MICF – Emerson Brophy Saccharine

by | Apr 17, 2024

By Jessica Taurins

Emerson Brophy is known for upsetting conservatives the world over with his songs about abortion law and right-wing governments.

He also does TikToks!

In general, he’s a pretty confident guy, so he opens his 2024 Melbourne International Comedy Festival show ‘Saccharine’ by reminding us that he’s fixed all of the world’s problems, just through song. Another white guy with a microphone singing about horrible global issues? How very Bo Burnham. (At the risk of being misunderstood here, this reviewer is a massive Burnham fan, so Emerson, if you read this, that was meant as a compliment.)

Thing is, Brophy isn’t just a conventionally attractive, early 30s, cis, straight male; he’s also self-aware about it. His awareness of his own privilege and the privilege of others in a similar position is a crucial part of the story of ‘Saccharine’, and flows through the songs and tales shared during the hour-long show.

Brophy confesses to being nervous about performing live after a career of only producing pre-recorded content, but he doesn’t need to be concerned. Every moment that could trip up another performer – a cable snagging, or a microphone disconnecting – is handled with grace and poise, reminding us that Brophy is a seasoned performer.

In terms of his music, the genres switch up between songs, but Brophy very much has theatre kid energy (again, meant as a compliment). The opener, Saccharine, is poppy and boppy, a perfect opener to the Broadway show nobody has written yet. Despite the dark vibes behind the lyrics, it’s a joyful piece to listen to and a super energetic way to start the show.

Between each song, Brophy tells tales of his life (he used to be a tech consultant, a meaningless job ranked by how good you are at dressing yourself and listening in meetings!) and urges the audience to have strong opinions and take sides in global debates.

These stories weave into the songs, culminating in a genre-defying end piece built with a loop pedal and snippets of his other songs. Brophy sings of the age divide in an aptly titled song Boomer Kind of Love, explaining how times change but people, with age, often get worse. His other songs, all with catchy, infectious beats, and lyrics with a twist of irony and darkness, all come together as Brophy wonders what it’s all for. Why do we work, why do we live, why, as humanity crumbles, do we even do anything?

Then there’s a really cool musical solo, and we remember that despite the darkness, there’s still some good in the world. And in the case of ‘Saccharine’, that good is a man, with a small collection of instruments, reminding us of what it’s like to be alive and enjoy an evening with a great performer and our friends.

Brophy’s wit is endless, and he has a fabulous way with words. His songs are written to be sharp and pointed, with just enough cheekiness that he can say anything if he just wears a little smile. His voice is well rounded and beautiful to listen to, complemented by his wonderful facial expressions that bring life to characters as he sings. Brophy shouldn’t just be a TikTok star – although with around 260,000 followers at the time of MICF 2024 he’s well on his way to getting there – but he should be a global name among other comedians.

Brophy has shit to say, and he’s here to say it.

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