30 April 2024

Crying baby no laughing matter, so play it safe in public

| Ian Bushnell
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Crying baby

Save it for home. There are some places where babies should not be seen or heard. Photo: Kim Treasure.

When comedian Arj Barker asked a mother with a baby sitting close to the stage to leave during his Melbourne show, he could not foreseen the media firestorm it set off.

Was he within his rights to protect his show and his audience from the distracting noises piercing his stage persona, or should he have just ‘manned up’ and soldiered on like a good trouper?

And should the mum have taken a baby to a comedy show in the first place?

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Some of the commentary has focused on the fact the mother was breastfeeding – and good for her – but Barker says that wasn’t a factor as he wasn’t even aware of that, seeing little from the stage.

So I’ll put that aside, apart from saying that breastfeeding rates are abysmal in Australia and a public health issue.

But there’s no doubt that mothers and babies tend to become invisible – like the elderly – in our Instagramically correct public places, but when they do appear, they can strike mortal terror into some people who don’t like their perfect setting disrupted.

That being said, there is nothing like a baby’s cry to unsettle the most steely of souls. And who hasn’t cringed when you see an unhappy baby board your flight, where there is no place to hide, except maybe to the sanctuary of your headphones?

Barker may have sensed his show heading south as his monologue wavered under the threat that the baby noises drifting across the stage could intensify into a fully formed cyclone that would have blown him off stage.

Mum and bub may have then, as many of us have done, retreated to safer ground to soothe and collect themselves.

But it never got that far.

I’m all for family events and never ascribed to the idea that children shouldn’t be at, say, weddings or funerals. Life shouldn’t be as selective as some would like, and kids should definitely be seen and heard if only to remind some people that the world is not their exclusive playground.

But it seems narcissism is not confined to the childless.

Some refuse to admit that life has changed irrevocably, taking a baby like an appendage into places that aren’t appropriate.

The mother in Melbourne admitted that she wanted to get out and “do something that I hadn’t done in a while. I just wanted to get back to a sort of pre-baby me”.

Good luck with that. A comedy show, sitting near the stage without a short path of retreat? That’s not only overly optimistic but a strategic fail.

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I was amazed at a packed Barbie showing here in Canberra when I spied a mum with a very new baby in the flickering. Amazingly, she and the rest of us got away with it, but I had to wonder at the impact the music, noise and light may have had on the child.

Maybe the baby had earplugs, I don’t know. But as young parents, we never contemplated going to the cinema for a babe-in-arms session.

It was enough of a learning experience early on to have a restaurant date go pear-shaped.

There is a time and place for baby to make their public appearances. The theatre, cinema, a restaurant without an escape route or a rock concert are not good bets.

Let’s hope Barker and the Melbourne mum can eventually see the funny side of it.

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Initially I assumed this must have been a newborn who needed to be close to the breast. It was a 7 month old baby! What on earth? I can’t imagine taking a baby that age out to an evening of entertainment. What was she thinking?

It’s all about the sound. I’ve seen Arj interviewed after a gig where there was a heckler calling out during every pause in his delivery. He was pretty pissed off. The timing of the dead spots is critical to his humour so if there’s any sound in there, it spoils it.

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