Jack Docherty in David Bowie and Me: Parallel Lives ★★★★

Jack Docherty reaches into his past to explore how his love of David Bowie changed his life.

The Edinburgh Fringe is always better if there is a new Jack Docherty show to see. This year, the Absolutely and Scot Squad star has brought David Bowie and Me: Parallel Lives, a warmly nostalgic show that retraces his life-long fandom of music icon, David Bowie.

Arriving on stage to a mash up of classic Bowie tracks from Let’s Dance to Fame, Sound and Vision to Absolute Beginners, Jack is resplendent in a cape that his mother made for 13-year old Jack’s end of term concert. While he fared well as his idol, in retrospect his fellow classmates did not. 2 Gary Glitters, a Rolf Harris, Benny Hill’s Chinese character, Chow Mein… You get the picture.

The show explores Jack falling in love with a girl, seeing David Bowie on Top of the Pops for the very first time, and how both events triggered his sexual coming of age, both figuratively and literally. There are a surprising number of penis references in the show. In fact, there are moments where Docherty plays his own dick (anthropomorphically) both as it was then and hilariously how it is now. Before any critic poised with their pad, ready to make the “too many dick jokes”criticism, Docherty spikes that criticism himself in the latter part of the show with a surprise conceit.

The show has a loose enough theme to allow some nostalgic humor about growing up in the ’70s that would be recognised by his audience. The intensity of collecting football cards – got, got, got, got, not got! – we’re told “was our PlayStation”.

As with many middle-aged men (including this reviewer), the show somewhat sags in the middle – and an extended section about an acid trip seems to lose the crowd momentarily, despite some wonderful surreal whimsy involving discarded hot dogs. 

Where Jack’s material soars is when he allows an airing to some less noble sides of his nature: his Best Actor award-nomination jealousy and some gallows humour about his grandfather’s coffin raised some of the most deafening laughs of the evening.

His real-life encounter with Bowie comes when Docherty was hosting his 1990s chat show. Reminiscences of the dressing room chat after the show between Jack and the music superstar, although punchline free, are genuinely interesting and rather moving.

Following his highly critically-acclaimed previous show, the incredibly emotional Nothing But, this show feels much lighter but from such a skilled writer and performer as Jack Docherty, you are guaranteed a satisfying hour of comedy. 

Jack, I’m only Laughing – ★★★★  4 stars

Jack Docherty Tickets

David Bowie and Me: Parallel Lives runs at Gilded Balloon Teviot

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