NZ International Comedy Festival: Tom Wrigglesworth - review
The Herald Theatre
Tuesday 6 May, 2014
It’s hard not to like Tom Wrigglesworth, who starts his stand-up show by playing an audio recording of himself as a six year old in the early 1980s, interviewing his grandfather about what it’s like to be old.
His granddad was likeable too, a blue collar man, always dressed in a suit, thoughtful and kind. Their relationship is the narrative that drives the show, although like so many narrative devices in stand-up, it was a pretty loose framework on which to hang jokes and stories.
It’s a strange time to be doing a stand-up comedy show, 9pm on a weeknight. There are parts of the world where that would not be a strange time, but Auckland is not one of them. It gave the show a strange feeling. The show had a strange feeling anyway, with Wrigglesworth’s nostalgia-evoking set and moustache.
The illusion of spontaneity is a big thing in stand-up. So much of Wrigglesworth’s show felt heavily rehearsed, like he was doing a play. Vulnerability was what drove the narrative about him and his grandfather, but he had worked so hard on his delivery, he had stripped the vulnerability from his stage persona. His precision delivery also put pressure on punchlines to be better than they might otherwise need to be. Big laughs were rare.
Early in the show, his headset microphone cut in and out a few times. It only lasted a split second each time, but he always dealt with it perfectly, acknowledging it, joking about it, not letting it fuck things up. Eventually, he asked the technician to get him the backup mike. It took a couple of minutes and, for those couple of minutes, he stepped outside his narrative. He riffed with the audience about the microphone situation. It was probably the best couple of minutes in the show, and the funniest. You felt that anything could happen.
Eventually, the technician yelled out that the backup mike wasn’t working either. Oh, life! Wrigglesworth went back to the script. The microphone didn’t cut out again.