Love Hate Life Death
Markus Birdman @ The Tuxedo Cat – Yellow Room
7:15pm, Mon 12 Mar 2012
I’m ashamed to admit that I’d almost forgotten to schedule Markus Birdman’s new show in; it wasn’t until I bumped into him and Jen Brister walking home one night that I remembered what lovely people they both were. So I wrangled a gap in the schedule, and dashed off to TuxCat to squeeze the show in.
Unfortunately, not many other people have decided to give Markus a go this evening. As a result, there’s a mere five of us in the room (plus the sound guy); I encourage everyone to sit in the front row, assuring them that Birdman doesn’t bite, but their compromise was the second row.
When Markus starts, he acknowledges the intimate audience, and begins his easy banter by asking each and every one of us our ages; the pair of blokes in the middle claimed to be thirty, the two girls on the right were twenty-three and -five, and then there was me – forty-one. “Oh!” says Markus, “the same age as me.”
Birdman uses age as a set-up for the shock at the centre of his show: that, at age forty, he had a stroke.
Shortly after having some new tattoo work done, he tells us, he woke up partially blind. Being a “typical bloke”, he did nothing about his blindness for three days… before he went to see an optician, who – upon determining that a quarter of his vision had been lost – told Birdman ”I don’t want to alarm you, but you should probably go to hospital… right now.”
Straight off to hospital he goes. Being relatively young, the diagnosed stroke makes him a medical curiosity… which meant he was subjected to lots of tests, some of which he recounted to humorous effect.
But once his tale leaves hospital, the real feel-good elements of his show kick in; Birdman starts talking about how his stroke has dragged the rest of his life into perspective, and encouraged him to do more. It’s not just the common mantra of “live every day as if it were your last,” he tells us; it’s more directed than that. Do things you love with people you love.
And that’s a beautiful sentiment. “Every day is a gift,” he re-iterates at the end of the show.
There’s some familiar material in Love Hate Life Death – plenty of innocent stories involving Birdman’s daughter, and some even-handed jokes about religion – but the overwhelming feeling from Markus’ act is one of compassionate warmth and good-natured fun. Yes, he does drop the C-bomb a lot, but never in a misogynistic manner – Markus Birdman is a friend to all people. And, in tackling the subject of death (that is still often taboo in the Western world, he notes), Birdman demonstrates what an engagingly likeable guy he is; far from being a bleak downer of a show, he makes it positive and rewarding and uplifting.