Molly Stewart

Review: Brendon Burns, Outside The Box

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Manchester’s Group Therapy brought Brendon Burns’ Outside The Box tour show to The Deaf Institute last week, reminding us all not only what a fabulous club Group Therapy it – but also how fantastic a comedian Burns continues to be.

Outside The Box centres on the idea that comedy shouldn’t have to be wholly relatable for an audience.

Burns makes the point that too often comedy is expected to reach out into the minutiae of everyone else’s lives – ‘I want to hear something about my toaster’ – perhaps as the expense of material being as funny as it can be.

Burns’ hour is full of personal anecdotes, references and tangents (his son, his wife, his apparent addiction to Monster energy drink and his desire), all told with no qualms about getting an audience to relate or recall, or even care particularly. But we do regardless; such is Burns ability to involve his audience without trying to.

Similarly, Burns at one point commented that as a comic he is perhaps ‘not immediately likable’. I’m sure that’s entirely the case – there’s a difference between not making an overt effort to me likable and the audience’s friend; and being liked regardless.

Burns certainly isn’t setting out to be liked by an audience, but such is his presence on-stage that it’s incredibly easy to warm to him. He is an incredibly down-to-earth, genuine comedian, and a very funny man.

If you’re already trundling along happily on the Brendon Burns bandwagon, you’ll know his comedy is often bracketed as ‘controversial’.

Certainly there are moments in Outside The Box that suit this label – the frequently argued case for and against rape jokes, for example – but Burns addresses it openly and intelligently – the necessity for rape jokes if they are to made need to come from an empathetic point of view, with an aim to use laughter as a form of revenge.

What’s also so nice about Burn’s comedy – however apparently close to the bone – it is never presented in a way that aims to shock. If it shocks, so be it; but that’s not where the laughter comes from. Brendon Burns is in no way a lazy comedian. His material is expressly funny, and if it is controversial as well that’s simply a coincidence.

Burns closes his show with a finale signposted by a disclaimer that other comics ‘dared him’ to do it this way – an excruciatingly cringe-worthy, painfully funny set as Arnold Schwarzenegger, which basically serves as a breakdown of every stand-up comedy conceit as performed by perhaps the least comedically-inclined ex-Governor of California on the list.

Not only is the routine very smartly parodic, Burn’s muted Arnie impression is very impressive.

Outside The Box is a brilliantly funny show.

The tour continues, and Brendon Burns will be at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival on 22 February (with an interview with Stuart Goldsmith for The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast before his show). You can find more information on his website.

Date of live review: Saturday 7 February 2015 @ The Deaf Institute, Manchester