I’m sitting in a small room, transfixed, like the rest of the audience, by the sight of an audience member hitting a man in a priest’s habit in the face with a double-ended dildo draped around a wooden crucifix. Journalists dream of writing sentences like this, so the chance to cover Ross Purdy’s Kentucky Fried God Murder was one I immediately jumped on.
Purdy’s contribution to this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival is a rambling, surrealist satire. It predominantly sets its sights on the cults of Christianity and celebrity, whilst also managing to take a few swipes at current political trends along the way. Purdy is Iceboy, a John Doe character recently thawed from DIY cryogenic suspension. Iceboy was released from the lab after failing to find his way in a world where the simplest of tasks, from tying his shoelaces to not causing outbreaks of avian flu, are uncharted territory.
His quest for identity via talk shows, ‘Father/Son Tinder’ and a mission to kill God is fraught with peril and peppered with incredible, quotable one-liners — something Purdy clearly has a talent for. “Shave that beard off and feel Mother Nature queef her way across your cheeks” was a particular high point, as was Iceboy’s failed stand-up routine; “You know when you’re sucking on two dog nipples and think, ‘wow, there are four more of these to go!?’”
Taking place in a small, dimly lit room at The Croft Institute, Kentucky Fried God Murder is about as lo-fi as it gets. Purdy’s props consist of the aforementioned priest’s habit and dildo/crucifix, a half-melted children’s doll, a blow-up doll with a wig and a series of voiceovers to aid with plot cohesion — even though there isn’t much.
As you may have surmised from the above description, this probably isn’t one for Michael McIntyre fans. The story is bizarre and the cosiness of the venue is gleefully used to create maximum awkwardness at any given opportunity. By the end of the show, half the audience has been involved in some way. At one point, an audience member is coaxed into donning a rubber horse mask and letting himself be sniffed by Purdy, who intermingles snorts and ecstatic moans. At another, Ross’ dalliance with the blow-up doll is up close and personal to those sitting at the end of the row.
When at times the gross slapstick elements seem to dominate too much of the show, we almost get the feeling he wants it this way. If the entire show was made up of these self-consciously over-the-top pieces of physical comedy then it would undoubtedly be too much. However, the gross moments mix together with Purdy’s knife-sharp wit and become an important tool in creating this strange, sometimes confounding but ultimately highly enjoyable piece of comedy.