When he's not hosting on Hits Radio or entertaining us on podcast series A Gay and a Non-Gay, James Barr is leaving audiences in stitches with his frank and hoenst approach to comedy.
On Friday night, the star will be hosting All Barr Huns as part of the LGBTQ+ Stand-Up Comedy Festival, and being part of the first of its kind event was not lost on him. Speaking exclusively to HELLO! ahead of the event, he explained: "It'll just be a really fun, safe space. I've heard from queer people that are nervous to go to stand-up shows in case they get picked on, and a lot of the time you hear straight men making jokes about queer people, so it's not safe for you to be in the audience because you're being bullied. Yes, it's the job of a stand up to say things that challenge and offend people, but you don't need to punch down, you don't need to make someone a victim of your joke to be funny. Queer people telling our stories authentically and having a laugh with it is the most important medicine for homophobia and transphobia. "
James' appearance at the festival comes after the success of his debut comedy tour, Straight Jokes. The tour came in for some critcism from online trolls, who claimed he only told "gay jokes" and the presenter had the perfect rebuttal to this. "[I'm going to be] making it more gay, and more camp," he retorted. "Anytime anyone tells you not to do something that means you're doing something right. If someone is saying tone that down, you should turn it up, because that's them feeling uncomfortable, that's not on you."
The star has plenty of material to work with for his show, following a break-up in November, that he admitted made him want to stand away from comedy. He explained: "I had to rewrite my show and changed a lot more jokes and write some new material about about my life now, it's always very healing to laugh at yourself."
He added: "My breakup was really bad and I didn't want to do anything. I spent a few months avoiding any comedy at all and my tour was the moment where I felt like I was back and I was alive I was living."
Outside of comedy, James is best known as the host of A Gay and a Non-Gay, which he hosts alongside Dan Hudson, where the pair can "dive into conversations , around day to day life, differences in perceptions, homophobia, coming out, mental health and lighter topics like dating."
Recent episodes have seen Scissor Sisters Jake Shears open up about a sexual encounter with a ghost, alongside some of the raunchier aspects of queer lifestyle.
Speaking about his hopes for the series, James compared it to Queer Eye, the Netflix show where five queer men help others transform their lives in a positive way. "Our show will become almost like Non-Gay Eye," he stated. "It can explore what straight people can give us and how are straight people going to help queer people, be better humans.
"We hate ourselves so much as community, we have so much internalised shame and queerphobia, it takes so much work to feel authentic and be happy with who we are. We need some of that straight energy where a straight man just walks out of the house, and he doesn't care if he's got two odd socks on, he doesn't care if his jeans don't fit and his bum is showing. It needs to be a show where a gay and a non-gay person, two people with completely different perspectives and journeys, can change the lives of other people."
Alongside his comedy, James also has an important role as a patron of Student Pride, an event that runs in February to help support LGBTQ+ students in the UK. Speaking about its importance, he explained: "The obvious answer is if you can't see it, you can't be it, but it's a bit deeper than that. It's so scary having to be yourself for anyone, but then if you're queer, you have to learn how to be yourself and accept yourself when you've got this sea of hate coming towards you. It's really important to get out of the house and meet other people like you that are experiencing the same feelings, the same experiences, so that you can rise up and fight together."
All Barr Huns will take place on 2 June at the Two Brewers in Clapham. James will be hosting alongside acts Jen Ives, Martin Joseph, Lachlan Werner, Sue Gives a F*ck and the headline act is Traitors winner Hannah Byczkowski.
To find out more about the event, and get tickets, visit here. The LGBTQ+ Stand-Up Comedy Festival will run until 11 June. Main image credit: Jonathan Kemp.
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