Michael Burgos invites you to the funeral of Thomas, a hefty man who let his diet of a dozen fried eggs a day to lead to his untimely demise. His friends – if that is indeed what they should be called – offer their farewells in a series of dark and twisted eulogies.
Burgos’ first persona, a bumbling man fraught with nerves who finds that his prepared speech is littered with awkward faux-pas, is genuinely hilarious. Burgos builds an engaging and quirky personality through the accumulation of terrible metaphors and the character’s subsequent horror at his words, and it works wonderfully. However, things take a strange turn, and for a while it is unclear if the subsequent characters are multiple personalities of the same man, or entirely different guests at the eulogy. While logic is often not required in comedy – and indeed, I heartily love a heavy dose of unpredictable weirdness – this gap ultimately limited the complete rounding of each character and, as such, there was little to grasp onto in order to happily journey into the weirdness with Burgos. Having said that, his embodiment of each character was excellent. Burgos has an incredible on-stage energy, and moves swiftly through an array of preachers, dancers, pyromaniacs and lusty lovers, in a carnivalesque routine of terrible eulogisers who ultimately hated a man because he was fat and had a hot wife.
After a very promising start, things began to waver, and occasionally to spiral. Too many of Burgos’ jokes were obvious and unoriginal, and for many in the audience (though not all) this seemed to undermine his excellent physical prowess and bodily command of the stage.
At one point, Burgos compares running over a cocky squirrel to the deaths of Nepalese slaves in Qatar, which isn’t particularly funny in my book, and judging by the audience’s reaction, isn’t in theirs either. This demonstrates some of the unfortunate lows of the show. It’s one thing to be edgy and politically subversive, but the problem with cheap shots and outright awfulness isn’t that it’s offensive (comedy often be very effectively offensive) but that it’s easy. Of course, this is a character who is awful, not Burgos himself, but there is still an unsatisfying lack of sophistication in how that awfulness is transmitted.
I suspect that this is a problem in translating a show that seems to have been very favourably received in the US for an Australian audience. Of course, there are many here who find Burgos’ brand of humour hilarious, and to those I strongly suggest you head to see this show. However, the uncomplicated, larger-than-life nature of his performance, where each punchline felt like it should have been accompanied by a laugh-track, clearly didn’t work for everyone.
This is a show that will divide. There is absolutely an audience for Burgos’ comedy, and the raucous laughter from pockets of the room were testament to this. However, looking around the audience, I noticed a lot of faces that wore mildly-amused expressions – or worse, were stone still – which showed equally that The Eulogy is perhaps not for everyone.