This Interview was first published October 14th 2009
EXPLOSIVE! - Interview with comedy legend Brendon Burns
Interview by D J Collacott
Edinburgh fringe regular Brendon Burns rose to prominance in the 90s with a career that has since courted controversy and curiosity. The once wildman of comedy has always been known for his emotive in your face style of comedy that pulls you out of your seat slaps you about a bit and leaves you bent double with laughter and not sure quite what happened in between.
After years of teetering on the brink of mainstream success whilst fighting his own inner demons Brendon Burns has seen his recent hard work pay off by winning the prestigious IF Comedy Award for Best Show at the 2007 Edinburgh Comedy Festival (the oscar of comedy).
A slightly scared Liberation Frequency caught up with the man himself to talk about his new show, winning the IF award, insanity and magic mushrooms and muchmore, in fact we found the sex pistol of comedy to be one of the most frank, charming and easy going people you could ever talk to (zoiks) but still quite possibly as mad as he is charming!
Liberation Frequency: How does it feel to have been awarded the IF Comedy award for your Edinburgh Festival Show?
Brendon Burns: Fantastic, I’ve been working towards it for eleven years, and I’ve been dreaming of it since 1989 when I first heard of the award. I've been doing shows at Edinburgh since 1996.
LF: Are you surprised it didn’t happen sooner?
BB: If it had happened earlier I wouldn’t have been able to handle it, it would have gone to my head and I would have probably ended up dead!
LF: What is your new show 'Under Educated' all about?
BB: Basically an amalgamation of my Edinburgh show and my greatest hits, the show lasts for 2 hours.
LF: What do you most want people to go away with when they have seen your show?
BB: I think feeling alive, I wanted to write a show that made people laugh so heard and pulled them out of their seats. I’ve always written emotional shows that press every button you have.
LF: You once did a routine that partly surrounded the break up with your long-term girlfriend.
BB: It was much more than that it was part of a trilogy I wrote after splitting up with my ex-fiancé, I wrote a show that separated my on stage and off stage personas, culminating in a schizophrenic argument with myself. Writing and performing the trilogy (of shows) actually sent me insane. The big question is did I write and perform the material because I was already insane or did writing and performing send me insane? The true answer is I don’t really know. It got out of hand really, that’s the problem with being insane is it’s so self perpetuating. It really is the Tempest!
LF: Do you find that aswell as being self destructive some of your material has been a cathartic experience to perform live?
BB: Oh for sure and particularly after the 2nd show in the trilogy; people have come up to me since that show and told me it really helped change their lives and they started to get help afterwards - that they were really on a bad path and they say it saved their lives, so what more can you say to that?
LF: You refer to the trilogy?
BB: It was three shows, three parts of my life and three separate hour shows (at Edinburgh) in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
LF: Do you think that winning the IF award will give you more mainstream success and is this something you want?
BB: Well it’s selling tickets certainly, that’s definitely what I wanted for the tour. That’s why I have written the show the way I have so that there’s new material for the die-hard fans and they can bring their friends along who are more likely to come along with me winning the most prestigious comedy award in the world.... I guess. I have already done two shows and it has been 50% fans and 50% newcomers so I’ve thrown in some old stuff to say... here’s what you’ve missed.
LF: Would you ever compromise your integrity and dumb down your material to get more mainstream success?
BB: What? Why would I have to do that? I am working with the BBC now so we’ll see, that’s where I want to go with it. It’s not like American TV where you have to write in chunks that build up to the adverts.
LF: It is good to see you doing well, what is your secret to success?
BB: I think it was a case of me getting my act together and getting cleaned up and making myself viable to work with. Adam Bloom put it to me best when he said to mr ‘Look, the industry will tolerate a clean act and dodgy bloke and a dodgy act and clean bloke, but they won’t accept a dodgy bloke with a dogy act ’ because the fact is they do have to field the complaints for you, they do have to go to the wire, and take risks for you and no-ones going to do that for you if you’re an arsehole. Some people who push their material to the limits are nice people.
LF: You are often described as the sex pistol and bad boy of comedy?
BB: I don’t know about that, I think someone once wrote that because I had spiky hair and they’d run out of ideas. I’m not one of these miserable bastards in real life, people often say to me ‘you are so personable’ when they speak to me and I’m like of course I am, I am someone’s dad and 36! I did used to be like that and I went insane, and you know what? Being insane is fun as you can be whoever you want, but when you start to click that you might be insane then it ceases to be fun, because then you don’t know what is real anymore.
LF: You once gave out hundreds of mushrooms at Glastonbury in a nod to the great Bill Hicks, if you could get away with it, what one grand stunt or gesture would you like to present your audience and fans with before you die?
BB: It was 10 Kilos of mushrooms, and I then had a nervous breakdown on stage while thousands of people were tripping and watching me. Back then I think that was the beginning of the end. Lennon and Hicks talked about, I went one better and....well I think it was a bad idea.
I’ve always been audacious with my shows, the last four shows I have all had good reviews, but began with early reviews that stated it could have been awful and that is the risk I’ve taken. I only go to Edinburgh if I have an idea or a concept, I don’t go for the sake of it. I go there because I want to go there and pursue an idea I have had, the comedy gods give me an concept and then the rest writes itself. I get a bit pissy when someone says everyone is doing the same stuff and I say ‘Yeah but I had the concept back in January!’
For more info about Brendon Burns and tour dates for his current show please visit here