Tom Snyders: The Bicycling Comedian

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

At some point in the Eighties, American comic Tom Snyders decided to start travelling to all his gigs by bicycle – and this slightly idiosyncratic mode of transport soon became his selling point,.

This one-hour show takes the unconventional route of not actually relating tales from his bicycling travels, but showing slides he has taken on the road.  What we get is a funny, frightening and occasionally heartwarming illustration of American’s backroads, presented by an amiable and witty host.

Introducing the show’s premise, Snyders immediately proves to convey exactly the right amount of good humour and comic writing ability enwrapped in a self-deprecatory sensibility to warm himself to his audience.

Comments such as ‘I’ve always dreamed of playing the 2.45pm slot at the Gilded Balloon’ are fun without being arrogant, suggesting that – despite his extensive experience in the international comedy industry – Snyders still firmly has his feet on the ground.  This opening segment, and the very nice subsequent routine about survival techniques, allows the audience to put enough trust in their host for him to turn to a thirty-minute slideshow.

This slideshow is composed of funny road signs, shop signs, restaurant signs and pretty much any other kind of sign that one would encounter on a bike journey around America that lasted almost two decades.

It may sound a little tedious, but actually the photographs constantly have an ability to surprise – if not through their obviousness then in their complete irrelevance – accompanied by the witty commentary from Snyders, who clearly has a trained eye in spotting the ridiculous on the road. 

Together, these signs produce a certain image of a little represented part of America: the country behind the media image and glamour.  Some of the signs look like they could be taken directly from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, while others are chillingly  riddled with bullet holess. 

As Snyders says at the end: ‘I just saved you 18 years on the road’ and,   his portrait is so complete that he has probably has saved us some of  that time.

Just when you begin to think that Snyders is a one-trick pony, he finishes the show with a second slideshow that is almost the antithesis of the first. The audience are left with several images of what Snyders considers as beautiful things he has found out on the road.  To some extent it is a cheesy move – and he recognises it as such – but it is still a pleasant way to finish the show, and one as unexpected as any punchline.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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