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ED FRINGE REVIEW Rich Wilson, Death Becomes Him

★ ★ ★ ★

Rich discusses identity, acceptance and gender with a sincerity missing from most male comedians at the Fringe.

A regular on the circuit for 15 years, this is Rich Wilson's fourth Fringe show, his first in a paid venue and the one that's getting him the recognition, sellout rooms and standing ovations he deserves.

Rich spends the hour in the Wee Room at the Gilded Balloon chatting to his audience in purgatory, as if we're all dead, him included. If you've been a legend you're going to heaven and if you've been a dick you're going to hell. But there's one problem, Rich has been both - so where will he end up?

Admitting that he wasn't the best husband to his ex-wife and other "dickish" behaviour, there are a lot of redeeming features to Rich's character. It's refreshing to see a 47-year-old, working class man invite the "fellas" in the room to come round to the fact that women are the superior sex - you've never seen women in a bathtub rolling down a hill have you?

He also has no problems with how you identify - "if you identify as a teapot", he says, "then let's sit down and have a cup of tea and a chat" - a throwaway line perhaps but one that holds real beauty, power and acceptance.

Rich discusses identity, acceptance and gender with a sincerity missing from most male comedians at the Fringe. He's far more more accepting of people who want to (and should) live their best and truest lives than most performers of his generation, many of whom would do good to learn a thing or two from Rich's approach and values.

But this hour isn't a desperate lecture from a man trying to be woke, it's quite the opposite. It's a hilarious hour of pure stand-up that speaks to everyone, with genuine heart, warmth and care for those who do what some sections of society disagree with - unless you're wearing crocs, Rich has no acceptance for croc wearers. And rightly so.

A comedian's first goal is to make an audience laugh and Rich has no problem there and if you can make an audience think/feel differently as a result of what you're saying, then happy days, and I saw evidence of this the afternoon I was in.

When Rich began talking about working in a gay sauna, I saw a middle-aged man next to me actively grimace and look away as he explained what one was. However, his head eventually turned back and a grin appeared on his face when Rich opened up about a rather awkward situation he found himself in so it didn't take long for the once uncomfortable man to be on board with jokes about cock. Small steps.

Rich also talks about being working class, neatly observing how parents would send their children out at the crack of dawn and not let them back in the house until the street lights come on. A gag which delivered huge laughs in the room.

He's an everyman, ditching the microphone minutes in enabling the show to become more of a chat with a man down the pub rather than a comedy show which traditionally separates the performer from the audience. We're all in purgatory together, we're all in this show together and it's a genuine shame when the show ends.

Rich Wilson: Death Becomes Him runs until 25th August at 4.30pm at the Gilded Balloon Teviot (Wee Room). Book tickets here.


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