Master of the deadpan, harsh host of Hard Quiz, and heartless interrogator on Hard Chat, making audiences squirm as much as his victims – Tom Gleeson uses blunt-force trauma as his comedy schtick.
So it’s almost unsettling to see him almost skip onto stage backdropped by a sunny field of golden canola flowers and a blue, blue sky, with a big smile on his face and a bounce in his step.
Should we be nervous? Is this just a trick to reel us in? Apparently not, as the happy family man persona persists and we all start to relax. Seems Mr Jeckyll is here for the duration. Maybe this is what Lighten Up refers to?
Gleeson was half-way through a stand-up tour of Lighten Up last year when Covid Cancelled Everything (he was actually at the Adelaide Fringe, where he won Best Comedy award), and he picks up from this point, bringing us up to speed on what he’s been doing. Drinking and motorbikes get a big rap, as do memories of overseas travel.
He escaped for a while to Byron Bay, which he figured would have the shortest vaccination queues, and his accounts of how well he fitted in there – or not – are hysterically spot on. Gleeson has found some firm footing on the line between self-deprecation, ego and cool self-acceptance, and can find material and laughs from every angle.
His shared stories of home life, family holidays, bad habits and dodgy dealings offer a sense of intimacy, and Gleeson draws in the audience even more with a silly section towards the end when he invites people to call ‘bullshit’ on any stories they felt weren’t true. It’s a clever idea, getting the audience involved, filling a fun 10 minutes and allowing him to ad-lib, when his quick wit and experience really shine through.
Then, when the audience is fully on board, he goes for the big shot – a call to arms that you’ll have to see the show to hear about.
At full flight Gleeson is magnificent: in control, firing off sparks, and confidently mixing up rehearsed material with new ideas. He’s at the top of his game right now and a joy to watch, so get along before Mr Hyde returns.
A Token Event
Venue: Comedy Theatre | 240 Exhibition Street, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 25 March – 18 April 2021
Tickets: $35 – $54.90