Tom Gidman

Tom Gidman

Winner of the Chortle Student Comedy Awards 2016
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Tom & Ollie in Wasps

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett

Tom & Ollie might sound like an educational CBeebies animation, but in fact they are an inventive new sketch duo with a sackful of promise. 

They are physical mismatched pals Ollie Aston (short, round – think a much younger Ian Hislop) and Tim Gidman (very tall, angular), so they literally offer comedy that  works on two levels. Gidman won the Chortle Student Comedy Award last year, with the fact that he ‘won’t shut up about it’ proving a recurring point of tension between the pair. 

The payoff for this – Ollie’s attempts to put his pal in his place by writing the best sketch ever – is an anticlimax, but that’s atypical of an hour that’s full of imaginative, absurd twists in sketches very loosely based in reality.

Pace and style are kept varied, between longer skits and hit-and-run quickies spinning on a single non-sequitur or revelation exposing a mime for not being what you thought it was. These are dependable tricks, effectively executed. Likewise, faux charity appeals of the ‘for just £2 a month you could stop…’ are a pretty tired format for sketch, but the pair put their own swivel on it here.

Their biggest skill is in squishing language into new shapes, giving words peculiar rhythms or stresses, or flat-out inventing new ones, such as contrived, wonderfully awful portmanteaux, or casually deciding that ‘snozzed’ is the past participle of ‘snooze’.

This comes in probably the best sketch of the hour: a parody of an Apple-style keynote speech in which Gidman launches the technological marvel that is Magnify –  a magnifying glass to you and I – with the finest Silicon Valley hyperbole he can manage. Although  Aston’s postmodern philosopher François Fromage comes a close second, offering some thoughts that are as funny as they are surreal.

This is an ideas-driven show rather than a personality-driven one, which makes it a little harder to standout among other young studenty, middle-class male troupes despite the quality of the writing. Almost inevitably there’s some variation in that quality over the hour, but there are no outright duds. 

For Aston and Gidman are creative, witty sketchsmiths who know how to subvert a premise and manipulate the English language. And, crucially, when to milk a joke and when to get out quickly.

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Published: 28 Aug 2017

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