The only time I’ve seen Doctor Brown (aka Phil Burgers) live was back in 2011 when he performed an hour in almost complete silence and it was one of the most memorable things I’ve ever seen. Taking clowning to a level I’d never witnessed before I laughed so much I was physically in pain by the twenty minute point, and by the end I worried my cheeks may never be quite the same again, and it wasn’t until the next morning that I felt vaguely back to normal, before spending the day telling everyone and anyone I knew that they had to catch him live. He’s an astonishing performer, daft, surreal, disturbing, ludicrous and absolutely crazy in the best possible way, and it’s a night I’ll not ever forget. And I’ve a terrible memory in general.
For various reasons I’ve not been able to see him in the flesh since but I’ve watched the several tv shows and short films he’s since created and am still madly in love with the man. If you’ve yet to see him in anything I’d recommend checking out his episode of 2016’s The Characters on Netflix, and then watch The Passage, his latest one off which aired on TBS back in January which can now be seen on youtube here.
It’s the kind of programme which when described doesn’t really make much sense, as it begins on a small aeroplane as various people jump out, including the pilot, leaving Doctor Brown eating a burrito. Then we’re in a church with a small band playing and Brown is the drummer, and out of the blue he’s attacked by two men and as he escapes he ends up in a bath house where his clothes and fat suit are removed, which he’s surprised but pleased by and even when he’s brutally whipped he’s only briefly concerned. There’s a lot of dialogue in both situations but no one is speaking English so it’s impossible to completely know what’s going on, especially as Brown never speaks a word. Now that’s just the first six minutes and though it might not sound that amusing due to the slapstick and Brown’s responses to such events it’s very funny stuff, and there’s something quite captivating about watching his antics. Brown’s an amazing physical comedian, with a marvellously expressive face, and both lead to creating a work which is without doubt fairly strange but also something which will make you laugh a lot, as will the reactions to his character from the others he meets.
It’s also oddly beautiful and affecting in places, like when he meets a family who welcome him in to their home and he starts dancing with them, and the kind of material which will have you grinning from ear to ear. It quickly becomes very amusing again though as the good Doctor finds himself on a boat with a women, play fighting with the oars and swimming in the sea, until she rows away leaving him alone and it’s suddenly alarming, and even though he’s eventually able to climb aboard a passing trawler soon the fishermen are killing each other. So yeah, it’s a journey which will play with your emotions throughout, but despite everything the ending still made me smile.
It’s a truly unique piece of comedy and quite unlike anything else you’ll ever see, which is always a great thing. It’s unpredictable, bizarre, silly, and his commitment to the role is never less than impressive. It’s also oddly joyful in a way that’s hard to describe, other than that despite everything Brown’s character seems so happy it’s incredibly infectious. It definitely falls in to the “Not for everybody” category but if you like your comedy to be adventurous, playful, strange but then charming, and yet often ridiculously daft, then you’ll probably love it as much as I did.