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Comedian Arj Barker asks breastfeeding mother to leave show after baby talked during his set

In a statement, Barker said he made “a very tough call” on behalf of “the other 700 or so audience members who deserved to see the show they had paid for, uninterrupted.”
Arj Barker in Byron Bay, Australia
Arj Barker in Byron Bay, Australia, on Oct. 21, 2023. James D. Morgan / Getty Images file
/ Source: NBC News

Comedian Arj Barker asked a breastfeeding mother and her baby to leave his comedy show at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne on Saturday night, a decision that has sparked controversy online.

In a statement posted to his Instagram, the American comedian said a baby sat a few rows away from the stage was “talking” at the start of his show, prompting him to make a few jokes about it. But when the baby “called out again,” Barker became concerned.

“I then calmly informed the woman holding the baby that the baby couldn’t stay,” he said in the statement. “I felt bad doing so and stated this at the time as well as several times throughout the remainder of the show. As she was leaving, I offered for her to get a refund, as a gesture of good will.”

Barker emphasized that he made the “very tough call” with about 50 minutes of the show left on behalf of “the other 700 or so audience members who deserved to see the show they had paid for, uninterrupted.” The comedian also pointed out that the show was for audiences 15+, and that the theater should’ve flagged the baby’s presence before seating the mother.

In an interview with Australian TV show “A Current Affair,” the mother, Trish Faranda, said she left the show feeling humiliated, adding that she had gone to the comedy show because it was something she did “pre-kids and always really enjoyed.”

Faranda said that she attended the Melbourne International Comedy Festival show with a game plan to leave if her 7-month-old, Clara, became “disruptive.”

“She started gurgling, babbling ... but not for very long, because then I just gave her a quick feed, and she was quiet,” Faranda told the show. Then, the baby started making sounds again, that Faranda describes as not “as loud as someone coughing.”

“Then he was sort of like, ‘Oh no, it’s really disruptive, you’re interrupting my rhythm’ ... then he threw back to the crowd and was basically trying to get their support to say ‘get out,’” Faranda told “A Current Affair,” saying that she felt heckled.

Barker did not address potential heckling, but mentioned in his statement that his decision to ask the mother to leave had nothing to do with if she was breastfeeding or not.

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

The comedian did not apologize to Faranda for asking her to leave, but said he feels bad “for any upset it has caused the parties involved, or my fans, or babies.”

“I’ve nothing against babies, in fact I was one once, for almost 2 years,” Barker said.