Last stand-up hero

Will Durst is one of the few big-name American comedians still firing at political targets, though he’s had to recalibrate his sights for the Clinton years, discovers Craig McLean.

'As Will Durst has it in his self-penned CV. ‘He‘s America‘s foremost political comedian. but as a descriptive label that‘s like calling the Pacific Ocean moist.‘ Since the death of Bill Hicks. though. Durst is the tnoistest - or

should that be driest? As recently as the 3

middle of August he was still working on his new show Only In America. to keep his material as up to the socio- political minute as possible.

‘l‘m just talking about Paula Jones.’ he says down the line from the Bahamas hey. a guy's gotta write somewhere. right? with his keyboard clacking in the background. Pursuing her sexual harassment case against the President. Jones claims she can identify

l l l g”): '1. A i

i q . KT‘ l If: 7 I,

E azr”, .

3 Will Durst: reloading with different bullets 1 Clinton‘s genitalia by its distinguishing 3 features. ‘l‘m wondering. what the

I hell‘s that‘?‘ says Durst. ‘Was she playing connect-the-dots and

discovered ()rion The Hunter?‘

The San Francisco-based satirist‘s .show may ruthlessly shovel aside the

bullshit that swamps America‘s hirpling democracy. but there‘s fun for all the

s fatnin of nations. Just as John Major's blandness is less comedy-friendly than Margaret Thatcher's psychosis (‘yeah. it‘s hard fighting with a shadow‘). so the removal of the ham-door targets of Reagan. Bush and Quayle means that

; jocular deftness is all the more

i nuponant


‘Everybody’s a little confused. Clinton‘s waffling so much there's syrup coming out of his ears.‘ says Durst. a confirmed Democrat. But with the waffling comes a new focus. and a chance to change the bullets he‘s been ‘ftring with for twelve years‘.

Durst's only previous visits to Edinburgh were in in 198‘) and I990. Both times he was nominated for the Perrier Award. Did his Edinburgh experiences teach him anything? ‘I took more chances when i went back to America.‘ he remembers. Did it pay off? ‘No! Not financially anyway. but artistically.‘

Durst takes the usual comedy angle of commentator/observer further than most. Having found that television is a restraining medium scheduling. and the desire to stay topical and buck the system with a stragetically-placed ‘fuck you‘ are. Durst has found. mutually

. exclusive he pours his creative

energies into writing columns for newspapers. Yet with his incisive prose and wit. even Will Durst is hard

; pressed to understand the latest saga to

embroil the Whitehouse the Whitewater hearings. ‘lt's like listening to golf on the radio.

In Latin. ()ne guyjust claimed he “lied : to his diary!” ()r was he just

‘economical with the actualite“? ()nly

in America? Hardly . . . I Only In America (Fringe) Will Durst.

Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. 28 Aug—3 Sept. 8.15pm. £7/£8 (Hi/£7).


The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other

The modern trend tor devised performances, collaborative ventures in which the actors provide their own script, has had the effect of demoting playwrights from their traditional position of theatrical supremacy. If, for example, a leading director of the stature of Robert lépage can come up with a three-and-a-half hour production of audacious ambition for the International Festival without calling on the services of a writer, the job of playwright starts to look like a thing of the past.

80 to fellow playwrights, Peter llandke’s decision to ‘write’ a play that has no words must seem to be an act of treachery. The flour We Knew llothing of Each Other, performed by Berlin’s Schaubfihne Am lehniner Platz, is a TOO-minute spectacle in which 33 actors play more than 400

Peter llandke: closer to the truth

characters, yet not a word is spoken. llandke’s (SO-page script consists of nothing but stage directions. True communication, llandke seems to say, is hampered by our reliance on cliche and formalised ways or speaking. Get rid of the words and get closer to the truth.

In essence, The Hour We Knew llothing of Each Other is one long procession of people through a town

square - everyday figures like skateboarders and business women

alongside mythic characters such as

j Moses and Abraham - but despite the

. lack of words, Handke makes his

. f i intentions clear. He presents a vision r of a society that may be broadly

1 humane, but is incapable of dealing

with the evil within itself. Characters

; bump, collide and help each other out,

but walk straight past a man who has

5 collapsed with a heart attack. The

piece is said to be both sensual and funny and, importantly, something far more rich than a coy mime show.

Always a spare and restrained writer, Handke, who is also a noted novelist and the man responsible for the screenplay of Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire, has fashioned a script that is as precise as any language-based play. Even without a leading player or conventional narrative it has managed to entrance European audiences since its first production in Vienna in 1992. It looks set to be the theatre highlight of the 1994 programme. (Mark Fisher) The flour We Knew Nothing of Each Other (Festival) Schaubiihne Am lehniner Platz, Berlin, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 225 5756, 31 Aug-3 Sept, 8pm, EH25.


The odds are shortening on the favourites, so put a fiver on the nose while they’re still taking bets with ‘Honest’ Eddie Gibb’s tipster guide.

I NOW! Uplifting lsraeli production mixing theatre. percussion and belly- dancing in a popular culture pot-poun'i. Surprise hit lurking off Leith Walk. va.’ (Fringe) The Society for a Better Quality ({fIi/e. Bonningtrm Resource Centre (Venue 48) until 26 Aug. 29 Aug—2 Sept. 8pm. £5 ([3).

I Stuart Lee Among a festival of comedians trarnping across each other’s turf, Stuart Lee at least tn'es something different. Not always funny. but then it‘s not always meant to be. Decide for yourself.

Stuart Lee (Fringe) l’leasance (Venue 33) 556 6550, until 3 Sept. 9.45pm. [7/8 ( {6/7}.

I The Hour We Knew llothing Of Each Other Peter Handke's large scale production without words features 33 actors playing a parade of over 400 characters. connected by the theme of our inability to deal with evil. Event theatre they'll talk about for years.

The Hour We Knew Nut/ting ()flz'aelt ()I/ter (Festival) Se/rauln'i/tne Am lehniner l’latz. Festival Theatre, 3/ Aug—3’ Sept. 8pm. [5—05.

I Boothby Graffoe Suedehead demeanour belies a clowning comedian. with an endless supply of funny faces. sight gags and leap-of- imagination asides.

Boot/1b)“ (Irajfne (Fringe) I’leasance (Venue 33’) 556 6550. until 3 Sept (not 3/ Aug) 9. l5pnt. [7/8 ( [6/7).

l Linneaus - Prince of Flowers Hugely ambitious project by young lurk director Toby Gough in the Botanic Garden has proved to be a success beyond many sceptics' expectations. Mind the plants though. or they won't be invited back. Linneaus Prince of Flowers (Fringe) 'l‘lreatrunt Butanicurn. Royal Botanic Garden (Venue [59) 225 5/99. until 27

xi ug. Spin. [8 ([4).

The List 26 August —8 Septetnber I‘M-l 41