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Tom Stade: What Year Was That?

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Corry Shaw

This is not comedy for the fragile or easily offended. Tom Stade is a bad boy of comedy, pushing the limits of taste and acceptability. He’s an act where a simple pull back and reveal gag will lead to something more desperately dark than you can imagine. But my God does he do it well.

Stade fashions himself as a rock n roll star, dressed all in black with the mic technique of a rapper rather than a stand up, he uses expletives like most people use punctuation. He revels in splitting his audience and seems to push for groans and stunned silences – but he always manages to hold on to at least half of the crowd with his superb writing and domineering stage presence.

He has come up with a incredibly simple and effective concept for this hour. Rather than crowbarring stories around a theme he has built a theme to suit his random observations. Very early on, Stade selects a member of the audience as his sidekick, Jimmy. He claims to have met when Jimmy was a small Chinese boy, he frequently asks this new co-star to verify what years his various stories took place in. Ridiculous? Yes, but it gives him an ally in the audience. Stade’s topics are unbelievable and shocking and this independent verification just adds to the hilarity when they are presented as true.

That said, for some of his more offensive punchlines, Stade does have to remind a section of the audience who are now silent and in some cases even angry that this is a comedy show. ‘Why did you have to wipe your dick off on the Bible, Tom?’ he berates himself, accepting that maybe he has gone too far, then unapologetically yells ‘because it was imaginary!’

With gags about 'handicaps', seal hunting, poverty, starving African children dying of Aids and suicide bombers, all of which are handled in the most glib way imaginable, it does prove too much for some, and there are walkouts. They have no idea what they have missed. Yes, the topics are emotive and Stade – who co-wrote Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights – handles them with the delicacy of a steamroller. But he is taking them to such an extreme it should be clear that he is making a point with his boundary-pushing comedy.

There is not one gag in this whole hour that isn't brilliantly written and incredibly funny. The 'victims' in his joke are painted in a sympathetic way, whereas Stade’s own behaviour and thoughts tend to be the things that are lambasted.

Stade really needs an audience that gets this for the hour to flow, but it does add a frisson of excitement when they don’t, with half the crowd in stitches and the other half sitting uncomfortably and wondering why on earth people are laughing. I got tutted at by the people in front of me for laughing at a gag about a Tamagotchi outliving an African orphan. In my defence, it is one of the most beautifully constructed jokes I've ever heard.

Stade is never going to please everyone with his comedy, it is doubtful he'll ever be asked on to the Royal Variety Show, more’s the pity, but if you want an hour that you'll remember from 2011 you could do a hell of a lot worse than this.

Review date: 12 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Corry Shaw

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