GIGGLE CITY: The Birdmann thinks outside the nest
To atone for banging on Australian street performers who ruin every summer festival in Edmonton (No. 4 on list of Eight Dumb Things About the Fringe), our special guest today is … an Australian street performer!
The Birdmann (Trent Baumann) is actually working “inside” at this year’s Edmonton International Fringe Festival, even though his act is quite “outside,” not to be confused with the actual outside, which is what he also does, but the inside outside act he does is not something you’d normally see, inside or outside. Clear? He’s sort of a stand-up comic, anyway, given to offbeat Steven Wright-style observational jokes along with various neo-vaudevillian stunts too ridiculous to get into here. Let’s just get this over with:
Q: If you could be any celebrity, who would it be and why?
A: Myself in my own reality show.
Q: Best heckler story?
A: I was doing some kind of tent show and somebody called out, “All ferrets, please report here!”
Q: What were you doing at the time?
A: I think I was laying on broken glass. I don’t think he was in the context of the show or life in general. I think he was just out of it. I don’t really get hecklers. My style doesn’t really invite it.
Q: Ever tried straight stand-up?
A: I don’t aspire to it. I find variety entertainment more interesting rather than just being a talking head. It’s nice to have a visual representation of what you’re doing, use some skills, dancing, physical comedy.
Q: Do you think you have to be a pessimist about humanity to be an effective comedian?
A: You just need to have a health check on reality while having a good imagination. Comedy can also come from a sense of wodner about life as well, so I’m not necessarily pessimistic. It’s being able to translate that pessimism to get a laugh out of it.
Q: What’s the difference between kids today and when you were a kid?
A: They’re more sophisticated now. I used to throw a ball around for a few hours, and that was good. That’s probably how I got into juggling. But now they got all the Wii stuff. There isn’t even a ball. I think think future children will be excellent mime artists and they’ll probably take over the world. But kids are kids and they’ve got that sense of wondering and questioning and curiosity about world. If you show them something unique, a circus thing, like pouring water through one hole in my head and out another hole in my head, there’s a sense of awe there from children of any age.
Q: Do you have a favourite joke you don’t do anymore because it’s stale?
A: I have a couple like this: “My childhood feels like it was only yesterday, although yesterday I did have an (ice cream) and played on the jungle gym.” It’s not that they’re stale. It’s just that they don’t seem to be working.
Q: Do you have a joke that gives you pause because it’s close to being over the line?
A: I get a devious response from one I’m not sure I like when people laugh at it: “If I had twins, I’d just buy one set of clothing and make one of them nocturnal.” There’s a bit of meanness to it.
Q: Who’s your biggest comic influence – Steven Wright?
A: I think the biggest influence has been my peers in my community in Australia. We have a large vaudeville and new circus community.
Q: OK, what’s with that? Why are we invaded by Australian street performers every summer? Is it something in your culture?
A: We like to play outside. Also, Australians are fairly adventurous. We like travelling. And we like the summer. We try to avoid the winter, so we come to North America.
Q: And you have no shame?
A: … I think we’re pretty good at laughing at ourselves.