Bootsie's still in rare form
Both staunch supporters and relative newcomers alike witnessed a very special performance from Earlwin “Bootsie” Wolffe at the Ruth Seaton James auditorium on Saturday night.
Bermuda's most beloved funny man delivered the goods in a socially conscious, sometimes poignant, often sublime one-man show.
Most of the evening's skits were in fact, just Bootsie addressing the crowd as one of his many popular characters.
Always professional and always engaging, Bootsie held the audience's attention, like the wily stage veteran he is, throughout the two-hour plus show offering short, thought-provoking, heartwarming, and very entertaining stories instead of standard jokes.
The jokes were left to the opening act: Klymaxx.
I must confess that to critique Klymaxx's performance may be a little unfair as I had previously seen most of the act he delivered, but in a much smaller setting.
The material was good however, and had the capacity crowd rolling in the aisles at times.
Klymaxx handled his set like someone who has done it many times before, and that is not easy to do! He stood before us, was funny, and definitely whet our appetites for more.
And that, my friends, is what most of us know as a job well done.
Bootsie opened the show with one of his many flamboyant gay characters talking about the lighter side of recent local politics.
He wished our new Premier [Paula Cox] well, and poked fun at a few of the new ministry titles, especially the ominous sounding Orwellian, Ministry of National Security.
He touched on a few of the ironies that we face in everyday Bermudian life, and related a story about politicians debating the controversial gaming bill (wait for it) at bingo!
Each of Bootsie's bits were somewhere between five and ten minutes long, and each eventually revealed itself as a pearl of deep folk wisdom, delivered in an often hilarious oyster.
His second bit was a prime example of this.
He came out walking K-legged, with his neck cocked to the side and his hands crumpled up like a “special” person.
My first feeling was discomfort, but a lot of the audience showed appreciation.
Then something unexpected happened:
Bootsie told a story about this character having a dream that he was “normal” and discovering that being “normal” was a myth.
He discovered that “normal” people have problems and prejudices and jealousies and ugly mannerisms and all kinds of social handicaps.
So disappointing were this “special” person's dream discoveries that, when he woke up, he was more than happy to remain in his “unfortunate” birth condition.
This bit was perhaps the most poignant and brilliant of the evening; and there were many poignant and brilliant bits to pick from!
Next up was the “rude little boy” character whose mother would always tell him that he “deserves all the licks he gets!”
This was a quite amusing bit, and delivered a strong message against child abuse, along with more than a few laughs.
This was the model of the night: short snippets of the lives of characters most of us would describe as “outsiders” or “freaks” or “derelicts” or “drunks”.
The kind of people we find it easy to laugh at with a twist!
Bootsie skillfully portrayed these people and earned many a cheap laugh, but then he turned the world upside down on us and put compassion, and thought, and poignancy into these characters.
What's more, he made us feel it too! It was really quite brilliant.
There was a generous portion of social commentary on offer here as well: from homelessness (drunk daddy character), to the failing social rehabilitation system (mentally ill cigarette stealing character), to the dangers of bullying and teasing (shy little boy character), to the economic crunch being felt by our traditional tradesmen (gay fisherman character).
Bootsie mixed comedy with sharp social commentary to create a thoroughly entertaining, sublimely rewarding experience for all to witness.
I would be tragically remiss if I made no mention of Jimmy O'Shea.
Now Jimmy O'Shea came on after Klymaxx completed his post-intermission second set, and he absolutely turned the auditorium out!
Jimmy, a character created and portrayed by Declan Harris, is a Frank Sinatra cover singer who did not get any co-operation from the sound guy who insisted on playing a very heavy vintage dancehall rhythm instead of the expected Frank Sinatra music.
So instead of laboring the issue, Jimmy proceeded to belt out an extremely competent dancehall scat that had the audience in tears!
This was easily the funniest moment of the night.
I mean, you just don't expect to see a middle-aged, chubby, bald-headed white man jumping around a stage like a spider monkey in perfect time to a scorching dancehall rhythm! Funny!
Other supporting actors included Bootsie's brother Dyke, who provided top-shelf support whenever he took the stage, and Bootsie's daughter Aalai, who also proved quite competent.
This is clearly a very talented family that is sure to deliver quality productions for many years to come.
Let's make sure they are encouraged to do so. Bravo!