Dean Haglund is a name that won't be familiar even to the majority of fans of 'The X-Files,' but once they're shown a side-by-side comparison of Haglund's current visage and his character Langley who appeared intermittently across the show's nine long years, the hazy memories will return. Though it's equally likely that they'll just be thinking of Garth from 'Wayne's World.'
Now free of the constraints of television, it seems Haglund earns most of his income off the back of that character, with convention appearances and annual tours of this improvised X-Files based comedy hour. I'm always sceptical about has-been performers trying to make money from their prior fame, such as Leonard Nimoy's embarrassing Mr. Spock albums or that Les bloke from Vic Reeves' Big Night Out, but fortunately Haglund possesses real enthusiasm about the show that rivals that of the (inevitably) somewhat nerdy audience. His self-deprecating remarks that imply his career is spiralling downwards are balanced out by his achievements outside of the mainstream, and it's clear that stand-up is his true calling.
Like the new X-Files feature film, this show doesn't require in-depth knowledge of the series to enjoy it, though unlike the film it won't bore the majority of the audience (plus Billy Connolly isn't in it). Haglund's breakdown of an archetypical X-Files episode into its component sections is fairly accurate and general enough to avoid alienation, and with this loose agenda of structured events set in place, the actions are left entirely to the whims of the audience and Haglund's quick responses. Not every suggestion is going to be comedy gold, and not every audience participant as amusing as the last, but Haglund remains firmly in control to ensure the laughs, his instantaneous reactions being particularly impressive and avoiding repetition.
The set moves through different mediums of improvised comedy, all of which smack distinctly of 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' as selected audience members supply sound effects, limb manipulation and non-sequitur punchlines pulled from the pile of suggestions written by the audience at the start, making this a varied hour that's constantly in motion. It's clear that Haglund has performed this show to perfection in previous years, and it would be interesting to return and see just how different it manages to be with a new crowd of creative idiots on the other side of the microphone.
'X-Files Improv with Dean Haglund' is on at the Underbelly's Baby Belly at the bottom of Niddry Street, from 31st July to 17th August 2008 at 5:40pm, lasting one hour. Tickets cost £10 - £11 (£9 - £10 concessions).
Edinburgh and West End sell-out returns. Haglund, who played geek Langly in nine series of the cult show, improvises a new episode nightly!