Brendon Burns: Y'Know - Love 'n' God 'n' Metaphysics 'n' Shit

DVD review by Steve Bennett

This DVD captures the Edinburgh favourite frequently described as ‘shouty Australian comedian’ in a more contemplative mood.

In Y'Know - Love 'n' God 'n' Metaphysics 'n' Shit, Brendon Burns reflects sentimentally about a lost relationship, ponders whether there’s a mysterious greater force running the universe, and celebrate the advance of gay rights. A two-piece band on stage strums wistfully to underline the thoughtfulness of the more sincere moments, just to stress the point.

Yet this is married with more crude material, delivered at the full volume of the Burnsy of old: routines about the taste of a woman, about sending explicit texts or the evils of paedophilia. The two sides of the show don’t make the easiest of bedfellows, even if the more brutal segments are back-engineered to make a point, such as the epidemic of lazy kiddie-fiddling jokes on the comedy circuit.

But put aside all the smut and bashing of thick, insular Americans, and it’s clear Burns is trying to bring a candour to his comedy – and it is that, plus years of stagecraft, which engages the audience... even if he rather exploits that stronghold he has on them to go heavy on the philosophising, drawing out an argument for a lot longer than he’d need if merely delivering punchlines was the aim.

This is particularly true when he considers the presence of God, when he decries the atheism bandwagon to explain he believes that there well be a divine power – even if the Bible is no guide to what that might be. He mentions the fact that he needs a greater belief to silence some of the demons in his head; a common tenet of rehab, which he has been through, and previously described expertly on stage. For Burns, as reflected in his most honest comedy, cuts a figure of a man struggling to go straight against his instinctive urges not to.

Those imperfections endear him, and help make this DVD more engaging than some of the more didactic moments might make your think. And there’s a surprisingly heartwarming ending to it all.

Yet while this show – which originally debuted at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe – is an interesting monologue, Burns has done stronger work both before and since. In the best meaning of the phrase, his comedy is always a work in progress – as is his life – yet this DVD feels more transitory than most of his shows, and therefore not as outright hilarious.

Published: 23 Nov 2012

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