Stand up and performance art from comedy monster

Eric Davis
Eric Davis

Fans of strange comedy can expect the unexpected when Red Bastard performs in Brighton next month.

The red-suited comedy demon, played by American actor and comedian Eric Davis, received five-star reviews for his debut show at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Now, he’s planning to bring his unique blend of stand-up comedy and performance art to the Brighton Komedia, from Friday, May 16, to Tuesday, May 20.

It’s a show that promises a high level of audience interaction with Eric teasing and goading his viewers into participating. Previous shows have involved audience members jumping up and down and running about to switch seats among a variety of other bizarre challenges.

I ask Eric what he aims to achieve with his particular brand of clowning.

“Something which is rare in the theatre,” he tells the Sussex Express. “To actually make a difference, to have a measurable effect. To invoke a change in the lives of the individuals of the audience.”

He continues: “People can be very engaged from the beginning, but for me, it’s the final section of the show that is the most interesting.”

So, what exactly does that involve?

“I won’t say what happens,” he teases. “You’ll have to buy a ticket to know that. I will say that I have witnessed people do incredible things. People have performed such acts of courage and generosity that it brought the room to tears. At a comedy show no less.”

A look through the videos on Red Bastard’s website gives his potential audience an idea what to expect.

He gurns and grimaces, he leans into the crowd provoking laughs and screams and he twists his bulbous body around in a way that’s both hilarious and creepy.

These filmed performances may not indicate that much, though, as Eric says each show is “completely freaking different,” suggesting that the kind of results he gets depend on the audience. “I am a solo performer,” he states. “But I have so many fascinating partners to play with.”

Eric, who has performed in Cirque du Soleil productions, came up with Red Bastard during a performance workshop when he was asked to mock someone he knew. He chose an old professor from University.

“I didn’t realise it at the time, but I see now that it was a study on authority,” he says. “Then, I changed my body so that I would have even more fun to move in it than my own. I am skinny and angular, so I made myself a voluptuous body.”

Eric explains that using the red suit on stage allows him a certain kind of freedom that a straightforward stand-up show would not.

“I can get away with murder as Red Bastard,” he states, mischievously. “Things I would never do as me. I think it’s because the audience understands that it’s not a normal person they are talking to and it’s not a normal space that’s been created in this show.

“The experience is one that has the potential to go beyond the norm. And aren’t we all just a little tired or the normal?”

When asked about his influences Eric comes up with a long list of performers.

“There are so many people,” he says, including in his list the performers from his first sketch group – The Hypothetical Seven. “People I watched in movies and people I worked with learning improvisation. I couldn’t name them all, or even realise that I have stolen their rhythms, movements or attitudes.”

He lists actors like Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, as well as comedians like Steve Martin, Eddie Izzard and Lily Tomlin. However, upon mentioning Lily Tomlin, Eric makes it clear that he wants more from his comedy than just straightforward laughter and entertainment.

“I saw that she (Lily Tomlin) created her own characters and made a Broadway show out of that,” he says. “That amazed me. I remember seeing a documentary about her and thinking: ‘I want to do that’.

“I don’t know if I’ll be on Broadway, but when it’s all done and over, I can say that I made people laugh and cry and think and take action – that I was an entertainer and an artist, just like the ones I loved most.”

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