Monday, June 23, 2008

A Total Bummer

Like most stand-up comedy fans my age, I got into it by stumbling across a Bill Hicks show - Revelations, his most famous, which I watched open-mouthed, unable to believe what I was seeing.

From there, it was only natural to go to the old masters, back to Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce, but I've got plenty of time for Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock too. My computer's jammed up with old routines and skits from the seventies and eighties, Pete Cook and Dudley Moore rants and Billy Connolly's daftest and dirtiest gags. Name me any comic of the last forty years and I'll probably be able to pull up some obscure gem.

To my mind, great stand-up comedy is an unrecognised genius. Anyone can recite from a script, and lots of people can even do it convincingly, but the ability to grab an audience by the scruff of the neck and have them hang on your every word, or to make them laugh like drains for hours, is a rare and wonderful gift. Really, I feel these people should be held in the kind of reverence we reserve for the finest actors and artists, because when it's done right, why can't comedy too be considered art?

Bearing this great affection for the form in mind, then, I'm sure you can imagine how totally bummed I am to learn that the dude out of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure has died today.

Of all the great comedy performances, I can recall none finer than the dude out of Bill and Ted's turn as that old guy. Terms like "genius" are much abused, but in terms of comic timing, this was a titan amongst men, stealing scenes not only from a legend like Alex Winter but also the inimitable Keanu Reeves.

Whether he was solemnly inviting the audience to be excellent to each other, offering amusing asides to camera or merely speaking in hilarious slacker patois, the dude out of Bill and Ted was a genuine King of Comedy.

Truly, no man ever played comedy air-guitar with such pathos.

But let us not belittle the man as a mere bit-part actor in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. No, for he stretched his already considerable talent by reprising the role in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, bringing fresh depth and invention while delivering a towering performance.

So, as his comedy phone-box rockets up to that great Kiss gig in the sky, let us salute the dude out of Bill and Ted.

We may never see his like again - party on.

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