Seeing Red: Devilish clown for Belfast Comedy Fest
US comic and clown master Eric Davis brings his Edinburgh Fringe hit to the Belfast Comedy Festival next week. David Roy spoke to the man better known as Red Bas***d
IF YOU'RE the kind of comedy fan who breaks out in a cold sweat at the idea of being plucked from the audience for a little live participation, Red Bas***d's show is probably not for you.
On the other hand, it could provide an experience that finally allows such shrinking violets to fully blossom.
This bulbous, onsie-straining, clown-inspired creation of Kansas-born performer Eric Davis craves interaction with audience members: RB's one man show relies heavily on physical comedy and psychological manipulation.
He's been described as a "dangerous, seductive, comedy monster" on a mission to "charm, disarm, shock and seduce" those who put themselves in his path.
Having come to prominence with rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013 and 2014, ol' Red is now on his way to Belfast in search of fresh victims.
"I like to think of them as 'playmates'," chuckles Davis, who has been honing the act since 2001 and thrives on the fact that every show is guaranteed to be different thanks to the ever-changing faces in the crowd.
"Every show has its own dynamic. The audience is what changes it every time, depending on the individuals who happen to step forward or be beautiful or courageous
and how they respond to what happens."
Spontaneity and surprise are key to the RB experience, but without giving too much away, playmates should be prepared to have their personal space invaded and their boundaries tested as Davis takes them to places they never expected to allow themselves to be led.
As a result, each show hinges on the audience being willing to cede to the often absurd whims of their grotesque looking tormentor – and apparently not every room is up for the challenge.
"I went to Perth one time," recalls Davis. "Probably from the media, I'd always thought of Australians as being real go-getters, but Perth was actually quite a conservative town.
"I was surprised that they were almost afraid of the show right from the get-go. The whole audience was just silent and unresponsive, which I'd never had before.
"I'd been reading The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, so I gave them this quote from it. I said: 'Do you know what the ugliest sound in the world is? The cowardice of silence'.
"And then we just continued to stare at each other in silence.
"So, it could be like that when I get to Belfast – but really, there's no way you people aren't going to be talking to me."
As Davis explains, his background in improvisational comedy is what helps him navigate even the most stand-offish of crowds.
"I'm a bit of a comedy whore – I love a good laugh," he tells me. "But with a place like Perth, I have to recognise that while it's not necessarily going to be the funnest show for me, it could still be valuable in some way.
"But, for the most part, there are usually quite a lot of laughs. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's scary, other times it could be anarchic and out of control, or even philosophical or profound. Who knows?"
Despite the critical acclaim that's boosted his profile on this side of the Atlantic during the past two years, RB skipped this year's Edinburgh Fringe as Davis is currently in the process of working out a fresh twist for his clown-based character.
"I'm gonna try to develop a new show for next year, " he reveals. "It will be a two hander and quite different from the show you're gonna see in Belfast.
"I think I'm going to be playing with the format of a late night TV talk show."
However, for right now, it's just you, RB, and your fellow playmates.
Let the games begin.
:: Thursday October 1, The Black Box, Belfast. Tickets and full information from Belfastcomedyfestival.com.