Arts Desk

Joe Barber, Arts Critic for WTOP and WETA, Dies at 53

Joe Barber, an arts commentator who for many years was a mainstay of local radio and television, was found dead in his home this morning. A presence in local media for 20 years, Barber was WTOP's entertainment editor, broadcasting reviews of music and theater, as well as a frequent panelist on WETA's Around Town, where since 1994 he commented mostly on film. He was 53.

DCRTV first reported the newsJacqueline Todt, a senior director at WETA who oversees  Around Town, said Barber had been struggling with diabetes. At a taping last week, she said, Barber had "worked wonderfully, but he did complain he wasn’t feeling very well." The station is now working on a memorial spot dedicated to Barber.

“I think Joe had the voice of every man," Todt said. "He was not a snobby, pretentious critic. He really could share critiques which everyone could understand and relate to."

Joel Oxley, WTOP's general manager, remembered Barber as an enthusiastic presence in the newsroom. "You could feel the passion and the excitement in his voice," Oxley said. "The guy was always pumped up and excited about what he was talking about." On his WTOP segment "Barber's Best Bets," he highlighted ongoing and upcoming arts events. Barber had a strong and independent critical voice, Oxley said. "He wasn't trying to pander to anybody."

WTOP has posted an obituaryHere's one of Barber's most recent appearances on Around Town, discussing the film The Help. Below, his final appearance, recorded last Thursday, in which Barber discusses Higher Ground.

Watch the full episode. See more WETA Around Town.

This post has been updated.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • Matt Neufeld

    Joe Barber was a nice guy, a great guy, a class act, an man, did he know film. He had an encyclopedic memory of fun, and a clear, knowledgable insight into film. Joe was also just a nice guy, and I was fortunate enough to know him and spend some time with
    him. Has an asset to radio, to television, to film, and to journalism. We'll all miss him. Thanks, Joe, for all of the memories. We'll miss you. A moment of silence for Joe Barber.

  • Hope Powers

    I am devastated to learn of Joe Barber's death. He was a fantastic movie reviewer and did so in a frank, relaxed way that made me want to see movies that he enjoyed. I did not always agree with his analysis of a film, but I always appreciated his energy. As a long time listener, I will miss him

  • Jean K

    Joe was a wonderful entertainment critic and a fabulous human being. He was extremely bright and knew everything there was to know about theatre, music, movies, pop culture, DC politics and sports. No one can take his place. He will me missed.

  • Melanie J

    I am very sad to hear of Joe Barber's passing. I so enjoyed listening to his reviews on Saturday mornings, whether it was a movie, a play or an upcoming concert. I will miss his pleasant, very easy going, friendly voice.

  • Mike B.

    A huge Michigan Park shoutout to my Riggs Park and Bertie Backus Junior High School brother Joe Barber. I'm very proud to have known Joe and attended school together in the early 1970's. I'm going to miss listening to his cinematic insight on WTOP 103.5 on the weekends. It brought me such pride and joy to witness a Washingtonian who I grew up with make such a cultural and artistic impact right in his own backyard. I regret that I never took the time to tell Joe that while he was alive. May the light his legacy in local media never extinguish. Rest In Peace, Joe B. from your childhood friend, Mike B.

  • Dennis

    Chip as we knew Joe Barber from growing up in the neighborhood (Riggs Park) I never had the chance to tell you how proud we all were of your career as a were on tv and we could not believe it...seems like yesterday you were playing with us in the alley as our quaterback....hope all is well with Bruce...we love you...Rest In Peace...thanks for taking me and Bruce to see Raiders of The lost were born to be a movie critic...

  • Leah Gold

    Joe was one of my best friends... He came into my life right before I lost my life partner, and he was a kind and supportive friend as I grieved. I cannot believe I'm grieving him now. He was so full of life and light and life will be a little less vibrant without him in it.

    I was so proud of the work he did and always wished to see him go further. He too kept having dreams of doing new things... As someone else said, he was born to be a critic. He was one person I knew who lived for the thing he loved. My heart is breaking.

    Thanks for being in my life, Joe. I love you my friend.

  • Sandra Jowers-Barber

    I knew Joe Barber for over 20 years and he was a great and wonderful friend. Two years ago I asked him and Tim to speak to my history class at the University of the District of Columbia and they graciously accepted. When I met Joe at the Metro I saw that he was not his usual slef. However, he explained that he would not have missed the opportunity to speak to the students. The stduents loved them both but Joe was truly in his element. After asking me what he should talk about he proceed to give a historic overview of the portrayal of African Americans in the movies. His contemporary focus provided the students an opportunity to discuss their favorite and least favorite movies. Because of his wealth of knowledge their questions went in many directions. They complained about the cost of going to the movies. So naturally Joe ended his presentation with a discussion on why ticket prices were as high as they were. I truly admired and respected Joe Barber and I will miss him terribly.

  • Merle Samuel

    I am so sad to hear of the passing of Joe Barber. I always enjoyed listening to him every Saturday morning. His review of films were always very good. I will miss hearing that voice with a hint of laughter.

  • kiki

    I will truly miss you Joe. Rest in peace.

  • NE John

    Heck, I just heard the news, and so sorry to hear it. Ditto for me Merle. RIP, Joe Barber.

  • Mary Dowling

    There are people that are a part of our world, and they don't even know they are a part, an important part. They provide a steadiness, a constant, a voice, a light. Thank you for being a light, a voice in our world. See you on the other side my friend. Gratefully.