ED2016 Columns ED2016 Comedy

Brendon Burns: Wrestling vs Comedy

By | Published on Wednesday 3 August 2016

Brendon Burns

Alongside TW tipped show ‘Dumb White Guy’ at the Liquid Room Annexe, Brendon Burns is also back at the Fringe this year with his late night institution ‘Brendon Burns And Colt Cabana Do Comedy And Commentary To Bad Wrestling Matches!’
It’s now in its fourth year, which is pretty damn good for a show entirely constructed simply because it amused its hosts. Though, with hindsight, Burns reckons it’s not all that surprising to find there’s quite a crossover between fans of wrestling and fans of stand-up comedy. As he explains…

It is Colt Cabana’s and my fourth year on the Fringe with our late night show ‘Brendon Burns And Colt Cabana Do Comedy And Commentary To Bad Wrestling Matches!’, and we are as just as incredulous now as we were in our first year. We are barely a show. It’s a shambles. And to be honest, we only put it on to amuse ourselves.

But now, after three years of sold out signs and unfaltering critical acclaim (which is truly baffling to us both, especially when I have to explain to Colt that a critic calling him a “revelation” is a good thing), our self-proclaimed “dumb show for no one” has actually become a comics’ favourite and a Festival stalwart. But maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised. The worlds of wrestling and comedy are becoming ever more intertwined.

Perhaps the reason there is a massive crossover between the two artforms is that “smart” wrestling fans – or smarks (short for smart marks) – are actually very funny people. Funny breeds funny and funny gets funny.

Smarks really get stand-up instinctively – they wish to suspend their disbelief but the more they want that to happen the harder they are to trick. They are used to things not being what they seem and dig for subtext more than most. But, most importantly, they are looking for nuance in the first place.

And yes, we get it! We know wrestling is predetermined. When non-fans declare “you know it’s fake right?”, they really have no right to use the derisory tone they invariably adopt. Sorry non-believers, to presume anyone in a wrestling audience thinks it’s a genuine sporting competition makes you the rube, I’m afraid.

And, of course, the same goes for true comedy fans, who are well aware that we’re not “making it up as we go along”, but they wilfully suspend their disbelief for the sake of a narrative. Saying “you know it’s fake right?” about wrestling is the exact same level of idiocy as yelling at a comic, “this is bullshit, you’re just working from a script you’ve written in your head”… And yes, I have had those exact words yelled at me by a supposedly comedy-savvy festival-goer.

One only need visit one of the events organised by Scottish wrestling federation ICW to see just how tongue in cheek the whole affair is. The audience’s creative chants are as much a part of the heavy metal pantomime as anything else. If you’re looking for a room full of misfits with slightly warped senses of humour, you’ll find just as many at an indie wrestling show as you will at a Doug Stanhope gig.

Much is the same with the super devoted fanbase of Jim Smallman’s punk wrestling set-up PROGRESS,  who I once witnessed boo a ladder en masse for being too small, forcing the wrestler to search under the ring for a ladder three times its size, prompting the crowd to chant, sarcastically, as one “Now that’s a ladder! Clap clap clap clap clap”.

In our own show, we’ve seen little people dressed as God knows what, Ninja Turtle rip offs pretending to fight Power Ranger rip offs, and wrestler Tracy Smothers wrestle a bear (spoiler alert – it does not go well). And we’ve seen Kenny Omega work a competitive match with a seven year old Japanese school girl and a sex doll – though not at the same time obviously, that would be weird… even for Japan.

Since blending my love of wrestling and stand-up, my rooms have been gradually filling with more and more smarks, and they are the greatest comedy crowd one could ever encounter. They are vocal, passionate and loyal.

Plus the indie wrestling fan is usually an indie stand-up fan too. If all you’ve ever known of wrestling is the WWE, one has to understand: that is their equivalent of ‘Live At The Apollo’; broad appeal, high production values and flashy. But if one craves something grittier, one has to go underground.

So if you’re a stand-up fan, try some indie wrestling this year at the Fringe. You can yell more than normal and I guarantee you’ll get it. And if you’re an indie wrestling fan? Meh! You already know where Colt and I are every night.

‘Brendon Burns And Colt Cabana Do Comedy And Commentary To Bad Wrestling Matches!’ was performed at Pleasance Dome at Edinburgh Festival 2016.