Fringe Comedian Bright spark from the blackout:Dwight Slade Edinburgh Comedy Room 0131226 UNTIL AUGUST 25
Article originally printed on TUESDAY AUGUST 19, 2003
Fringe comedian Dwight Slade, unlike the eastern seaboard of the United States last weekend, is full of energy. It’s something of a miracle, given that the biggest shortout in the history of the world forced him to spend an extra 29 hours in JFK en route to his first gig outside the US.
Perhaps it’s simply the adrenalin charge post-gig augmented by the lurid purple T-shirt he was forced to buy in Chicago O’Hare that is creating a charge in the room. Perhaps its just me. The very recent memory of the most elec-trifying, old school, a-man-and –his-microphone set I have seen at this year’s festival and it’s still fizzing and crackling in the mind.
It wasn’t good enough for Dwight Slade, however. “It was a little off,” he begins before worrying about the cultural ref-erences. “I knew it was going to be a problem and I was sur-prised they went along as much as they did. When it’s coming out of your mouth you realize that most people won’t get it and that you want to substitute it for another more familiar word but it’s too late.”
Eddie Bauer and Olive Garden are all Dutch to me but his show was excellent. “Hmm. A little slack,” is his considered opin-ion. He sounds like a craftsman considering an object he has just created. He sounds just like Bill Hicks.
I knew it was going to be a problem and I was sur-prised they went along as much as they did.
There is more than one reason to think of Hicks when describ-ing Dwight Slade. The first is the biographical fact that in Houston, Texas, in 1976, two 14 year-olds sat next to each for their first Spanish class of their sixth grade and got talking. For the next 18 years, bar a six month period in which they sulked at each other, Dwight Slade and Bill Hicks collabo-rated, firstly in their youth as a double-act, but later during their adult lives helping each other out on their separate acts. They had a special friendship.
“It developed into one of those rare relationships when you are a kid of just complete immersion in another person, where nothing else matters, girls, school, parents. It just so happens he was an exceptional person. I look back at it from an adult perspective and I real-ize how unusual and valuable it was. Even at the time I knew it was special. There was some-thing different about the fact that we were thinking of run-ning away to L.A. at 14 to be-come stand-up comics. When I met Bill, it was like holding on to a rocket.”
As it happens, Hicks’s life had the trajectory of a rocket, burn-ing with rage and passion and extinguishing all too soon at the age of 32 when he died from pancreatic cancer. Slade in an entirely different proposition. Not only is he still alive, but his comedy glows whereas Hicks’s briefly burned magnesium bright. Slade is a master of physical comedy whereas Hicks was in the Lenny Bruce, lone poet mould. One gets the im-pression, in fact that the only moments where Dwight Slade sounds similar to Bill Hicks are because Hicks learned to aug-ment his intense monologues with light slapstick from Slade.
With his boyish good looks and his knockabout humour, Slade has more in common with Jim Carrey than Hicks. His tar-gets are not the Bush family and Saddam Hussein but the world of McJob’s and tiny minded American suburbia, much like the excellent Maria Bamford who preceded him at the Edin-burgh Comedy Room. His scope is unabashedly modest but all the more familiar given that British comics seem reluc-tant to mine this rich seam of modern life. Excellent , too, is the ire directed a the software developed by Bill Gates. Cer-tainly there was a sense that Slade was still searching for those all-important cultural ori-entation points required for a stand-up but it was astonishing watching a great one do it on the hoof.
Yes, there was scope for im-provement but yes, this was still brilliant.