Eric Davis. Picture: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian

LA-based performer Eric Davis describes his alter-ego, Red Bastard, as a "dangerous, seductive comedy monster".

A "bouffon" clown with a bulbous red body and a nasty sneer, Red Bastard is in town for Fringe World and his major aspiration is to leave his audiences not only laughing, but perhaps also having had a life-changing moment.

"Things happen at a Red Bastard show that won't happen at any other show," Davis says.

"Some people have proposed marriage; others make a decision to get in touch with a sibling they haven't seen in 10 years. I've had audiences crying because someone has done something courageous and vulnerable."

But this is no schmaltzy, feel-good clown show. According to Davis, the art of bouffon is all about making your audience uncomfortable - sometimes to the point of getting into an argument with them.

"If clowning is an audience laughing at a clown's flaws and ridiculousness, bouffon is the opposite," he says.

"The bouffon is a grotesque outsider who laughs at the audience's flaws. But you have to balance that with charm and seduction and a great manner, so you can open up the audience and invite them to find out something about themselves."

Davis began his career in improv in Kansas before moving to New York. He took a workshop course with bouffon specialist Sue Morrison, who has trained performers from Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group and Slava's Snow Show.

"That was very influential for me and it really helped open up the possibilities of connecting to the audience more, having an actual meaningful conversation," he says.

"A clown's job is to bring the audience into your world, transform them, and bring them back with a new awareness."

These are lofty ambitions indeed, but Davis says there are often people at his shows who go on the take an action that will alter their course in life.

And while Davis remains deliberately sketchy on what actually happens during his 80-minute "charm, disarm, shock and seduce" offensive, he admits that not everyone will love his brand of comedy, which he describes as "three points of a triangle" - the three points being analogous to the stripper, the fascist and the anarchist.

"The stripper is the entertainer who is only there to please the audience," he explains.

"The fascist is just there to drive home a point. The anarchist is there to liberate energy. A good Red Bastard show has a bit of all three in it."

As for that unusual, bulbous costume? Davis says it was designed to "make the body more fun to move in than even my own".

"I'm actually quite a skinny, angular guy, so I thought it would be cool to create a body that was kind of voluptuous," he says.

"The idea came together very quickly and I haven't changed it too much since."

The words "seduction" and "voluptuous" crop up on a number of occasions when talking to Davis, and in describing his show, he leaves his most vivid analogy till last.

"A good Red Bastard show is a little bit like good sex," he asserts.

"It's incredibly stimulating, you're intimately connected and there are moments of intense ecstasy. But there are moments when it can also be uncomfortable and awkward. And some people like to get right into the action, while others like to watch."

Red Bastard is at the Fringe World Circus Theatre until February 23.

The West Australian

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