Brendon Burns: Burnsy vs Brendon
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2004
For years the Aussie comedian has been hiding behind his brash stage persona as the arrogant, opinionated, sexy, raucous, uncompromising and hilarious; Burnsy.
Like many comics, Brendon Burns has two sides to his personality: an exaggerated onstage persona, and the 'normal' self.
When the spotlight comes on, he plays up the 'Burnsy' ego a savage explosion of aggression who respects no taboos, sensibilities, or often even common sense. The feral persona isn't always left in the dressing room, either, firing Burns with the uninhibited spirit to party harder than most.
Or at least, that was the case. After 14 reasonably successful years, Burns want to give voice to the other aspect of his life, the sensible dad who strives to be a better, more intelligent man and do the best for his family, the side he calls 'Brendon'.
So in this show we get both yin and yang, half an hour of each side of the coin conveniently not alienating fans of the loud-mouthed powerhouse, but presumably designed to attract a few more who prefer their comedy more thoughtful. Something for everyone in this comedy tonight.
The only slight problem is that personalities are rarely as clear-cut as that; we all demonstrate a spectrum of behaviour, not just the two extremes. Though Burnsy was boorish, pig-headed and ignorant, some semi-serious issues did permeate the bilious anger unhindered by being in full possession of the facts. But the new Brendon would dismiss any such attempts as spurious and trite socio-political comment.
So to make the distinction most pronounced, the Burnsy who first takes to the stage exaggerates all the worst aspects of the persona: shouty, misogynistic and moronic, cheerfully spitting out swear words by the paragraph for no other reason than to shock. The playfulness has gone, as has the semi-serious topical stuff.
At first this is slightly stilted, odd for a persona Burns has adopted for so long, but he soon loosens up as he hits his stride, mixing the provocative and the idiotic, the obscene and the insane. It's wild, shocking and passionate sometimes sensible, often not. His solution to the Middle East crisis? Get everyone to move. That probably counts as a not.
Then, as he nails a particularly fine joke by yelling just inches from the face of some poor front-row unfortunate, it's freeze-frame. A slightly clunky bridge between the two halves then sees Brendon discussing his act with his toddler son, Luke, who encourages him to be less rude. Well, he can't offer worse advice than many agents
So we're introduced to the 'real' Brendon a transformation achieved by the Clark Kent school of disguise: glasses. He's got the good bits of Burnsy, especially the cheekiness, the quick wit and the social comments, but without the indignant fury only the ignorant can truly muster. This character;s not afraid to have some more homespun observational comments in the mix, too. Why shouldn't he talk about his pet lizard Dave, if it's funny?
In keeping with the more genuine voice, Brendon becomes more introspective, especially when it comes to his failed relationship with the woman of his dreams; dumped for a DJ in South Africa. Was it the excesses of the Burnsy side of his character that drove her away?
Burnsy, of course, would sees this as self-pitying bellyaching and doesn't mince his words in telling him so in voiceover, sparking an animated debate with his two selves over the nature of his personality, and indeed comedy itself. Ultimately, the old Burnsy is laid to rest in what would have been a poignant moment had Burns not corpsed, turning it instead into hilarious farce.
It's an ambitious show, but Burns near enough pulls it off without falling into the twin traps of pretentiousness or self-indulgence the conceit could offer. And, of course, it helps that both personas are damn funny in their different ways - though whether Brendon would be quite so effective as Burnsy as silencing the Friday night hen-party end of the comedy market has yet to be seen.
For comedy-literate Edinburgh, though, this is an interesting and often hilarous look at the nature of the art. With swearing.
Julie Daugher of Mary - 14/12/2004
the show was by far the best he's done and best of the festival. I've never laughed and been so speechless after a show. totally amazed at what he did.
Brendon Burns - 24/10/2004
Dear god you think this was marketing?You didn't hear a word I said brother. That's OK, keep listening it'll come. You called me vindictive. Your email has proven you to be so. Guess what dude I'm not going to be your voice anymore but feel free to join my ride. Trust me it's a lot more fun. As for you little Ben, below. You speak your mind kid and that's what I like about you. But honestly ask yourself, did this show seem dishonest or were the others disingenuous. I appreciate that you've always read and understood the subtext. Therefore you feel somewhat robbed that I've brought it to the fore and thereby made it more accessable. But part of this job is communication and even after fourteen years I'm still learning so many wonderful new ways to do that. You're going to be a great artist dude. I know it. The blind cynics of the internet may look at this as patronising, personally I think it's more about giving a fuck. As I said to oliver; keep watching there's so much more and I'll see you next year. What's more if I have time it would be my honour to see what you're doing. Like I said, the boy was up with me this year and I really couldn't find the space but I will make it a personal mission to see you next year. If this isn't the Ben I'm thinking of....well I don't know what to say really. I guess we've both wasted five perfectly good minutes of our lives, committing our time and energy to expressing our thoughts on a web page read only by us and a handful of others. However I will re-address this to you both: this was no mere marketing ploy and it's not over....
Julie - 23/10/2004
I have never been so speechless after a show.He is a complete genius,should have won the Perrier with this show.
Michelle - 21/10/2004
This was the third time I have seen Brendon Burns, and was the third time I wasn't disappointed. I loved Burnsy and Brendon equally .But seriously, I went away with a huge smile on my face - please don't stop having that effect on people.
