Burns re­turns

Bren­don Burns had to hit rock bot­tom be­fore hit­ting the top – a suc­cess­ful stint in re­hab was fol­lowed by tri­umph at last year’s Ed­in­burgh Fringe and an equally well-re­ceived run this year. Now the com­bat­ive Aus­tralian comic is on his way to Dublin for th

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Comedy -

CO­CAINE and al­co­hol are a bad mix at the best times. Co­caine, al­co­hol and the Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val is even worse. Throw in some thwarted am­bi­tion, lash­ings of para­noia, a nat­u­rally ag­gres­sive na­ture and you’re looking at a po­ten­tially lethal toxic cock­tail which is as dam­ag­ing to mind as it is to body.

Bren­don Burns should know. All the above in­gre­di­ents drove the Aus­tralian comic, quite lit­er­ally, mad. Hospi­tal and re­hab even­tu­ally sorted him out and, as some weird moral award for his re­demp­tion, in his first year clean and sober, he car­ried off the big­gest award at the 2007 Ed­in­burgh Fringe, the if. com (for­merly Per­rier) award that Ir­ish­man David O’Do­herty won this week.

A shouty, con­fronta­tional comic who has been plow­ing away at the Fringe for the last decade, Burns al­ways sold out his runs. But a cer­tain lu­nacy in his ap- proach seem­ingly pre­vented him for reach­ing greater heights.

“The word that was al­ways used about me was ‘ in­con­sis­tency’,” he says while sit­ting qui­etly out­side an Ed­in­burgh cafe. “The shows were in­con­sis­tent be­cause, some nights, I would be com­ing down from a drugs binge. I never should have been on stage. I should have been at home wrapped in a blan­ket, with a bowl of soup.”

Get­ting clean was a la­bo­ri­ous process. Burns did man­age to deal with his co­caine habit, but was un­der the il­lu­sion that he could still drink al­co­hol. He found out the hard way that this wasn’t re­ally so.

“The ‘not do­ing drugs but still drink­ing’ the­ory is some­thing I tested out quite a few times. I even­tu­ally found out that I couldn’t do one without the other. Bad things hap­pen when I drink, and even worse things hap­pen when I do drugs, so both had to go.”

Burns’s ma­te­rial is a fre­quently mis­un­der­stood scat­ter-gun ap­proach to no­tions of race, sex­u­al­ity and prej­u­dice. He art­fully com­bined all three last year in his award winning show, I Sup­pose This Is Of­fen­sive Now, which saw him “black­ing up” for the pro­mo­tional poster and di­vid­ing audiences as to the points he was try­ing to make about dis­crim­i­na­tion. There were fre­quent walk­outs half­way through the show from those who were un­com­fort­able with his rants. But, in a clever the­atri­cal twist at the end of the show, he lit­er­ally re­flected all forms of prej­u­dice back at the au­di­ence. “Be­cause I wasn’t coked up, I could,

for the first time, re­ally fo­cus” he says. “A lot of the ma­te­rial I had done over pre­vi­ous years just seemed to come to­gether neatly last year. I knew it was the right show at the right time. There were some slower bits, and I had stopped try­ing so hard to ‘make a state­ment’. If you try too hard, you sud­denly stop be­ing funny. I think I was too pompous in the past and saw my­self as a satirist – but to the detri­ment of the ma­te­rial.”

It’s usu­ally the case that if.com/Per­rier win­ners don’t usu­ally re­turn to the fes­ti­val the fol­low­ing year, and cer­tainly not for a full­month run, as Burns is do­ing this year with a show, pithily ti­tled Fuck You, I’m Bren­don Fuckin’ Burns.

“I see this show as my love let­ter to the Fringe. The way I see it is that the Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val built me and I couldn’t not come back this year. I hope, af­ter all the the­atri­cal­ity of the show last year, that this one is just ‘cut­ting to the funny’. It’s all about find­ing a bal­ance be­tween what makes me laugh and what makes other peo­ple laugh. I have a sort of ‘Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger standup’ sec­tion, some stuff on Michael Bar­ry­more, who is play­ing in the nextdoor venue to me this year, and lots more be­sides”.

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