Comedian Arj Barker responds after throwing breastfeeding mother and baby out of his show

By Abby Amoakuh

Published Apr 23, 2024 at 12:08 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

One thing is for sure, no one likes a crying baby. I have spent many a tube ride plugging earphones in, switching seats, or moving to a different part of the train because the sound became unbearable. I pity the parents, who actually have to stay with their children under these circumstances. Unfortunately, one of these parents was involuntarily removed from a comedy show on Saturday 20 April 2024 at the Melbourne Comedy Festival.

American comedian Arj Barker decided to kick a breastfeeding mother, Trish Faranda, out of his show, as she attempted to soothe her baby who was crying during the performance.

The interaction sparked a debate online about the right to breastfeed in public spaces, as well as what events it is appropriate to take children to.

In conversation with an Australian radio station, Faranda claimed that she was “humiliated” as an unapologetic Barker said he was acting on behalf of the “700 people who paid to see the gig.”

Upset, the mother stated that her 7-month-old daughter Clara wasn’t even screaming: “She was just being a baby, she gurgled a little bit, she had a bit of a whinge… nothing loud.”

“People weren’t turning their heads,” the mother insisted, explaining that she had also positioned herself towards the end of the row for a “quick exit” if necessary.

When the comedian became aware of the noise, he started to joke and said: “I speak baby and she said ‘take me outside.’”

As the noises persisted, the entertainer came up to her. “I was actually breastfeeding when he came and stood in front of me and he was basically telling me to leave,” she explained. When he did so, he cited the show’s age requirement of 15 years plus.

Faranda went on to recount that she felt uncomfortable, upset and humiliated following the altercation.

Online, the reactions were arguably mixed. Many highlighted the right of women to breastfeed in public spaces, while others sided with the comedian and noted that the mother should have left earlier.

The debate started to intensify when Faranda was invited on the TV programme The Project to speak about the incident. However, the mother had to hand over her daughter to her husband mid-interview as Clara started to cry again.

“Maybe she can go to dad just for a quick second… a mum with three little kids, I reckon you need to laugh,” TV presenter Sarah Harris suggested as the baby started crying.

After the situation was ridiculed further online, Barker defended his position in a statement. He emphasised that the decision was not based on the mother breastfeeding as many publications presumed but due to her disrupting his performance.

“The show is strictly aged 15-plus, as clearly stated on the ticket site. She had an infant with her, the baby was disrupting my performance. 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,” Barker said. “I offered her a refund,” he continued. “Theatre staff should not have seated a baby in my audience in the first place.”

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