It’s the worst kept secret at this year’s Fringe that the UK debut of little-known alternative 80s comedian Baconface is in fact enormously well-known alternative comedian Stewart Lee. However, given the paltry amount of information available on the Fringe website or elsewhere, (a cryptic Facebook page is the only provenance publicly listed) a plethora of myths have abounded. According to the man on the street, Lee would simply be doing his late 90s material in a Canadian accent, be immersed deep within character comedy so as to be unrecognisable or even not speak at all. None of the above are entirely false or unequivocally true. Rather, ‘It’s All Bacon’ is just that, a bizarre hour of meandering comedy concerned entirely with bacon.
As is mentioned before, everyone present is in on the joke, but even cushioned with this knowledge, it is hard not to be taken aback by the sight that greets you when Baconface takes to the stage. First there’s the delivery: Lee’s Brummie brogue is unrecognisable behind a gravelly Canadian tone. After that, it must be said that the legendary mask itself is utterly, utterly ludicrous. It is impossible not to find yourself regularly gazing into its pink depths with confusion and delight, as Lee strides around the stage with the mask swinging like some pork-laden JarJar Binks.
This is not to say that the material is not sufficiently engaging that facial decoration detracts from it. The earlier promised ‘story about a bear’ plays out in gruesome and hilarious detail. There are atypical moments of Lee in this: the seemingly throwaway lines whose vast significance is revealed inordinate amounts of time later and ludicrous stories packed with symbolism if you can twist your brain hard enough to fit into his skewed logic.
What is most engaging, however, is when Baconface rails against those comedians who have copied his act, decrying Louis CK and Chris Rock with fervour. As with much of the act, it isn’t totally clear whether Lee’s intention is in mocking those who claim ownership of comedic material or those who do indeed thieve it; perhaps both, or perhaps neither, but the effect is spasmodically brilliant and baffling in equal measure. There are rough edges and it is difficult to see where the longevity of such a character lies when the bacon has begun to sour, but for now, this is a fascinating hit.