Dr Brown Because

By Lee Levitt, August 18, 2010

The Los Angeles comedian Phil Burgers' stage persona is Dr Brown, and in this off-the-wall act he chucks cornflakes and the contents of a jar of olives at the audience, tries to make out with a girl in the front row and then with a guy in the second, and gets a macho punter to join him on stage - ostensibly as a lifeguard - to rub sun oil over his body as he heads for an imaginary beach, sporting just trunks, goggles and a swimming hat.

Oh yes, he also tries to ride a flat-tyred child's bicycle before throwing it off-stage. And as the olives and brine rain down in the subterranean venue, the packed crowd love it.

Burgers, 33, whose mother is Jewish, lives a nomadic lifestyle between London, his parents' Los Angeles home and his mother's relatives in Milan (Indeed, many of his props come out of a well-worn suitcase).

He trained for two years at a drama school in Paris with Philippe Gaulier, another of whose pupils, Sacha Baron Cohen, called him "the greatest living teacher of clown" to whom he owed the "discovery of my own inner idiot".

Burgers' absurd, Daliesque act, much of which is mimed, and much of which is highly uncomfortable and a tad repulsive, nonetheless makes for compelling viewing.

Does it have any meaning? If it does, it pictures a world in which daily life is hopelessly, indeed ridiculously, complicated and unpredictable, and in which childhood fantasies are wilfully quashed and subverted. Ideal territory, then, for a clown.

Last updated: 9:16am, August 18 2010