15-plus audience and the theatre should have “flagged this”.

“It’s been mentioned she was breastfeeding, which may or may not be the case, but to suggest this had anything to do with my actions is blatantly false,” Barker wrote.

He later told Today: “This was all to do with audio disruption of my show, nothing more.

“For the record, I support public breastfeeding, as it’s perfectly natural.

“If it were the father, I would have acted the exact same way. It had to do with the baby making noise.”

One female comedian in the audience that night described it as a ‘‘masterclass of what not to do’’, saying that while Faranda was asked to leave, there was a ‘‘gross’’ reaction from male audience members.

“To encourage or condone male mob mentality is part of the wider problem of aggression towards women,” she wrote.

Hard Quiz host and comedian Tom Gleeson said he was “outraged”.

“Last night, I kicked a mother out of my show and let the baby stay. No headlines for me!” he joked.

Read the room?

Jokes aside, the conversation turned to gig etiquette, about taking babies to adult comedy events, whether parents should read the room, and why using your mobile phone once seated is appalling judgment.

Performing at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre on Monday, British comedian Adam Kay blasted one audience member who incessantly used their phone.

At one point Kay was talking about the high suicide rates in the medical profession and why he left the profession 14 years ago.

“Put. Your. F–king. Phone. Away.” he yelled at the person, reported

“You’ve been a wonderful audience … except for one person who’s really f–ked me off,” he said.

“Seriously: DON’T go to the theatre.”

On Tuesday, the Fox and 2DAY FM breakfast radio teams embarked on bringing the duelling pair together, which also backfired, with Barker clashing with co-host Erin Molan in a tense on-air exchange.

Over on Fox’s Breakfast show, Fifi, Fev & Nick, it was a little more chatty when Barker spoke with Faranda.

“I really want to get together with you and discuss selling the movie rights,” he joked.

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