Clownbaby is an exploration of filth in comedy conducted in a basement. Presented by comedian Ross Purdy, it’s the kind of show that’s likely to polarise audiences, but for those who are into it, it’ll be a Melbourne International Comedy Festival highlight.
The Sub Club is the perfect venue for this kind of show – a bunker that’s part art house, part club, part dive, all in service of different subcultures and progressive events. Nominally the story of one man’s attempt to graduate from clownbaby to clownman, Clownbaby is more of a series of sketches in which Purdy delves into responsibility and structure of comedy and the edges of what the audience can stand.
The jokes are structured with a strong absurd premise plus a gross or outlandish element, often in the form of props or food. Purdy’s use of props and audiovisual cues adds an extra-visceral layer to his comedy. The off-beat use of audio in particular has an uncanny effect, distancing audiences from familiar material. Purdy manages a particularly tricky self-interview with a prerecorded video of himself. At times the show is somewhat strained. The audience isn’t quite sure what to make of Purdy, and he can sense it, which throws his pacing and causes him to rush the delivery of otherwise solid jokes. Yet there are other moments when Purdy is totally confident, audience be damned. These moments, when the comedian fully sinks in to his material and enjoys his own weirdness, are by far the funniest.
Given a couple more years, Purdy will be making comedy a la Greg Larsen and his adult swim heroes, expertly jumping the lines between gross out humour, satire and downright weirdness. Clownbaby will make you squirm with laughter.
Clownbaby is on at 6:15pm until 8 April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets are available via the MICF website.
Ross Purdy is also performing in Late Night Party Boyz (a Live Sketch Experience) at 10:30pm at the Carlton Club from 10 – 21 April. Tickets are available via the MICF website.