With a few minutes before showtime, I took in the crowd at the Comedy Festival’s One Man Breaking Bad show. Unsurprisingly, they were a picture of Breaking Bad fandom. Balding. Novelty t-shirts. Pleather. I was particularly taken by one t-shirt featuring the Disney castle, with Walt Disney’s name replaced by Walt White. Much like the gates of Disneyland promise, “here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy”, the door to One Man Breaking Bad promised “here you leave today and enter the world of about three years ago, poor impressions and Family Guy”.
Miles Allen is the One Man behind the show. The US performer found fame through a viral video, wherein he inexplicably plays a homeless man doing Breaking Bad impressions for food. That should have been a red flag.
With at least a million views under his college-educated fake homeless belt, Allen whipped together a one hour show to tour to ‘Breaking Baddicts’ everywhere (like Walter White’s ‘Little Monsters’, to make a fittingly cringe reference from 2013). Intrigued by the premise, and as a fan of Breaking Bad myself, I interviewed Allen on the day of the show. He seemed like a genuine fan, passionate about Breaking Bad’s legacy and staying true to the characters whilst pleasing fans.
Clearly bursting at the seams with fizzy performer juice, he couldn’t help but bust out a few incredibly loud impressions during our chat. From Jesse Pinkman to Tony Soprano to Old Greg – it’s safe to say that I’m not used to that many impressions in a one-on-one situation. Before lunchtime. But that could just be a thing of personal preference. But probably another red flag.
A crucial point that I should have kept in mind going into the show itself was that impressions are pretty bad almost 100% of the time. And, if your show is built entirely around impressions – you at least have to make them accurate. I’m ready to be wrong here, but I’m pretty sure Gus Fring doesn’t have the thick accent of the Russian spy in Cats and Dogs.
As a tribute to the show itself, One Man Breaking Bad plucked easily the worst elements of the Breaking Bad fan culture – I’m thinking ‘Skyler is a bitch’ and ‘The Fly episode is bad’. Throughout the show I was reminded constantly of this piece by Joe Nunweek, about the “dread embarrassment” surrounding the Breaking Bad fandom.
The boring meme sentiments were blended up with atrocious song parodies that could only have been dredged up from the deepest recesses of YouTube comedy. Or maybe I just don’t remember the episode where Skyler did the worm across the floor to Sia’s ‘Chandelier’. Increasingly it seemed I’d forgotten a lot of plot details. Commendably Allen kept his energy at meth-level throughout the show – apart from when he muttered barbed comments behind the curtain about how not enough people were laughing.
Much like Skyler can’t stop being a bitch and Walt Jr can’t stop eating breakfast – Allen returned to some excruciating crutches that I thought we had long kicked out from under the destructive cyclops of bad comedy. Firstly, homosexuality. It’s left ambiguous in Breaking Bad as to whether or not Gus Fring is gay, but this wasn’t enough for Allen. Gayness is something to be pushed into the limelight, put in a tiny leather cap and made to dance suggestively.
Apparently, almost all of the Breaking Bad characters required a gay reveal. Walt. Jesse. Saul. The Neo Nazi Jack White. But not just gay. Outrageously gay. Camp. Skipping around. Carrying a whip. You know, the ‘funny’ gay. Apart from Skyler – she’s a bitch remember.
Speaking of that, the second crutch was saying “bitch” like Jesse Pinkman on the end of everything. The first few times, it was fine. One of his broad pop culture reimaginings shoehorned Jesse’s parlance into other iconic films and TV shows. “Are you telling me you built the Flux Capacitor… out of a bitch?!” was less of a Back to the Future parody and more words put together. The audience applauded – because he literally asked us to. This was followed up by a Family Guy impression which, unsurprisingly, was his most accurate and studied of them all.
I could practically see the manatees heaving in the joke tank. If this had been a satirical exploration of the absolute worst parts of comedy, it would have been five stars. Unfortunately, there was not a shred of irony in the room – just a bunch of people barely laughing at an overtly camp version of Walter White.
Oh yeah, and his third crutch was imitating Walt Jr whenever he needed a laugh. The tension speaks for itself there.
After a few pre-recorded farts, Bill Cosby impressions and racing through the remainder of the plot of a TV show I suddenly now despised, the spotlight came on for the finale. Miles was grinning with jazz hands in the darkness, accidentally about 2m behind the beam. He shuffled forward (remaining true to his Walt Jr gait) into the light.
It was the most incredible ending to the most perfect bad show, a million miles off the mark in every single sense of the term.