Review: A Tom Gleeson gig is one hour of uncompromising, feel-good laughs

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Review: A Tom Gleeson gig is one hour of uncompromising, feel-good laughs

Words by Alexander Crowden


With minimum fanfare, Tom Gleeson strolls on stage to begin the show – no music, nor announcements. He wastes no time on gimmicks and gets right down to business. Something you can afford to do when you’re as talented a comedian as Tom Gleeson is.

Lighten Up was, like most shows at this year’s festival, meant to be Gleeson’s 2020 Melbourne International Comedy Festival show. But as we all know, something got in the way. Gleeson told everyone that the show began at Adelaide Fringe in 2020 but was suddenly halted, with him having seven months off, before resuming in Darwin of all places.

In fact, a lot of the show’s content explored the trials and tribulations, delays and resumptions of the Lighten Up tour. So much so, it’s hard to imagine what the guts of the show that debuted in Adelaide over a year ago would’ve been.

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Something that likely would’ve been included in Adelaide was Gleeson telling the audience how, after years of going, he was sick of paying 10k to go to Bali just to shit himself every time from ‘Bali belly’. He meditated on how nuts it is that people still go there when it has a literal stomach bug named after it – they just accept it as part of the transaction.

“If you were going to buy a motorbike you wouldn’t get one if it also made you sick – a little ‘Honda hurl’ would you?” he quipped.

Instead, in early 2020 he took his family to Singapore, a destination he regrets, as while it’s nice, according to Gleeson it’s just a little “too clean” and “devoid of character”. If he’d known it was going to be his last overseas holiday for a few years, he would’ve chosen differently.

During a day spent at the beach with his wife, his children made a crossbow and a bow and arrow in the kids club. They were so proud they asked Gleeson if they could take them home. Upon arriving back in Australia, a customs officer asked if she knew Gleeson, and when he said he hosted Hard Quiz, she said she loved that show and asked if he had anything to declare.

Tom responded that he had “some wooden weapons from Asia” and she paused, laughed and said, “I can never take you seriously, off you go”, letting him through. Gleeson said the verbal transaction had him consider strapping 10kg of heroin to his body the next time he flies back into Australia.

During his seven months without live gigs, Gleeson and his family spent time in Byron Bay while Victoria went through its long, long lockdown. He claimed it was the best place to be, because when the vaccine arrived, he’d be the only one in town lining up for it!

Noting the few empty seats at The Comedy Theatre, Gleeson made jokes about his career having peaked after his gold Logie, that we were seeing him just after his peak, “on a not quite sold-out Tuesday”. The self-deprecating remark referring to MICF’s cheap ticket night was met with a great response.

The audience itself was a mixed bag demographically speaking. Among young people were middle-aged punters and, of course, boomers. If you’ve only ever seen him on TV, it’s worth noting that Gleeson swears a fair bit. In fact, after one expletive-laden punchline, the lady in the next seat exclaimed “oh, Thomas Gleeson” like she was his mum, all the while trying to hold back laughter.

That’s exactly what this Gleeson gig is like: an hour of laughing. Or if you’re well-mannered, trying to hold it back.

Lighten Up is showing from now until to Sunday April 18 as part of Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets available here.