Jess - 20/10/2004
The best show I have seen in a long time. Fantastic
Oliver - 02/10/2004
By becoming an apologist for the moderately diverting bile and discomfort he's spewed for all these years, he's shot himself in the foot. He's a genuinely funny & vindictive man, who has had to cultivate a 'sensitive' side for marketing purposes. But he is quite funny.
Ben - 24/09/2004
The "B vs B" conceit added a layer of falseness to his material, not least the obvious lie that Brendon has some sort multiple personality disorder (however, I recognise that this was all abit tongue-in-cheek, and that you weren't supposed to really believe in it.) But nevertheless, "B vs B" had Brendon turning away from gradual evolution of his style in favour of a premeditated wrench in another direction obviously designed to help Brendon reach a broader audience. But, this change is style took him away from what was great about him in the first place; his balls-out honesty.
It seemed like an attempt to make his show more theatrical, more 'conceptual' and perhaps and attempt win a Perrier nomination. But this is a wrong step. The Perrier, like all the awards at the Fringe is an award governed by fashion and minor low-level showbiz politics.
Burnsy will never win the Perrier, he simply isn't in the Fringe in-crowd. And perhaps he might never reach the audience that his phenomenal talent deserves, the public are simply too comfortable in their ignorance to actually pay to hear someone telling the truth. But what he musn't do, is pander to the public and lose exactly what made him great in the first place.
Brendon Burns is, despite in my opinion this mi-step, on his way to becoming a true master of his art,. But the tragedy is that many artists simply aren't recognized untill they're gone. And as Burnsy himself is obviously aware, posthumous acclaim is no sort of reward for anyone.
Brendon Burns - 13/09/2004
I never thought I would say this on this website, but thank you all from the bottom of my heart. As you can imagine this was a terrifying prospect for me and quite the departure. I guess more people can relate to the concept of inner turmoil and the need for redemption than I first suspected. I really did fear that I would get eaten alive for this show but I had to be me and the fact that you all accept me as I am is moving to say the least. Thank you, thank you, thank you PS: Look out next year for "Burnsy v Brendon II Burnsy's Revenge
Rich Dudley - 03/09/2004
It's an absolute outrage that this show did not pick up a Perrier nomination. A crude, loud set from Burnsy is complemented perfectly by gags that hit the spot from Brendon. The climax of the show (a debate between the two characters leading to Brendon laying Burnsy to rest) is so emotionally heart-wrenching, I left the venue knowing I'd experienced something special. Gripping stuff and the best show at this year's Fringe by a mile.
Kelly Dudley - 01/09/2004
Absolutly fantastic show. It was the best one I saw at the Fringe. The pathos was fantastic. You can't help but get caught up with emotion of it all. Thank you Brendon
Rich - 30/08/2004
Amazed this wasn't nominated. Real comedy, from a real comic. At worst the pinnacle moment of a great career, and at best, the start of something really fucking exciting. Its one thing finding your voice, its another finding you dont need it.
Janey Godley - 24/08/2004
Give him the Perrier, give him it and admit it needs to go to someone who is funny, sensitive and talented. This man is a legend.
Tim Willis - 24/08/2004
Burns is a comedic god. Four years ago I saw him come onto the rowdiest stage ever, at midnight on the last day of Glastonbury. They nearly ate the previous comic alive. Burns' approach was to meet them head on and lock horns: "You stoned, drunken bunch of f***ing c***s." This got a huge cheer, and also brought forth some ferociously-torn-apart hecklers, who were stupid enough to prove him right.
Paul Schultz - 23/08/2004
I had never seen him before and was really excited having heard really good things. I wasn't worried about his near-the-knuckle reputation as I am never offended by anything. Couldn't believe I then spent the first half hour completely offended by how utterly unfunny this guy was! Shouting and screaming in people's faces,simply stating that he hates spastics with an incredibly weak punchline about ten minutes later, shouting that Palestinians should just move.It was barely a few notches above Roy "Chubby" Brown. I was considering leaving during the interval,but decided against it.then something miraculous happened,he came out in the second half as himself a thoughtful,intelligent likeable guy with a sense of humour.It was obvious to me that Brendon has had a 100% genuine Damascan experience and has learned to like himself for the first time in his life. I was almost crying at the cathartic finale until some stupid fucker laughed.I say keep going for it brendon,even if you inevitably lose some of your old crowd. You are a top ,funny bloke,who gave me the strangest, rollercoaster night I've ever experienced.
CC - 12/08/2004
Blew me away....fantastic show.
Steve - 11/08/2004
Brendon's obviously a very funny guy. I'd seen him twice before and he never fails to make me laugh, but I always felt there was more talent which wasn't coming through, it was being blocked off by the shouting and swearing. This is BB reaching out to his full potential - top comedian, top show!
Little Red Riding Hood - 10/08/2004
The best show what I've seen so far in the Fringe, amazing energy coming through the whole show! I might even go a second time, just see if I would feel the same after the show.
Alexia - 09/08/2004
I say sack off Burnsy and give Brendon a go! Went to see the show tonight and even his pet lizard Dave was hilarious. Although I enjoyed last year's show and was prepared for the barrage of expletives (which I immaturely find hilarious) it was a surprising relief to like his weedy alter ego.
Kia Loudon - 30/11/-0001
Laughing at the lizard is much easier that either Brendon or Burnsy making you smile. I thought this was one of the worse shows he has bought to the fringe.