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Tom Rhodes: Colossus

Note: This review is from 2014

Review by Julia Chamberlain

OK, that title is tantamount to calling yourself a Titan of Comedy, a giant, a god, but if your name is actually Rhodes, I guess you’re allowed a go without the notion of hubris being floated out there.

Mercifully, Tom Rhodes is very good. What is it that gives Americans such an edge in standup? They seem to have been born with a mic in their hand, fathomless confidence and unforced swagger. He convinces you that you’re in the presenc … Beaming, relaxed, loud. The stage is set, beautifully, before his entrance, the stage inky dark with a narrow, intense spot focused on the head of the microphone, it gives a sense of anticipation, concentration, ‘this is where it’s going to happen’ – it’s a trick used at the London Comedy Store and probably more than a few other places, because it works, you can’t wait to see who is going to step into the light.

He didn’t disappoint. He played the Wine Bar at the Gilded Balloon like a 400-seater, a clubby, headlining set of anecdote and interaction, good-natured and disarming. There was a small crowd who obviously have watched him on YouTube and are already fans, as he didn’t need to spend a second winning the audience over, they were keen to see him live and there a trio of Glasgwegians who were just plain delighted to be in the presence and to mess with him, constructively. Their obvious enjoyment of the night certainly helped to amplify if for the rest of the crowd.

He’s cited as edgy and transgressive, cynical, but meh, he was more fun and less hard work than that would suggest. There are a couple of humble-bragging stories – being heckled to death at Late and Live when called upon to headline and staying away for 15 years. Several times he said ‘I’ve always wanted to do the Edinburgh Festival’ well he’s had a very successful 30 year career without it, so you have to wonder what impossible hurdles prevented him, given the thousands of comedy herberts that have given it a go in that time with far less expectation of success.

He made affectionate swipes at Christianity, the American practice of it more than the concept, tackled racism, disfigurement, what future nostalgia might consist of. He’d obviously done his homework and got a UK set worked out – his cockney accents conjured the memory of Dick van Dyke, and his passing acquaintance with Glasgow gangsterhood found a counterpart in US culture. He made a polished show that would have reverberated round the building with a bigger audience, which will surely come, but some of the observations and routines were clearly of the greatest hits of the last decade variety, not a lot of it felt fresh as new paint, and the one very new joke was an acknowledged clunker.

Rhodes is a consummate professional, assured, entertaining, in touch with the audience. Utterly convincing in his performance, the best parts of the set were the most personal (so often the case) talking about his religious, Argentinian mom or his crumbling relationships in the Netherlands. It’s a truism I guess that this show will thrive as the audience builds (wouldn’t everybody’s?) but if you like your comedy as super-slick standup, this show is definitely worth paying a visit to.

Review date: 2 Aug 2014
Reviewed by: Julia Chamberlain
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Teviot

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