Fringe Hangover: Bad Comedy

This article is from 2008.

Adam Fraser's festival blog

It seems appropriate to muse, just as the last drinks of August are being cleared up and that bloody gormless purple cow is being packed up again for another year, on the latest visitor to the party. Taking to the stage in Chambers Street’s Jazz Bar on Monday, mere spitting distance for the main C venue, he told us he was just off the plane from Vegas. Out of his mind on an ecstasy hangover and all manner of prescription pills whose effects he has no knowledge of, apparently.

You could quite believe it of Doug Stanhope, who played a couple of intimate shows here to make up for the non-sale of his mythical seven and a half grand ticket. He’s dressed like The Dude and in the midst of growing a mullet. He greets hecklers not with skilfully-crafted put-downs but with barked disparagements – the one who points out the religious inaccuracy of a foreskin joke and the other guy who spots his riff on Lenny Bruce get it in the neck. He forgets what the hell he’s on about near the end and has to pull a grubby wad of notes from his back pocket. He is comedy brilliance.

Why is this? And why is Jerry Sadowitz, who performed a ‘greatest hits’ set of late-night stand-up on Saturday past at the Reid Hall, another comedian who makes you think you’re witnessing something more than just a comedy set? These guys are the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols, the Clash and more. They’re the people who mean less for what they say and more for the way they say it – although they’re both bloody funny men.

In a scene dominated by the Comedy Festival, by the Lucy Porters and Jason Byrnes of the world keeping their profile up with a few matey observational bits and the charming but inoffensive David O’Doherty (a comic talent of a different variety) winning the If.comedy award, doesn’t it make you proud that some people are still willing to court revulsion and dislike just to make a point?

Sadowitz says lots of things which confirm this, but his requested embargo on any quotations from his set forbids us from repeating any of them. So we’ll leave it up to Stanhope, who rattles his chain at the tormenter in the audience. ‘Oh yeah, so you spotted my Lenny Bruce bit, huh? Well wait until I bring out all the Bill Hicks stuff’. Only death stands between Stanhope and a Bill Hicks-sized reputation, so why don’t we try recognising that while he’s alive? Hopefully more like he and Sadowitz will emerge in Fringes to come.

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