‘I have nothing against moms’: Comedian Arj Barker defends move that’s caused controversy in Australia

CNNWhat should a comedian do when a baby cradled in its mother’s arms starts making noises in the middle of a set?

American comedian Arj Barker was faced with that awkward situation during a show in Australia on Saturday night at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

In the middle of his hour-long gig, the comedian, known for his observational and satirical style, made the decision to eject the mother and her 7-month-old baby, prompting some in the audience to leave the show in solidarity with the mother. Other patrons reportedly heckled her as she left.

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.

Barker has repeatedly defended his decision to ask Trish Faranda and her baby, Clara, to leave the event, which specified a minimum age of 15 for attendees.

Speaking to Melbourne radio station 3AW Monday, Barker said “it wasn’t easy” to make the decision to remove the baby, 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.

Show interrupted

The Californian comedian, a regular on the international comedy circuit, was performing to a crowd of several hundred people at the Athenaeum Theater when the baby’s noises interrupted his train of thought, Barker told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

“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 told the national broadcaster.

Barker said at the time he couldn’t see that the mother was breastfeeding, due to the theater’s bright lights, and 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 told CNN affiliate Nine News.

“All I could see was a woman likely holding a baby – the breastfeeding was never part of it. If it were the father, I would have acted the exact same way – it had to do with the baby making noise.

“It was purely an audio issue, it had nothing to do with her being a mom – I have nothing against moms.”


Faranda 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.

Faranda said her baby “wasn’t yelling” and she started to breastfeed her to try and calm the infant, but by then she was also packing up to leave the fourth row of the theater.

“I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s night, it was never my intention to go and disrupt people or create a scene,” she told Seven News.

”He was intimidating, and he was standing right in front of me,” she told 3AW. A witness who spoke with Nine News said a few people in the crowd heckled the mother to leave.

Faranda said she attended the show with a group of friends, and about a dozen others – all women who were mothers or grandmothers, as well as one “lovely gentleman” – walked out in solidarity with her.

‘Losing yourself’ after having kids

The incident has sparked sympathy for the mother, who claimed she was just trying to have a fun night out, while others argued it was basic manners for audience members, no matter how young, to avoid distracting performers.

When asked on 3AW if she would go to one of Barker’s gigs again, Faranda said, “No, and the sad bit is, 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.”

Australian politician Ellen Sandell said she was “livid” when she heard about the incident.

“It’s hard enough for new mums to participate in society with all the barriers put in front of them – to be humiliated like this, for just trying to enjoy the comedy festival, is awful,” she said on X.

To online critics who say the baby should have been left at home, Sandell said, “Women have a right to participate in society while breastfeeding.”

“A note to men who don’t get it: when a baby’s breastfeeding you literally have to be attached to them most of time & can’t be separated for more than an hour or so,” she added. “So if you don’t allow [breastfed] babies in public places, you’re actually saying women/mums aren’t allowed in those places.”

One user jumped in the conversation on X, saying, “I am a mother and grandmother and I consider it complete arrogance to think your rights to bring a noisy child to a show outstrip the rights of hundreds of others that have paid to see a show.”

In a post on Facebook, Barker thanked his supporters for agreeing with his decision, with several people commenting below that the mother had acted entitled.

“In full support! This has nothing to do with breast feeding, it’s about a comedy act for adults. It’s not a Wiggles concert! What on earth was she thinking?” said one of his supporters on Facebook.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, in which Barker was part of the lineup, said, “Any interaction between performers and their audiences requires sensitivity and respect.”

“In our Festival managed venues, babes in arms are generally allowed but we do ask people to sit up the back with their child so they can quickly and easily leave if the baby gets noisy so as not to disturb the artist and other patrons,” the statement said.