Brendon's back, and he's making no excuses

Brendon Burns is back with a new stand-up show - and this time it's no more Mr Nice Guy.

It is, of course, quite possible that you were unaware there ever was a Mr Nice Guy, such is Burnsy's reputation for being abrasive, obnoxious even, on stage.

But last year he decided to pull back a little, to explain the standpoint behind some of his more extreme gags, to make the show more accessible. The result? More grief for his attitude.

So now, it's back to the no-holds barred stance, and the hope that his audience will come with him.

The turning point, he says, was last year's Edinburgh show. 'I saw a woman in the front row, and remembered her from the last show I did. It told me I was getting to the point where people were willing to fork out £10 to see me.'

'I think there are enough people out there who get it, so it's not my problem to be more accessible. I did try to be nice'

Not, you understand, that Burns deliberately sets out to offend. Publicity for his Soho Theatre run may be full of references to walk-outs, and review quotes like: 'crude', 'never politically correct' and 'hardcore' but, he says he's just misunderstood.

'I don't set out to be controversial,' he protests, 'I'm not going out the way to offend people, I'm saying things because I think they are funny.

'But you're onto something if what you say offends the liberals and the conservatives,' he says

'After the 2000 Edinburgh show, people would come up to me in the street yelling at me because of what I'd said about sexuality.

'But they couldn't really identify a joke or a sentiment that they took offence at. And they don't care about my arguments, it's just their self-righteous indignation.'

'None of this is whining, it's a by-product of what I do.'

What this cocky Aussie does is challenge the assumptions of his audiences. And often the audiences aren't used to their liberal values being challenged.

However, Burns says he has noticed a sea change in the circuit, moving away from the usual liberal agenda, with comics like Daniel Kitson saying what was previously thought unsayable - but with a frivolity that lets them get away with it.

Despite his stance, Burns is adamant that he doesn't want to be known for being an offensive comic - a tag that's used to describe the laziest of 'blue' nightclub comics. 'A lot of stuff that's described as adult humour is actually very childish,' he argues. 'Bum, piss, pooh...'

Off-stage, Burns is a lot more chipper than his comedic alter-ego, the antithesis of the crying-on-the-inside clown. 'The happy-clappy comics are usually miserable off stage,' he asserts.

Burns seems anything but miserable, especially after the last few months when he's sobered up, and landed a job writing for BBC2's Live Floor Show. He's getting married soon, too.

Between the sobriety and the work ethic of such a demanding TV show, Burns says he's become very prolific.

'The Live Floor Show provides great discipline,' he says. 'And stuff that gets rejected I can look at to use in my stand-up.'

In fact, when he talks about the show, he does so in the affectionate terms of a showbusiness acollyte, rather than a bad boy of comedy.

'It's the best stand-up show since Saturday Live,' he effuses, 'and I'm over the moon to be working with such a nice group of people.

'It reminds me of a show I grew up watching in Australia as a kid, The Big Gig, and it makes me very happy to be working on a show like that now.'

See, he can be Mr Nice Guy after all

February 18, 2003

Published: 6 Sep 2006

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