Dwight Slade

Edinburgh Comedy Room, 0131 226 0000, until August 25, 10.30pm


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. Or perhaps it's just me. The very recent memory of the most electrifying 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 references. ''I knew it was going to be a problem and I was surprised they went along as much as they did. When it's coming out of your mouth you realise 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 Green are all Dutch to me but his show was excellent. ''Hmm. A little slack,'' is his considered opinion. He sounds like a craftsman considering an object he has just created. He sounds just like

Bill Hicks.

There is more than one reason to think of Hicks when describing 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 collaborated, 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 realise how unusual and valuable it was. Even at the time I knew it was special. There was something different about the fact that we were thinking of running away to LA at 14 to become 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, burning with rage and passion and extinguishing all too soon at the age of 32 when he died from pancreatic cancer. Slade is 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 impression, in fact, that the only moments where Dwight Slade sounds similar to Bill Hicks are because Hicks learned to augment 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 targets 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 Edinburgh Comedy Room. His scope is unabashedly modest but all the more familiar given that British comics seem reluctant to mine this rich seam of modern life. Excellent, too, is the ire directed at the software developed by Bill Gates. Certainly there was a sense that Slade was still searching for those all-important cultural orientation points required for a stand-up but it was astonishing watching a great one do it on the hoof.

Yes, there was scope for improvement but yes, this was still brilliant.

Glenn Wool

Pleasance Courtyard, 0131 556 6550, until August 25, 8.25pm


It is a strangely incongruous moment in Glenn Wool's other wise superb show. Lighting up a cigarette from the pack that has lain conspicuously unused on the table until this moment, he sparks up a Camel Light and does a short routine about Hitler not liking tobacco and how by smoking he is offending Hitler's ghost.

''I'm a little Bill Hicks clone,'' he says, sounding very much like Bill Hicks as he does so. It is an odd throwback to the Glenn Wool we saw last year who was very much in the thrall of Hicks-devotion. He stubs the cigarette out before it is fully smoked, however, and returns thankfully to being Glenn Wool. If we are kind, we can put this aberration down as a brief homage to the departed hero and given that the rest of this silky smooth show is packed with superbly-paced comedy, kind we are compelled to be. For if there were a Most Improved Comedian Of The Year Award, Glenn Wool would be it.

It's not just the hair that's gone, it's the sense of angst and awkwardness he used to carry along with it. Whereas he once took the style of Hicks, now he takes the spirit.

He pokes fun at the anti-American prejudices of the Brits as he makes us laugh before taking the very real story of his Estonian grandmother and conjuring up a surreal world where Jews are still hiding in cellars across Europe.

Go on, Glenn Wool.