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Comedy review: Tom Rhodes

Apr 30, 2013 Theatre

NZ International Comedy Festival

The Classic
April 30, 2013

It was hard to grasp what was wrong with Tom Rhodes early in last night’s show at The Classic. He is both a compulsive microphone wobbler and a jiggler. He looks like he has ADHD or a drug habit, maybe both, and that can be distracting. He’s also American and it was his first time here, and it felt like he was poking around, trying to find our sweet spot.

He was tossing out gags and non-sequiturs in the first couple of minutes last night, none of which were landing, and that gets you wondering about how painful the next hour will be because when you can’t laugh for an hour at a comedy show, you hurt.

But then he hit big with a gratuitous bit about hating Australians for finding sheep-fucking jokes funny, and a follow-up about how sexy he finds the pink bits of a freshly-shorn sheep. It was all timing and tone and it totally ripped those cocky Aussies a new one. From then on, he got steadily better, rising to a magnificent climax with a story of three-way sex, happiness and the Dalai Lama.

He has a smoke-hardened voice and a whatever-the-fuck demeanour, so it was endearing and funny to hear him tell several touchingly self-deprecating stories and to critique his own show as he went along.

He did a bit about the Boston bombings which was playing surprisingly well, then threw in a terrible flat line about Guy Fawkes – really bad. He was silent for a good while, still jiggling around the stage, clearly thinking, then he said: “That joke is in development.” He paused for a bit longer, adding: “I’ve got another fucked-up joke I wanted to tell here, but I’m going to push it to later in the set”, which he did, and it came off spectacularly.

He was always analysing and filing everything away, thinking hard about why jokes failed or succeeded, mentally building and improving his set for the next few nights. Often, like in the example above, he told us about it, but sometimes he would just stand there for a while and you could see it in his face, that he was re-running it, re-working it. He was never dying, only developing.

It was a lesson for stand-up, and also for life. After a slow start, he was very good. By the end of his run on Saturday week, after 11 shows here, my guess is that he will be excellent.


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