William Thompson

William Thompson

Finalist in the 2021 BBC New Comedy Award.
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© BBC/Remarkable TV

William Thompson: The Hand You're Dealt

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Middle-class comics can do a full hour about being a bit sad (to grossly oversimplfiy), while working-class comics like William Thompson can have a drug-dealer dad and throw away such a rich potential mine of stories in a couple of minutes, merely as background to a story about him being caught in a humiliating situation. 

The comic jokes that his dad’s trade makes him like ‘the son in Breaking Bad – for like Walter White Jr, Thompson has cerebral palsy. It’s essentially a hidden disability in his case, as he learned to compensate for it to avoid being bullied on the Northern Irish council estate where he grew up.

His condition is a through line for this show – which came it at just 45 minutes – as he contrasts the cynical British suspicion that any disabled person is somehow on the scrounge with the ‘follow your dreams, you’re amazing’ enthusiasm he gets from North Americans.

Worse, probably, is being patronised, and the stand-up has little time for able-bodied people getting offended on behalf of the disabled. That said, Beyoncé’s ‘spazz on that ass’ lyrics can be universally decried as ill-judged, at the very least. It sparks a chunk about ableist insults that Thompson has been subjected to, including a very harsh comment meant as banter on the dating apps.

It’s not a rant, just a story about an awkward exchange through which he hopes people might learn not to be so thoughtless. Because Thompson is a straightforward stand-up who seldom goes in for gimmicks – and indeed, when he signed off with a sentimental bit about wanting to do his adoptive mother proud, it didn’t quite feel in keeping with the rest of his no-nonsense style.

But that clubby style does mean his collection of anecdotes doesn’t gel into something that feels substantial, as he whizzes through broad topics including a laddish forfeit game, faked orgasms and sexting.

There’s a bit about growing up in Northern Ireland as a protestant – but no Monarchist – that also speaks to English ignorance of the province's history, despite their rather significant role in shaping it. But it’s a glancing comment, not too political.

With a fluid, natural delivery, he’s a better performer than his material. He’s a bit camp thanks to his warm, liberal adoptive mum, and a bit rough around the edges because of that blunt-talking and rather homophobic dad. It’s a potent combination that makes him very easy to listen to, but he needs just a bit more to say.

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Published: 27 Aug 2023

Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Pure Dying


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