Brendon Burns Returns

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

After more than a decade of self-imposed exile in Britain, Brendon Burns is keen to make his fellow Australians proud of him. Immediately mentioning winning the award he insists on calling the Perrier, he swaggers: ‘If I was a sportsman you’d have named a fucking street after me.’

In case his countrymen are in any doubt of what to expect from his act, Burns isn’t backwards in filling them in, likening his style to a tramp yelling randomly at inanimate objects and confessing that for all the intelligence he professes to have, he’s still an uncivilised bloke from Perth at heart: a Bogan & Hyde figure who reverts to his inner ocker the moment he hears as much as a chord of John Farnham.

That’s a bit disingenuous, for though he might be packaged like an uncouth lout, he’s actually a sharp-wited iconoclast, loudly laying into sacred cows with the ferocious glee of a psychopath. Steve Urwin’s death – still a surprisingly touchy subject for many Aussies – the nation’s genocidal history and the culture’s blatent homophobia are scabs he can’t help but pick at.

Yet recoil at your peril. The splenetic Burns doesn’t believe anyone’s truly offended, and just goads any crowd resistance with his rapey new catchphrase: ‘Shut up! Take it!’

Yes, he’s often as broad and coarse as his self-perpetuated image suggests but there’s often more to it than that. Even when he thinks he’s abandoned comedy for reading the labels on a drinks can before masturbating it, there’s some reason to it, even if it’s quickly forgotten for the easier laughs of a dick joke. Some of his arguments are thoughtful, others simplistic, but if they irritate, he’s happy.

The upshot of this is that the most offensive word he uses isn’t ‘nigger’ or ‘Paki’ – which are in his vocabulary - but ‘but’. He creates such a robust image as a nasty comic that the set-ups get the laugh: ‘I’m not saying I’m glad the bush fires happened BUT…’, with people chortling or gasping in equal measure about what they think he’s about to say.

Despite his tongue-in-cheek agenda, Burns was never, realistically, going to be treated as Australia’s returning hero; he’s just too abrasive for that. But in a country that – accurately or not – prides itself on its ‘tell it like it is’ attitude, he should be able to build a reputation and career here… even if he has to start small, with just a few dozen punters making it to this out-of-the-way location on a midweek night (including, unlikely as it may seem, his own mother). More fool those who stayed away.

Reviewed by:Steve Bennett
Melbourne, April 2009

Review date: 1 Jan 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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