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Pope Benedict: Bond Villain, Upstairs at the Three and Ten, Brighton, May 22 & 23
You might remember Irish comic Abie Philbin Bowman from previous Fringe performances.
In Jesus: The Guantanamo Years he challenged the conception of terrorists and terrorism: if Jesus turned up at US immigration, would he get through?
“There’s a bearded Middle Eastern bloke who wants to die as a martyr,” he says, recalling the show and pretending to be an officer at JKF Airport: “He’s a terrorist – let’s put him in Guantanamo.”
The idea was to use comedy to make American Christians think about their country’s foreign policy.
Last year he was back in Brighton with Eco-Friendly Jihad, which proposed if we were serious about solving the climate change problem we should join Al-Qaeda.
“If you want to stop people flying, stop Western consumerism and over-population – the major causes of climate change – then join Al Qaeda: they are tackling all those things.”
The point was there is a contradiction on the left between people saying make poverty history and let’s stop climate change: people pollute according to their wealth.
“I just thought, let’s acknowledge this big population question: if we all live like Westerners, the planet is screwed.
“I ended up having a Gandhian approach: lets all give up smoking, drinking, sex, chocolate, meat, driving, the internet. I then asked, ‘Who’s with me?’ “Funnily enough, nobody was.”
Unsurprisingly, he’s ruffled feathers. The Democratic Unionist Party boycotted Jesus: The Guantanamo Years when it went to Belfast. Not long after Eco-Friendly Jihad toured Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden put out two audio tapes saying the US was to blame for climate change.
“I read that and thought, ‘Jesus, he’s calling for eco-frendly Jihad. What the hell?!’”
One wonders if the Pope will be irritated if he hears Bowman’s latest show.
Pope Benedict: Bond Villain asks steely, considered questions (albeit written by a comic whose master’s thesis is about comedy as a weapon of non-violent protest) of the Catholic Church.
“Why is it that Catholic Europe is being bailed out by Protestant Europe? All the countries in financial crisis – Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal – are Catholic. Those doing well – Holland, Germany, Scandinavia, Britain – are Protestant.
“I’m trying to get to the heart of what our relationship with money is.”
James Bond and the Pope are the mediums through which he questions. He hates James Bond’s lack of realism and smarminess. He would love to see Bond having to deal with a budget deficit, have his private affairs exposed by WikiLeaks; 007 being put out of work because of peaceful revolution, as in Tunisia for example, would be a dream.
And the Pope, with his German accent, shadowy Nazi past, priceless art collection, diplomatic immunity, Ratzinger surname, is the perfect bad guy.
“The Catholic approach to getting into heaven is, very simply, sit there, don’t ask any questions, pay no attention – we’ll do all the complicated s***, but you’ll be grand if you say your prayers.
“It is centralised power,” he adds, “a hierarchy of people who have special knowledge, with the Pope at the centre.”
He argues that the Protestant ethic is much more equal – the Bible is the Bible, read it for yourself, if you’ve any questions, let the Church know.
“It’s a different approach to money, to life, to emotion, to power.”
In financial crisis terms, he claims, the banks are the bishops we’ve been asked to bail out. They knowwhat’s going on. They’ll fix the problem. But he’s not convinced we should keep trusting their authority.
“It’s like the Catholic Church preaching about sex when its entire hierarchy is made of people who, by definition, are either virgins or hypocrites.
“It’s like having a vegetarian convention telling you how to cook a steak.”
* 10pm, tickets £8.50, call 01273 709709