Gavin Webster

The Stand Two

Until August 26

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★★★★★

I'VE seen Denis Leary, Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle push comedy over the line, but the title of Gavin Webster's show is just about the most offensive thing you can say on the stand-up circuit: Bill Hicks Wasn't Very Good.

Does he really mean it? When he quotes directly from Hicks's routines, even the staunchest fan (and I count myself among them) will find the wise words a little lecturely these days. For most of Webster's set, however, Hicks is something of a MacGuffin as the Geordie comic flies off in all directions.

Some of his rants are wonderfully surreal (Bernard Manning auditioning for fat 1970s Elvis), others disguise a fiery intelligence beneath the aggressive delivery (the Hitler stuff). Webster builds an old-school northern club rapport with his audience, although there is a contemporary bite to much of what he's saying. There are stand-ups at the Fringe who will experiment more with comedy or fire sharper arrows of satire, but few will be as palpably funny as this.

Alan Morrison