In November of 2016, the world was shocking by the election to the position of President of the United States and effective leader of the free world of Donald J. Trump. It’s almost a year later in 2017. The inmates are running the asylum. When faced with the madness of the world in which he finds himself, what more can any sane man do than scream at the void, “Bum, tit, tit, bum, tit, tit, play the hairy banjo!”? That man is the appropriately named Sean Bedlam, and his latest show Death to America is guaranteed to have you added to the No-Fly List for laughing too hard and unnerving your fellow passengers.
It’s hard to find quite the right words to describe the experience of a Bedlam performance. One the one hand, you have piercing observational insight that betrays a deeply intelligent, fiercely questioning mind at odds with what it sees accepted as the norm. On the other, non-relevant, tangential flights of absolute silliness (see above). His opening remarks that between himself and his partner they only make about 75% of an actual adult would seem on the face of it to be true, and yet, it emerges that this is something of a mislead. HOWEVER, a lot of his intelligent insight is rendered hilarious when the punchline emerges through the filter of childish logic. And then there are also the bits that are just plain silly!
In some ways, I would compare his style a little to Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm; here is a man who points out the absurdity of what is commonly held to be acceptable, and is treated as a pariah for his troubles, but while David is confused, Bedlam is angry. Bedlam is a long-time activist who uses his comedy as an outlet for both his exasperation at situations he finds incomprehensible (because the solution is just that obvious, or the person is just that dumb), and to raise an awareness, start a conversation. Although he doesn’t out-rightly, or even suggestively, say it, I left the show with a feeling I had been called to action.
A clear highlight for me was his bit about how he wanted to deal with a racist shop-owner, which combined “what I wish I had said” with a delightfully twisted punchline.
Sean Bedlam’s Death to America was at the Courthouse Hotel as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.