Like listening to a funny mate tell quality yarns with a wink, some heart and plenty of snark.
Image of Tom Gleeson via MICF.
Being a fan of Tom Gleeson’s clever, cutting (but fundamentally good natured) put-downs of willing TV victims on Hard Quiz and The Weekly’s Hard Chat segment, I was expecting some blood in the water at Sure Thing. So when he opened this Melbourne International Comedy Festival stand-up show by having a chat with an audience member, I was surprised how tamely it went.
There probably would have been blood if a brave heckler had tried to cross swords with this champion of ad lib and slightly scripted insults. For the most part, however, Gleeson only had it in for a few groups, institutions and the odd clueless, nameless individual out there in the world. By generously wrapping his little nuggets of social commentary with slightly smug, slightly self-deprecating comic anecdotes, and tying it all up with a touch of sincerity, he soon had the audience on side.
The very loose threads running through Sure Thing are family and society. Memorable tales included a two-parter involving his young son: first as a baby locked in a hotel room, then a few years later when he won’t go to bed. The link, and food for thought, is what Gleeson calls 'un-smacked adults': people who have grown up without corporal punishment. There are observations about the morality of sending kids to Catholic schools given the significant number of paedophile priests, and the wisdom of having airport security check his six-year-old daughter for explosives.
Some stories, such as convincing his wife to see Dunkirk, lacked substance, and others, including his misadventures in Bali, made those loose thematic threads sag. Indeed, Sure Thing seemed lazily put together at times, though the final minutes revealed some well considered plotting when Gleeson asked the audience to call out which bits they thought were untrue. The highlight of this short change of tack was a story from his childhood, about chooks and lice on the family farm – a pity it probably won’t come up every night.
That, and many other anecdotes got the audience laughing often. Like listening to a funny mate tell quality yarns with a wink, some heart and plenty of snark, Sure Thing is a good natured hour of genuine giggles.
Comedy Theatre until 19 April
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
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What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level