Dr Brown Because
Physical comedy for willing idiots
This article is from 2010.
Watching Dr Brown provides a good opportunity to test the theory that taste moves in circles. Or more specifically that something can become so stupid it will eventually plop back into the realm of bizarre genius. It’s a difficult call to make, but this one-man sketch showcase of budget slapstick and sick humour just about crosses the line back from offensively bad into oddly brilliant.
The Dr – a character creation of US comedian and Fringe second-timer, Philip Burgers – has the face of a stoned tourist and the demeanour of an idiot, obscuring the fact that his physical comedy is timed to perfection and full of original ideas. Mute to begin with, Burgers peels bananas on stage like a contemplative character in an absurdist drama, before proceeding to chuck them about like a baboon in a zoo. Every moment that follows serves to undercut the relative seriousness of the last, as the show descends, in an entropic spiral, to the very centre of pointlessness.
Eventually Burgers starts to offer directions to the audience to help them to understand what they're seeing (‘Invisible puppets’; ‘Oh, hello Santa Claus’). Many spectators find themselves intimately involved as he takes the sad clown act too far, moving from sympathetic little tramp to creepy nightclub groper. The final moments aren’t suitable to describe in print, but they push the evening’s sexual confusion to its sick peak.
In isolation, Burgers’ puerile jokes wouldn’t be funny, but it’s the route he takes to reach them – the sideways thought processes evidently at work, and the audience’s complicity in twisting the normal boundaries of appropriateness – that make this show laugh-out-loud hilarious. The fact that you can’t tell whether it’s the product of lengthy, sober planning, or just the real-time brain-drivel of a weirdo who’s struck gold, makes it all the more compelling.
The Caves, 556 5375, until 29 Aug, 11.10pm, £7–£8 (£6–£7).