As the co-host of the wildly popular and award-winning podcast, A Gay and A NonGay, James Barr’s rise to internet and media popularity has been impressive. Each week Barr and fellow co-host Dan Hudson tackle LGBT issues from both their perspectives – one of them being gay and the other, to use the pairing’s own phrase, being nongay. This success has allowed Barr to springboard into his own solo stand-up show, Thirst Trap, in which he offers his take on modern dating, love, singledom, and relationships… all while dressed as that millennial favourite, the Avocado.
White Belly at Underbelly is the perfect venue for this intimate and personal show. His close proximity to the audience allows Barr to interact with them as he brings some of them up on stage for a series of touching and comical ‘dates’ using a questionnaire and his own charm to win them, and those watching, over. These interactions allow the comic to showcase the wit, warmth, and vulnerability that have become his trademark to its fullest extent.
In between these hilarious first date segments, Barr offers his own testimony on what it’s like to be young, gay, single, and looking for love. Each full-on laugh and bit of slapstick is punctuated brilliantly with a genuinely heartwarming story about being both eager and thus far unable to find, as he puts it, ‘the one’. His delivery is of the kind that inspires sympathy and lets the audience root for him while never seeming, despite his own self-deprecating insistence, desperate for approval or laughs.
A dedicated activist, Barr also has a serious side to his show which contrasts beautifully with the delightful silliness on offer. He punctuates his show with a rousing call for equality, the freedom to love, and a fightback against the regressive forces that would deny him, and those like him, his right to do so. The culmination of this comes in a rallying cry against so-called ‘gay conversion therapy’ that has his audience ready to besiege such places. Barr’s passion for the subject, and genuinely likeability, renders it a hard call to resist.
While some of the jokes and points made in Thirst Trap don’t land with their full weight, this is more out of inexperience than negligence and thus enhance the charm of the show. It’s clear that, for a man of Barr’s talent and skill, these blips won’t last long.
Perhaps Barr has found it difficult to find love on Grindr or Tinder but he has no trouble at all getting an audience to love him.