Festival Insider: Aussie Fringe regular Brendon Burns loses his inner cynic for Fringe 2012
Comedian brings Home Stretch Baby show to Edinburgh
This article is from 2012.
My first attempt at this article was a bitter rant detailing everything I hate about Edinburgh audiences. And then my wife, a genius in all things Burnsological, pointed out I was behaving like a blind cynic.
Once upon a time, to be a cynic meant aspiring to a happy life free from material possessions (sounds nice.) These days, being a cynic seems to be an excuse to sneer at anything that makes us feel inferior – the benchmark of an intellect so mediocre it is surprised by anyone else’s.
So this year, I’m wearing my enthusiasm on my sleeve. Let’s drop the cynicism that has pervaded comedy over last few years, because there’s never been a better time to be a stand-up … or see comedy.
For a guy like me – pretty anonymous, or as I prefer, ‘niche’, there was a time when it was almost impossible to find my audience. Gathering a following went something like this: turn up, alienate half the audience, perplex 25% and make die-hard fans of the ten people still in their seats at the end of the night.
It’s pretty slow going, though not a bad model – those ten are with you for life. I know this because I’m so unfamous, I recognise my audience. To the extent where I’m aware of one guy who clearly can’t stand what I do, but whose friends drag him along in the hope that he’ll finally ‘get me’.
Sadly, some people don’t ever ‘get’ you. Sometimes you annoy the living shit out of whole rooms full of people. And it’s easy for a comic to label an audience ‘bad’, ‘unfunny’ or ‘a bunch of mean-spirited, adolescent, pseudo-intellectual, satchel-carrying hipster arseholes,’ when we’ve had a bad night. But I wonder if it isn’t more helpful to just find a different audience. Because it’s so easy to do that now: there’s plenty of funny for everyone.
Mainstream comics have arenas and TV panel shows, niche comics have podcasts and the internet. The wonderful, full-of-everyone internet means we can make DVD specials without pandering or interference, and give them to our fans directly. (And yes that’s where I’m going with this – my latest is just £3 to download). This finally makes it possible to play only to people that actually like you. I, for one, am ecstatic.
Likewise, as an audience there’s no need to define yourself by what you don’t like anymore, because there’s so much to like. Same for comics, no more running down everyone else’s work because we feel deprived of something we probably didn’t want in the first place. No more T1000 Robocomics and pseudo pundits declaring: ‘This funny in a jar is funny. This funny in a jar isn’t.’ That’s not comedy – that’s an obsessive-compulsive, holding two empty jars.
So, I suggest a new movement. We could call ourselves ‘people that laugh at things they find funny’ and just do that instead.
Brendon Burn’s Home Stretch Baby is at Pleasance Dome, 0131 556 6550, 1–25 Aug, 10pm.