Comedy review: Alexis Dubus: Cars and Girls, Assembly Roxy (Venue 139), Edinburgh

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THIS is a show that could sit as snugly in the spoken word category of the Fringe brochure as the comedy section, an hour of compelling raconteurship that’s more interesting than laugh-out-loud funny, but all the more absorbing for its slow-burn enticement.

Alexis Dubus: Cars and Girls

Assembly Roxy (Venue 139)

Star rating; * * * *

Elsewhere, Alexis Dubus dabbles with caricature as his aloof French creation Marcel Lucont, and enjoys his reputation as a taboo-challenging stand-up, recalling the fallout of a previous show he delivered in the nude. But with Cars and Girls, twin phenomenon he approaches with a dilettante’s enthusiasm rather than any professed mastery, he offers a series of finely drawn escapades and rich characters.

He begins slowly and low-key, a self-deprecating introduction told principally through the injuries he’s sustained, a skiing mishap as painful for its middle-class associations as the sensitive part of the body he fractured. Quickly, he sets up a recurring theme of doomed romance, and in the tale of his mugging-turned-stabbing, a hint of the excess to follow. Happily, it was while recuperating at his parent’s house that he chanced on his old travel diaries.

His first anecdote recalls a hitchhiking trip to Morocco he took with a girlfriend, the generosity of the eccentric truckers they met a rebuke to the prevailing comedy casting of fat, pill-popping prostitute slayers. His recollection is suffused with warmth for this strange breed of men.

Still more stereotypes are encountered in Patagonia, a Dutchman so stoned he can’t recall personal information; a fastidious Frenchman who may or may not have inspired Lucont. Dubus skilfully sketches in the details, capturing the eye-opening wonder, fear and novelty of negotiating unfamiliar places with new companions and the flickering intensity of holiday sex.

Finally and most memorably, he rocks up at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada, an hallucinogenic, panoramic tableaux of spontaneous behaviour that I failed to take notes on, so gripped was I by Dubus’s dream-stumble through massed light-sabre battles and weird, contrary hedonism. An endearingly cheesy epilogue reinforces just what an uplifting series of tales he’s put together.

• Until 26 August. Today 6:45pm.