When Brendon Burns “Pompously Lectures Americans” I didn’t get the feeling I was being pompously lectured to (or at). Instead, I found myself laughing hysterically as this Aussie (who lives in Scotland and recorded his new album in Chicago. How’s that for tackling every cultural boundary?) wound himself up over and over again, only to unravel hilariously each and every time.
Burns is a man who expresses himself in random explosions of shouting (shou-tiiiing!!) and then quickly tries to cover his tracks. Sometimes his screams are the punchlines and sometimes they are his reaction to the audience pulling back when he makes an outrageous declaration. The latter is my favorite of his outbursts, chastising the audience for “oooh-ing” with a simple, “Shut up!! Take it!!” It’s one of a couple of catchphrases he coins and it cracked me up every time he said/screamed it (It’s a catchphrase, I should note, you don’t feel dirty or ashamed for laughing at, unlike the infamous “Git r dunnnnn”).
Considering how much Burns loses it one might think his comedy would be off-putting, but quite the contrary. From the very first occasion when he grapples with the fact that Americans had no idea Australia was battling a massive bushfire, Burns’s outburst hit me right in the funny bone and I was with him throughout the rest of his 70-minute set.
One of my favorite aspects of encountering other cultures is marveling at the differences in everyday life (Here they say “slainte” instead of “cheers.” And over here, they call the trunk of a car a “boot!”) and Burns has made this fascination one of the main pillars of his CD. He explores which words are taboo in one region of the world and not another and genuinely questions why terms like “Oriental” are offensive. His points are valid and make sense, which only makes the gravitas we’ve given certain labels all the more humorous. From the struggle Australians and Latin Americans have comprehending each other to the most racist brand of cheese, Burns tears through each bullet point with an eager fervor that kept me laughing.
When he approaches his material on Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Burns prefaces it by admitting it may sound hack-y. As he delved into his impression of Ah-nuld pitching the ideas for his movies (most notably his “comedies”) and the What If Arnold Did Stand Up Comedy premise (“OK, OK, joke numbah wan...”), I was pleased to find there was nothing hack about it. Burns’s take is perhaps the funniest material I’ve heard on Schwarzeneggar and I’m glad he showed us how “Ah-nuld shoots holes in zah roof wit his guns of truuce!”
One of the facets of dangerous comedy is being able to go places others wouldn’t dare and coming out unscathed. Burns succeeds every time. When he touches on Bindi, daughter of the late Steve Irwin, what he says...well...shouldn’t be said in public. But I laughed. I laughed and laughed and laughed some more. I probably shouldn’t have. But I did. When he compares the way Irwin died to Daffy Duck blowing his beak backwards looking down the barrel of a gun, well... Let’s just say my wife would be hurt if she knew how much I laughed at that. Burns pulls it off, though, and I have to give him credit for figuring out a way to do it and still having the audience on his side.
The album wraps up with a genius idea for confounding those in the future by drilling a hole into Mount Everest and chucking a dog down it and he tells the true tale of Michael Barrymore and his party gone horribly, horribly wrong. It’s a fantastic album and hard to believe this is his first for American release. Hopefully this will serve as a nice foot in the door and the Yanks will catch up with what the rest of the world already knows: Brendon Burns is funny as hell. And oh yeah... Australia is on fire.