As an 18-year-old nerd, Brit Steve Bugeja decided to reinvent himself. So he flew to the US and volunteered at a summer camp for children with autism. For the first time in his life, he wanted to be known as “Cool Steve”. Well, that didn’t work out, but still he gives a hilarious account of just what went down.
Before he wins us over with rapid-fire wit, he ingratiates himself to us with his first experience of AFL football. He freely admits that he doesn’t understand the game, that it’s two quarters too long and no other country wants to play. Touché. Then there’s the way he was sold (not!) on the roller coaster at Luna Park; namely that it’s the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere.
Bugeja’s turn of phrase quickly establishes him as a gifted comedian. We’re warmed up before he gets to his US camp shenanigans. He lets us in on a little secret – he was actually there to lose his virginity to one of the other adult supervisors. You get the impression it didn’t really matter who, but rather if.
Bugeja goes into fine detail about just what the camp was like. Each cabin had three campers and three adult counsellors. With him were two other UK volunteers. One, Tom, was a nice guy. The other, Hobbsy, was a pain in the arse. A lot of Bugeja’s jokes are naturally directed at the latter. Each counsellor was responsible for a single youth and Bugeja delights in telling of his encounter with his kid, known simply as CJ. He was an unusual 14-year-old who had memorised all the major roads in America and could recite SpongeBob SquarePants word for word. One of the high points of Bugeja’s banter is when he describes what CJ did with a llama.
Bugeja loves the way CJ managed to get a little of his own back against the pompous Hobbsy. Let’s just say that involved soiling and a suitcase. CJ’s unusual ways took in the 4th July fireworks, a pop quiz and a Prom night with a difference. Now nine years after that summer as part of Camp America, Bugeja’s experiences are easy to listen to – fun and engaging from go to whoa.
Steve Bugeja’s Summer Camp is at Melbourne Town Hall until 22 April, as part of the 2018 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.