Tom Gleeson: Ginger Ninja
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2005
Tom Gleeson returns to Edinburgh after sellout shows at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, Sydney Opera House and Montreal. The star of Paramount's Skithouse debuts his show Ginger Ninja
Tom Gleeson is clearly a comic with experience, talent and a high profile back home in Australia. Unfortunately, his Edinburgh offering this year never seems to be fully realised and appears to be substantially padded out with mediocre, off-topic routines.
Gleeson is interested in nicknames and has developed a formula that all the best should adhere to. He applies this rule to nicknames provided to him from his audience, outlines the best ones he has ever heard and engages the audience in a perpetual challenge to guess his own, personally loathed nickname (which is nowhere near as obvious as it may seem).
There is potential in this premise and, especially when listing the reasons for his favourites, there is an undeniable talent for comic writing on display. The very best on this list are explained with such eloquence and surprise that it is a genuine disappointment when the middle and end of the show fail to match up to the strength of its beginning.
To help the audience’ guess his own nickname, Gleeson delivers routines about people he has known in the past. However, he also relates half-baked stories about things that have occurred since he arrived in Edinburgh, as well as in previous shows. Although the ideas behind these stories – such as him terrorising the loud show performing next door – are often funny in themselves, Gleeson just has not had the opportunity to fully develop them into actual routines.
The more pre-planned efforts – such as a tale about a classmate nearly driven to suicide by his nickname – are substantially more entertaining and relevant. Gleeson is a pleasant man to be around, often driven by a seemingly uncontrollable prankster’s urge, but at times he is simply being carried along by this amiability rather than the strength of his own material.
This is all extremely disappointing then, as I had high hopes, that were only briefly and sporadically satisfied. But there is just not enough substance in the show to hold undivided interest, and it seems like a genuine comic talent is being wasted here.