'Only real-ale micro-breweries are less inviting to black people' – Craig Quartermaine and Brendon Burns on the Festival
- Jay Richardson
- 2 August 2017
Seemingly unlikely duo Burns and Quartermaine are set to storm the Fringe with their race-based mucking about
Notching some of his best reviews since winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award a decade ago, Brendon Burns' 2016 show Dumb White Guy introduced the Fringe to droll Aboriginal-Australian comic Craig Quartermaine. Now a fully fledged double act, the pair are sharing the stage for a no-holds barred, grappling 'dance' with race issues.
'Most Australian bi-racial comedy shows tend to fall along the lines of "The Truth About Chinks and Wogs",' Burns states cuttingly. Earlier this year though, Dumb White Guy sought to get Caucasian and Indigenous Australians laughing together in the same rooms, with Quartermaine recalling that 'the crowds were supportive and moved by what they saw, but also laughed their arses off'.
When they first began collaborating, 'I was absolutely accused of selling out,' Quartermaine says. 'But gauging by the fact that I'm on Brendon's couch, it wasn't that lucrative. Brendon was accused of tokenism, but probably the most aggravating aspect has been the perception of people in Australia that we're taking the most obvious and easiest topic when that simply isn't the case. No one is discussing this the way we are, especially back home.'
Their new hour, Race Off, 'isn't doing anything all that special,' argues Burns. 'We're just taking the way friends speak to each other and putting it on stage. The sad thing is that an Indigenous and Caucasian Aussie being close enough to muck around was what was so rare to people.'
They both hail from Perth but from contrasting backgrounds. 'Our differences are why this works and it's why we enjoy doing it,' Quartermaine reflects. 'Brendon and I are both fascinated with where the other is coming from and that genuine alien view of one another is what fuels the show. It's a difficult topic and process, and there are plenty of opportunities for us to get on each other's nerves.'
Despite being open-access, Edinburgh remains a predominantly white festival, both in terms of performers and audiences. For diversity's sake, Quartermaine reckons it should move to Jamaica. For Burns, the answer is 'fewer puns and cabaret. Only real-ale micro-breweries are less inviting to black people.'
Ultimately, what's their aim for the double act? 'If two blokes from such a toxic dynamic making some jokes at the expense of said dynamic helps ease a little tension then that's something, I guess,' Burns ventures.
'To never be in a double act again,' Quartermaine responds.
'That too,' Burns agrees. 'We are a glaringly obvious crutch for one another. Sooner we can walk on our own, the better. Living our lives like a 1980s black guy / white guy cop movie is fucking exhausting.'
Brendon Burns and Craig Quartermaine in Race Off, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 5–28 Aug 17, 6.45pm, £12–£13 (£11–£12). Previews 2–4 Aug, £7.