Pleasance Courtyard (venue details)
28, 29 Aug, 10:30pm (11:30pm)
An Aussie comic with much to prove, Brendon Burns seemingly drags controversy in his wake, especially following the recent Guardian tirade against ‘offensive’ comedy. This is a man known for his on-stage outbursts and ‘difficult’ material, his controversial outspokenness and his foul mouth. However, Brendon Burns is so much more than this – and is credited far too little for his coarsely witty work.
Sure, he is an offensive comedian, but this is not the bugbear the Guardian likes to make it out to be. Burns is a great example of this type of comedy – his material is close to the bone and aggressive, but often more incisive and philosophical than the work of some of his contemporaries. As an analysis of ‘offensive’ comedy, this show is inspired and hilarious, although the material is such that certain people may simply tune out. Indeed, this may be Burns’ biggest problem: in an interesting dichotomy, he often speaks most frankly about some of today’s hot issues, but his frankness means some people don’t listen.
This show ranges across topics, but the important thread is Burns’ own controversy. He talks quite frankly about himself, in terms of his performance as well as his own life; his humour is mostly observational material about himself, as well as some of the bigger issues in the world today. It is a polished and practised performance – designed to appeal simplistically, yet also carry a deeper message about the style of comedy on display. I do not, for a second, condone some of Burns’ more extreme views, but his presentation of them is flawless.
There are maybe two, possibly three moments that I would describe as being truly offensive – and even then, I’m basing this on my opinion. This is the main issue with this style of comedy: its offensiveness is based entirely on a subjective opinion of what should offend.
And that’s the point that Burns is, in his own way, making. His material may offend some, but this is also why his shows sell out, and why he is so popular: he speaks his mind, albeit it in a rather obnoxious way. He describes himself as ‘the thinking man’s idiot’ as part of this show, and I think that’s a very fair description of his work and talent. He undermines himself consistently by lampooning his own opinions, and the opinions of everyone around him; he’s clearly aware of this effect that he has.
In summary, a night of watching Brendon Burns will make you laugh – sometimes more at than with him – and occasionally think that a line has been crossed. Nonetheless, he is a good comedian, and one who deserves praise for his work.
To focus on the show: it is funny, it is well delivered, and, while the material can be alienating at times, Burns is also a comedian who knows how to bring an audience back on-side if feathers have been ruffled. This show, in particular, deserves credit for its examination and pastiche of ‘offensive’ comedy, which works especially well during the nicely-delivered conclusion. While he will always be a comedian who splits opinions, Burns is certainly talented behind his cocky bravado; and here, he’s delivered a clever, witty, and interesting show.