Twelve years ago I saw Bill Hicks' show at the Edinburgh Dream Tent. It was an evening that left a permanent impress-ion on me. I knew I had witnessed something extra-ordinary. Tonight I am to see Hicks' best buddy, Dwight Slade, perform. In the intervening years, following Hicks' untimely death, a legend was born. Slade's friendship with Hicks lends an unspoken frisson to the evening and has provoked great interest in the run-up to his stint at this year's Fringe. Inevitably, given their shared geography and culture, there are similarities between the two friends. Certainly, Slade can be judged as his own man. He is not a Bill Hicks imitator, but you do get a sense of familiarity as you watch his act.
After a nightmare journey from Oregon, Slade looks remarkably fresh for his first gig outside the US. He jokes that he has Luke Skywalker's haircut. It certainly fits with his boyish persona, appearing as he does, as a cross between Jeff Daniels and Martin Clunes. Despite revelling in the freedom to criticise America with the full support of his audience, Slade doesn't launch into political material.
Instead, he targets the things that a regular family man would get het up about the inefficiency of Microsoft products, Starbucks coffee speak, traffic, ridiculous names given to children. If this sounds safe and disappointing, fear not, as these routines are stronger than the odd nod to the political situation or than the cursory gags on drugs and homosexuality. Slade is about exposing the stupid, and this he does without mercy.
While Slade's material steers clear of any tribute act claim, he has, consciously or unconsciously, borrowed Hicks' motifs. There is the goofy voice used for "dumb characters", sound effects (eg hollering into the mic, for Slade this is to illustrate irritation with shop customers, for Hicks it is to show up the corporate "suckers of Satan's pecker"). This is at once eerie and reassuring. The technique is not all the same, though, as Slade is a much more physical performer.
Slade has some work to do to ensure that some of his references to shops, products and personalities translate, though when there was confusion this led to some hilarity. He looks genuinely happy to be in the UK. It remains to be seen whether he will find a measure of the the popularity that Hicks did over here, but he has certainly made a good start.
Venue 9, 10.30pm (1hr), to 26 August (0131-226 0000)
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