Is stand-up a drug? And does it attract the sort of people who might fall into other addictions, too?
When you're starting out, stand-up is like being a fireman. As they say everyone else is running out of the building they're running in. Speaking in front of a group of people is man's number one fear. Death is two. Normal people are more afraid of doing what we do than death
I think that's why they call it dying. What's more when a room full of people see you die they react so passionately albeit fear, anger pity etc... But they look at you like you're some sort of zombie. Because they've just witnessed you survive their worst nightmare and you're still walking.
That's where most stand ups fit into some emotional disorder. A lot of open spots start after a loss or something deeply painful in life and they just throw caution to the wind, a kind of: ‘Fuck it, I don't care what people think of me anymore.’
Indeed some guys also find their voice when they're on the verge of quitting. But any rational human being, if they were to get booed off just once early in their career (and I've seen this happen), they would leave the building in shame never to return again. A comic would try and get back on that night. That's an addictive process.
Speaking for myself here I've also used comedy as a quick fix in that I've made jokes about stuff that was very personal and painful for me on stage and people would laugh at this very painful stuff and I would see that as a quick fix: ‘They're laughing, I must be OK’ but then would come the comedown and I would still be baffled as to why I was in agony.
Woody Allen said ‘Tragedy plus time equals comedy.’ I used to do the first bit and it drove me mad. Now I can use the stage for catharsis when something happens that pisses me off but then I leave it for a bit, otherwise I know I'll stay angry
Addiction by definition is doing something over and over expecting (or hoping) for different results. So yeah, if handled wrong, comedy can be addictive. Just look at a shit open spot that always dies yet never changes their act.
Was it a conscious decision to go to 'rehab' or was it more of a 'hitting rock bottom, if I don't do this I may self destruct' type of thing?
Some of my friends were a bit sceptical when I went in. They just sighed cynically: ‘Ohhh part three’. Firstly, if it was conscious then I'm a fucking genius cos I sure did a pretty good job of duping everyone. Secondly, the last thing on my mind when I came to and I'd rubbed my own shit all over my bed was: ‘Brilliant! This is hilarious. Where's my notepad?’
Nope no histrionics, no hyperbole; if my son's mother hadn't come and got me I would have killed myself because I was seeing and hearing things and forgetting shit. I had no idea what was real and what wasn't and it hurt a lot and I wanted it to end. I'm very grateful today to be alive and happy and I have zero interest in explaining or convincing anyone of anything else.
Brendon, do you think certifiable insanity is a good career move for an aspiring comedian like myself? How difficult was it to gain a place in a mental institution?
It's easy! All you have to do is everything I just said. Lemme know how it works out for you...
What do you think of the celebs who check themselves into the Priory every time they get caught doing something they shouldn’t as kind of a PR stunt?
Yeah it is odd but to be honest I don't know if they think that. Mosty people go in in quite a state. It's not like they admit people that aren't fucked. I certainly never saw anyone come in that wasn't probably gonna kill themselves if they left early, and there are some friends that I don't know where they are or what's happened to them... Sorry I digress. Yeah I think rehab sometimes is for people that have got themselves into such a state that they finally say: ‘I can't do this on my own.’
Look at Jade Goody, do you honestly think that fucking witchunt didn't leave her genuinely mentally disturbed?
Is madness a construction of society?
Nope. I got there all on my lonesome
Now that you're sober, do you feel that you've lost a pathway to your creativity? Will you lose your edge?
Ha ha ha ha. Well I'll tell you what, you come see this year's show and you tell me. You aint seen nothing yet folks. I'm back and now I don't fuck up every third show cos i'm coming down
How did you get the job on I'm A Celebrity? It was quite clear you had never watched the show…
Yeah I hadn't seen it a lot. It was a mistake for them and me
C'mon. They did fire you, didn't they?
Nope sorry you're wrong. I pretty much quit on air. I don't know how much more proof you need. When Jade Goody's ex stuck that hat [the clichéd Australian one, with corks on] on me it was like a light globe above my head and he said: ‘That's your hat mate’
I took it off my head and looked at the camera and said, ‘No it ain't... if you knew anything of my previous work you'd realise how hilarious it is that I'm now in light entertainment.... IT'S HILARIOUS THAT I'M IN LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT... I'm off to bed now Kelly goodnight."
I walked backstage where the following night’s producer was sitting. I sat down and said, ‘I don't belong here’ Then the exec producer walked in to my writer, Paul Byrne's, dressing room and I said: ‘I really don't think I'm cut out for light entertainment.’
He smiled and said: ‘Funny you should say that…’
I interjected and said: ‘Before you finish that sentence I'm gonna make this real easy for you. The moment that cork hat went on my head I fucking quit.’
He laughed and we hugged. The mistake was thinking they could get an edgy show by putting me in that format as opposed to building a format around me. Which was what I had in mind
It's a pretty stupid cynical stance to take I would have thought if this was about keeping up images, being fired would be more in line with my supposed rock n' roll notoriety
Sorry to disappoint. I left, it wasn't right, a poor business decision in the first place by all concerned but there was no bridges burnt. As a matter of fact I'm working again with ITV2 next week on Comedy Cuts series 2 with Adam Bloom
Brendon! I was working at Glasto when you gave out the mushrooms. Any plans for testing the strong arm of the law in the future?
Thom! I actually got put in the back of a police van last year because of a clerical error on their part. As they handcuffed me I was pissing myself going: ‘You mean after everything I've done in my life you're getting me now.’
What if anything is happening to this Paul Provenza film?
I dunno. Provenz came to see part three and was in tears at the end. Outside after he said: ‘I hate to cheapen this moment but now we got a fucken movie"
Glastonbury's back this year. I think it would be fitting to wrap the footage up there and then expect at least two years' post-production
Will you be returning to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year and if so, how do you top the trilogy?
You'll see and I have. I've got a real fire in my belly about something and ... well no doubt you'll be seeing and hearing about it. I'm putting my head on the block again and it's probably gonna raise a bit of a shitstorm and I'll be grossly misunderstood cos it's sensitive but comedy crowds are regressing to that Eighties reactionary easily outraged horseshit again and fuck 'em. I worked through that in Australia in the early Nineties and I'm not having it. Not on my watch Britain!
After the crushing Boggle defeats at the hands of Andy Zaltzman in recent years, have you a plan up your sleeve for taking the Ashes of your trousers back from this year's Edinburgh festival?
I'm gonna fuck that clown-looking Jewish motherfucker's shit right up! I went to Compton recently and I was straight out
Are you a cult?
A small but loyal following? Yes. It means I don't make much money but I have to work harder at my art than most.
An underground organisation? No
A not-too subtle way of asking me if I'm a cunt? Sometimes but I work really really hard at not. How're you coping with it?
You are known for pushing the boundary at times but what do you find offensive?
Offended people. They're ever so tedious and self absorbed
Brendon Burns: Sober Not Clean is on at the Soho Theatre, London, from Monday to Saturday next week.