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Adelaide Fringe '18 Review: Tom Gleeson - Sure Thing


Adelaide Fringe '18 Review: Tom Gleeson - Sure Thing

Paul Maland

Tom Gleeson's 2018 show is an expert demonstration of what it means to be an Australian stand-up.


In the circular, coliseum-like layout of The Vegabond stage at The Adelaide Fringe, comedians battle it out in an attempt to win your cheers. After building up his new-found "ABC demographic" fame, Tom Gleeson took to the stage with gloves up and ready-to-go. 

A comedian who can deliver a tightly executed set, with the timing just right, and the pay-offs justifying the tangents you'll go down, is in high demand. A comedian who can do that, plus stave-off hecklers with quick-wit and improvisational skills fit for Whose Line Is It Anyway in its heyday is a guaranteed sell-out — just leave it for drunken hecklers to point out. 

Since finding a permanent home on ABC TV with Hard Quiz before his much-loved viral segment Hard Chat on The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, Tom Gleeson has returned to regular Australian T.V. and social media feeds alike with his shareable brand of confronting yet laid-back comedy. 

Gleeson's set opened up with acknowledgement of two seats missing from the front row, inviting the most vocal to come down and fill it. In the interim, Gleeson started some crowd-work, having a chat to Ron from Dover Gardens. Ron, the typical demographic for ABC T.V., as Gleeson mentioned, was older in age, and had the style of delivery that meant his suburb was explained as "DOVAGHADANS!".

Gleeson worked with Ron for a few minutes, before pointing back to the fact the front two seats still weren't filled by the women offering at the back. In all likelihood, it was potentially a nod to the Take A Seat For Karen movement, a tribute by Adelaide Comedy to a dearly departed stand-up comedy fan who often took two seats with her husband in the front and second rows.

Gleeson went on to face a few vocal lads at the back, interrupting the show to ask such driving questions as "Are you really a ginger?". A deadpan "Yes." highlighted the idiocy of the interruption, and had the crowd in stitches. Gleeson used the opportunity to demonstrate the importance of timing in comedy, and how the punter had failed to utilize gaps in the set to inject a witty comment, by putting in a few of his own.

After a set touching on, like many comedians his age, fatherhood, family, television fame, travel and cockfights, Gleeson had cemented his place in The Garden of Unearthly Delights. A few years prior, Gleeson was in a lull in his fame, having been a few years since his appearances on Rove Live or Skithouse, and sparingly making appearances on various other shows following.

His sets usually took place in the smaller (though legendary) surroundings of the Rhino Room. Often selling out, but never quite reaching the audience the Garden offers. Now, after returning to television and newsfeeds across the country, Tom Gleeson is truly in command.

While the demographics of ABC T.V. means he usually gets asked by old men in line at the grocery store if he knows someone from Tununda, it's lead Gleeson into the spotlight once more to prove his skills to bigger crowds. 

Gleeson, like any Australian comedian worth their salt, acknowledged the political insanity of the likes of Barnaby Joyce and the marriage equality vote, by putting his own vulgar spin on the situation. Gleeson also used the opportunity to point out that his newly re-found fame, The Fringe, and the State Election all coinciding means that there's now even more posters of white middle-aged men plastered about the place, a hilarious and self-aware observation on the eve of International Women's Day. 

Gleeson wrapped up the set with a Q&A session, where the audience were invited to point out any inaccuracies they think they might have spotted in the show. This provided an excellent opportunity for Gleeson to demonstrate his razor-sharp wit and impeccable timing, while offering the crowd a set of unique, tailor crafted material that only competent crowd-work can offer. 

If you want to see a stand-up comedian whose been around the media circuit for over a decade, and has the material developed to match, Tom Gleeson is a Sure Thing to have you in stitches. 

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Not surprisingly, almost all of Gleeson's upcoming shows are sold-out, however he's added second shows on the Saturday and Sunday which are available at The Adelaide Fringe website

Images via Adelaide Fringe, ABC.