Rick Shapiro – Edinburgh Festival review

It doesn’t take a doctor to tell that Rick Shapiro is still recovering from amnesia and shouldn’t be here this year

Rick_Shapiro1This is one of the odder Fringe shows I’ve been too in a while. Rick Shapiro, a sharp-shooting outlaw of a stand-up, has been seriously ill. First came a terrible car accident four years ago that smashed his head and left him with amnesia, then a cardiac “event” earlier this year that did the same. By that point he was already signed up to the Fringe and wild horses wouldn’t have stopped him from going ahead.

I’m no doctor, but I don’t think he should be here. Maybe that would be quitting talk to him, but as a punter I’d rather see a Shapiro who’s recovered enough and lucid enough and not frustrated with his own inabilities, or no Shapiro at all. On this evidence, the guy’s not well enough.

I admire his courage and iron will to come to the Fringe, but you can’t give extra marks for pity – people are giving up time and money to come to this show rather than thousands of others, so it has to be justified. What today’s meagre crowd did get was glimpses of a comedy powerhouse, but an otherwise disjointed and disorientating hour of a man battling with himself.

It’s no bother that he stutters, has the shakes, and shuffles rather than walks. It doesn’t even matter than he occasionally reads off pieces of paper. The difficulty for a viewer is trying to follow Shapiro’s mind process. You soon work out that you won’t be able to: jokes will be aborted, and there won’t be a flow to go with. The references to “my manager told me not to say that” and apologising for not telling a joke properly only adds to the uncomfortable viewing.

I said there were glimpses of a comedy powerhouse and there definitely were. The occasional moments of lucidity sometimes resulted in something rambling, or something brilliant. There were some brilliant lines about Hitler and Paris Hilton (different jokes, I might add), and there is real potential in his “illness” material. He recalls how he would talk to his shirts, and a routine about his hallucinating in hospital and having his arse wiped was darkly funny. Nor has he lost is brawling anger towards society’s institutions, frequently lashing out at America’s banks and CEOs.

The show is sold as “every one will be different”, which suggests you’re in for a night of freewheeling comedy improvisation. In fact it’s a remarkably positive spin on the fact that a coherent hour is beyond this comic at this point.

As it stands, Shapiro reminds me of a punch-drunk boxer, trying to swing his way to glory, but simply not physically capable. I wouldn’t bet against him being crowned again, but it won’t be this year.

2 stars
Rick Shapiro – Rebirth is on at 6.10pm at the Assembly George Square.
Review written by Paul Fleckney

Leave a Reply