Bill Hicks: Slight Return
Chas Early @ SoCo Cargo
9:00pm, Mon 3 Mar 2008
I love Bill Hicks. He is, without a doubt, my favourite comedian ever, living or dead. Rant in E-Minor is one of the greatest comedy albums ever assembled, and is very much responsible for a lot of my comedic preferences today.
So it was with equal parts excitement and trepidation that I bought tickets for this show - excitement, for this is the closest I'll get to ever seeing the man (aside from DVDs and YouTube videos). Trepidation, because… hey, it's Bill Hicks. He is Great and Awesome and… Inimitable. And yet, Chas Early is imitating him, his style, for the purpose of this show.
So really, it could go either way. It could be great; it could fall flat on its arse and besmirch the Great Man's name.
First up: Early has most of Hicks' mannerisms and voices down pat… even Randy Pan the Goat Boy. His research into Hicks' style is wonderfully thorough; he even looks pretty much like Hicks. And, addressing many of the ills of the world, he even sounds like you'd imagine Hicks would sound - ranting about the current Bush, reprising a lot of drug jokes, and - of course - riling against the War on Terror. There's also a few good laughs available at bringing Bill back from the dead - what would Bill say?
There's a common term in technology for the repulsive emotional response that one feels when observing something that's almost - but not quite - human… the uncanny valley. And I reckon that, for all the Bill Hicks aficionados out there (and there are a few of us), Early's portrayal of Hicks - which, all things considered, is as good as it could possibly be - invokes that kind of response. Yes, the look and sound of Hicks is there… almost. And the vocal style is there… almost. But when something un-Hicks-like jars you, it sticks out like a sore thumb - the most notable bit for me was the mushroom soundbites. Yes, the content was pure Hicks, but the manner of inclusion was forced and clumsy.
But perhaps I was expecting too much. Because Slight Return is most definitely funny; its sole problem is that it's not The Real Thing.