Edinburgh 2013: Baconface- an in-joke for Stewart Lee devotees
B-b-b-b-baconface. It's hard not to think of Lady Gaga when you're watching someone perform with raw meat draped over their head, albeit with a Mexican wrestling helmet as a protective layer in between.
The first thing you should know about Baconface - this burly, meaty veteran of the Canadian alternative comedy scene - is that he and the UK's own Stewart Lee will never be seen in the same room. Baconface would have you believe that this is down to joke theft, a crime for which Lee is apparently now paying by 'promoting' him. In fact, it's because they are one and the same.
A fair amount of hype has gone into selling the legend that is Baconface, and he underlines his credentials today by telling us he has broken all North American records for show length by going over seven minutes. When he goes over 35 minutes he adds, “We've broken the Sarah Silverman barrier” in reference to the American's infamously short UK debut. Yes, unsurprisingly, there are plenty of in-jokes about the industry in this 'debut' UK set.
With a voice growling and grouching like a mix of George Carlin, Sam Kinison and Rich Hall, it's quite a novelty to hear a classic Lee routine about a religious canvasser delivered by an alter ego. And it's pleasing to see Lee having such fun with his character, who feels like a nod to 1980s act The Unknown Comic, (aka Canadian-American comedian Murray Langston) who performed with a bag over his head.
At times Lee writes the show as he goes along with improvised asides, and he allows himself the odd helmeted chuckle at lines he would never deliver as himself: “Nelson Mandela would be turning in his grave... well, I have always been ahead of the curve.”
Lee has fallen in and out of love with stand-up over the years and always finds a way to reinvent it. But is it fun for everyone? Baconface is an in-joke for Lee devotees and comedy cognoscenti primarily, but it's hard to see a casual punter getting as much out of it, notwithstanding some nice standalone routines, including one which compares Neil Young to Bigfoot.
“I can't believe that so many people are coming to see and unknown foreign act” Baconface says, a sly aside on his true identity and a knowing comment in his creator's pulling power. The Lee faithful will sizzle at this, others may be left a little cold.
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