EDINBURGH FESTIVAL 2013 REVIEW
Last Thursday afternoon, the cult Canadian comic Baconface walked out of his gig at the Stand 2 after just five minutes. Baconface had despondently muttered a couple of weak lines in a barely comprehensible drawl that sounded like Rich Hall in a gravel cyclone.
He’d explained that we were unlikely to understand any of his material because all the reference points were culturally specific to his native town of Chilliwack. He’d commented more than once that this was the worst reception his material had gotten in his Fringe run so far. He’d complained that, having been informed that the show had sold out, he could still see empty seats. When a couple a latecomers took those empty seats, he candidly welcomed them into a room of bewildered silence.
He received polite titters from his audience. The biggest laughs came when a couple of rashers flopped off his bacon-wrapped Mexican wrestling mask and hit the floor with an amusing splat. He snapped something about the gig not working or the gig not being worth it, and stomped out of the Stand 2 quicker than a door-slamming teenager. He hadn’t even uttered his legendary catchphrase ‘It’s all bacon!’ yet.
Now. This childish walk-out was surprising, because Baconface is a respected alternative comedy veteran with 35 years of stand-up experience who has been hired as ‘programme associate’ on the forthcoming series of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle.
Isn’t the fact that Baconface will inevitably alienate and baffle part of the point? Surrealism aside, he’s repelling many Jews, Muslims, vegetarians and other carnophobes from the start.
But not only did he sack off the whole gig on impulse, he made us feel like we were to blame, not him.
We were not a difficult audience. We were not an antagonistic or intimidating audience. Our only crime seemed to be that we were not laughing as much as Baconface thought we should be. It was a disappointing and fairly nauseating act of diva-ism which insulted not merely those who had chosen Baconface over the zillions of other Fringe shows running that day, but also the poor Stand crew member who had to patiently explain that Baconface’s exit was not some Andy Kaufman-esque act of post-modern japery, the poor (and lovely) Stand box office staff who were suddenly mobbed by a grumpily confused gaggle of refund-seekers, and to all the lower-level Fringe stand-ups who have to plod on through every bad, sad or hostile gig the comedy Gods deal them because they can’t afford the refunds or venue fines that abandonment would accrue.
An entertainer of Baconface’s experience must have endured countless crappy gigs in the past. Why didn’t he simply up his game, or at least grant us the remaining 55 minutes of uncomfortable British Columbian porcine humour we had paid for?
Was Baconface momentarily possessed by the young Larry David who once walked on stage, sensed no connection with the audience he surveyed, said ‘This just isn’t going to work’, and left without telling any jokes? There was nothing heroic or punk rock about Baconface’s strop. It was lazy, arrogant and juvenile.
This was the Fringe show I was most looking forward to, likely to be the only time I would get to witness Baconface. We all have bad days at work. We can’t all go home after five minutes if we get in a bit of a huff. Perhaps something behind the scenes had troubled or rankled Bacobface or momentarily crippled his confidence. If that was the case, it was cruel to make us feel that the walk-off was our fault.
We had been laughing (a bit) and we had been hugely eager to laugh some more.
We’d attended out of devotion and expectancy. We were hardly shouting “Judas!” or talking among ourselves. We were waiting for Baconface’s show to really get going. But Baconface never gave us his show, and he had the cheek to make us feel responsible for its implosion. So perhaps, in some dismal way, Baconface is right. Perhaps it really is all just bacon after all.
• J.R. Moore is a reviewer for drownedinsound.com and TheQuietus.com and writes the satirical music blog Spinal Bap.
He tweets from @spinal_bap