Reverend Obadiah Steppenwolfe III: What Would Charlie Sheen Do?
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2006
The Reverend Obadiah Steppenwolfe III visionary, ass eater, family man - calls to you. To you the outlaw. To you the shameful. To all those who seek to reconcile amoral impulses with a moral life.As part of his International Joy Movement , The Reverend asks you to cast shame back to the Devil and ask yourself : What Would Charlie Sheen Do?
Steppenwolfe is a beer-drinking, swearing Christian preacher. He opens the show with some chat about comedy in general, asking people what other shows they've seen, and then telling them the year in which each comic killed their wife. This is the nature of Steppenwolfe's act, to play the crazed preacher saying the weirdest of things, drawing us into his world.
He touches on a large number of topics, from the smoking ban, race issues, abortion, homosexuality, drugs and Christopher Reeve. In many of them he just aims to shock by yelling out such pronouncements as: 'Gay marriage doesn't encourage homosexuality, the devil encourages homosexuality'. But there's a playfulness behind it, with Steppenwolfe also admitting to a history of 'sin': 'I used to be a sodomite, and the Bible says "any man that lays with another man should be stoned" - well drugs certainly help.'
By showing us glimpses of the character's past Steppenwolfe can get away with saying a lot more shocking things while still getting some empathy from the audience. But the character also introduces a natural distance between performer and crowd, and it's something Steppenwolfe seems frustrated with. Towards the end he as much as drops the character completely as he chats with a group at the front about other Fringe shows, Doug Stanhope and the venue bar staff.
Though you can hardly blame him for wanting to drop the performance, given the heat and humidity of The Stand 2 and the energy he needs to invest in the character. Steppenwolfe also talks too fast which, coupled with the Southern US drawl he adopts, can also lead to muttered words and lost punchlines.
There's some good writing here, but the nature of Steppenwolfe's character makes it hard going to stay focused for the entire hour, and some racist remarks breach the line separating irony and offence.