Brendon Burns Q&A | ' You can’t get more of a live stand-up experience than people storming out in disgust'

Brendon Burns Q&A

' You can’t get more of a live stand-up experience than people storming out in disgust'

How did you get started in comedy?

It’s not a particularly nice story I’m afraid. My older sister had a car accident and lost her husband and unborn child so I moved to England to take care of her for a while. I’d always wanted to give stand-up a go and here was where it seemed possible. Given the circumstances, it wasn’t. That’s when my screaming and anger began, I guess. It took me a long time to channel it into something where people would laugh. A lot of my earlier stuff was just unfunny and disturbing. It was largely me berating people, demanding to know why they didn't think I was funny.

What’s the single best experience you’ve had doing it?

Easy. Winning the award at the Edinburgh festival, then being whisked off to play the Pleasance Grand that night.  I was on total auto-pilot. Before I went onstage I remember distinctly seeing a car backstage and in my head all I could think was, ‘Oh good, somewhere to cry on’. Then my dancers, Georgina and Emily, found me and joined in my sobbing right there on the boot of the car. At the end of the gig while I was looking to wrap things up, the entire cast interrupted me and screamed, ‘We fucking won!!’ Then the 800-strong audience gave a standing ovation and came down from their chairs to congratulate us on stage. It was overwhelming.

And the worst?

You know that one, Chortle reported it, quite delicately too I might add. It would have to be the Glastonbury 2005 mushroom incident. After building up for a year I was on ‘shrooms and I went to ring my ex live on stage. It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. Everyone’s worst acid nightmare I’d say. Either that or 2002 when, after a three-day bender and no sleep I was so incoherent on stage I had to offer people their money back.

Is there anything you regret doing – or not doing – in your career?

I dunno. If I was to go back in time and tell the 19-year-old open spot that I was going to be where I am today he’d probably beg me not to change a thing.

And of what are you most proud?

I’ve never resented anyone else’s success. I’ve always figured that if I worked hard my time would come too.

Why should we buy this DVD, So I Suppose THIS is Offensive Now?

It’s the only place you’ll see this sort of humour uncensored and raw. People say that so much of the live experience is lost on a stand up DVD, but Off the Kerb and Open Mike made a point of having cameras everywhere so you see everyone in the crowd and feel like you’re there. I hate having just an all black background and a guy playing to white noise. We had mirrors too up so you can see people’s reactions throughout. It’s a terrific show and I say that as merely one of many parts of it. I think a big heads up has to go to everyone involved. We were apprehensive about capturing the raw emotion involved in the show and [Producer] Andrew Beint did a magnificent job on the night of capturing everything.

At one stage, a woman kicks off and her and her ‘partner’ walk out, hurling abuse at me. Universal have now released it as a viral to publicise the DVD. You can’t get more of a live stand-up experience than people storming out in disgust:


There’s also extras including Adam Bloom, Ed Byrne, Dave Hadingham and Ben Norris doing a piss-taking commentary. I’m particularly pleased to give Ed the opportunity to get me back for the arsehole commentary I and a few others did on his DVD

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

I’m writing a book for Transworld Publishing entitled Fear Of Hat Loss In Las Vegas. It’s a pet project that’s been four years in the making. It was originally going to be part three of my stand up trilogy but anyone who saw it knows things took a different course. Then in Jan/Feb I’m doing a showcase performance of “So I Suppose...” in LA and New York as so many foreign stand-ups based in Britain are now doing.

I was talking to Rhys Darby’s wife only recently, she used to be a booker and is really clued up, she described the British circuit perfectly as a university for stand ups. It’s so true. As a foreigner, you learn your craft here with the best in the world but if you want to take it to the next level you’ve got to go to America. 

Then possibly coupling a live show with the book’s release with the two other key characters in it: Paul Provenza and Barry Castagnola. Barry’s dad Keith passed away recently so I want to respect if and when he wants to go ahead with it, as his dad is the fourth main character in the book. But I won’t do anything without his say-so.

And your long-term ambitions?

Movies. I know it’s passé to say but it’s always been movies.

 I’d kill to work with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Success hasn’t changed them a bit. They’re two guys that make it real easy for people to be happy for them. A total inspiration on how to just be cool about things.

Kevin Smith and David Fincher are also two of my favourite directors. That’s what’s so cool about the US scene when you’ve got the award behind you you’re kind of carrying the CV of previous winners. So when I say which directors I like they kind of go, ‘OK, this guy won the same thing Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry. Lee Evans and Steve Coogan did… We’ll see what we can do.’ They’re always on the lookout.

Matt Lucas and Dave Walliams are another pair I’d like to work with. They’re in the same boat as Nick and Simon and yet you wouldn’t know it.

I’d love to turn Hat Loss.. into a screenplay utilising Paul Provenza and Barry Castagnola as themselves

What advice would you give to any comedian starting today?

Have the funniest five you can muster, then ten then fifteen then twenty etc… Make ‘em laugh the longest and loudest you possibly can. Always. If you start to hate it take a break.

Who – or  what – makes you laugh?

I guess I kind of covered that already I guess. I could watch Patrice O’Neal all day too. That guy’s as funny backstage as he is on too. Appalling human - but fucking hilarious. I love watching new guys that hit you with a killer line when you least expected. All delivered to the ground and shit. Chortle’s bad stand-up of the week [in the Weekly Trivia File] kills me too.

  • Brendon Burns: So I Suppose THIS is Offensive Now? is out on DVD today. Click here to order it

Published: 17 Nov 2008

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