Nina Haysler writes an exclusive review of Tom Gleeson’s show, Quality, as part of the Canberra Comedy Festival.
This Wednesday Tom Gleeson, the red-head-yet-now-fairly-hairless comedian blessed the ANU Arts Centre with his new Quality show. Gleeson was quick to make fun of the fact that the Arts Centre is a venue with no parking and no aircon, yet it created a good atmosphere for what really was a top quality show.
The Canberra Comedy Festival has brought the top Australian comics to the great Capital and, of course, Gleeson’s show started with some jokes about our planned-city. When he asked how many public servants were in the room it felt like half of the audience clapped their hands. Gleeson, with the quickest of wits, then remarked how it was silly that he paid taxes to pay the public servants and then they made up such a high proportion of his shows. Instead, he declared, public servants should be able to see his shows for free and he shouldn’t have to pay tax. “Cutting out the middle man”, Gleeson stated. It’s at moments like this when Gleeson is at his best.
It’s always interesting when comedians add a political element to their shows. Gleeson’s performance had an Orwellian tinge to it. He repeated the phrase “stupid ideas thrive when they are not spoken about” numerous times throughout the night. However, instead of utilizing it as a means of promoting political agency, Gleeson used it as an excuse for Abbott Bashing. Abbott Bashing can be a very fun activity, however, it is also an easy feat for any individual who keeps up with regular current affairs. In fact, the Western Australian Senator Scott Ludlum’s “welcome speech” to Abbott in the Senate contained much more subtle and effective humour.
Self-deprecation provides most comics with a big proportion of their material. At moments Gleeson had the balance down pat. Yet at other times the audience was faced with a few awkward tug-at-the-neck-collar moments. The second half of the show dragged down a few notches when Gleeson made repeated remarks and half-jokes about his alcoholism. No-one doubts that we live in a nation that is proud to be drinkers of alcohol. In fact we have drinking songs based around being “true blue”. A few jokes about drinking and alcoholism can produce a laugh. Gleeson, however, repeatedly kept on trying to make his alcoholism seem funny when in reality it was just sad.
Some of the funniest parts of the show were when Gleeson made casual comments about our increasingly indulgent society. His comments about café etiquette had me laughing in an oh-my-goodness-that-is-so-funny-because-it-is-so-true sort of way. You realise that it is silly to call avocado on toast “paddock-to-plate”.
Going to a comedy show is always refreshing. It is awesome to be in a room of laughs that vary from a low chuckle to a kookaburras screech. When you come out of the theatre at the end of a show with a smile on your face you know that it has been a fun, quality night of comedy.