Dominic Frisby: Let's Talk About Tax | Review by Steve Bennett
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Dominic Frisby: Let's Talk About Tax

Note: This review is from 2016

Review by Steve Bennett

Some of the topics once considered the most unlikely sources of comedy are now regularly the inspirations for stand-up shows: mental illness, grief, feminist doctrine. Now Dominic Frisby has picked an even more unlikely topic: tax.

A comedian and voiceover artist, he’s also a MoneyWeek commentator on gold and commodities, a private investor in mining companies and an author of books on Bitcoin and State finances, the latter forming basis for much of this show.

Let’s Talk About Tax is, however, better described as a lecture than a show; and leans much more heavily on his economics knowledge than his comedic experience, even if that’s taught him vital communication skills. The stage is laid out in three sections; a soapbox on one side for polemic, a ‘joke mic’ on the other for pub-style gags about taxation, and a lectern in the centre containing his notes. The wall behind him is filled with charts and a wheel of fortune for one routine… and even that looks like a pie chart.

Frisby, who has more than a touch of the well-spoken Sir Humphrey-style civil servant about him, quickly identifies himself as a libertarian, establishing the whole monologue as essentially a call to reform the entire system of funding the state.

Interestingly, a straw poll at the start of the show revealed no one who thought they were paying too much tax – a bit of a blow to his arguments, though leftie Fringe audiences are no representation of the world at large, as any election will tell you.

The talk is leavened by a few some modestly entertaining digressions, such as some mild niggles about being stuck on hold to HMRC and the demands they sent out, but it’s more You And Yours than Live At The Apollo. Highlights are Frisby’s quirky, usually historic, facts about tax, from the beard tax to how the initial growth of Islam was pegged to tax breaks. And those lightbulb gags into the dedicated mic are kind-of amusing.

But these moments are secondary to his argument, the central point of which seems to be a good one. The replacement of income taxes with a land value tax seems equitable and impossible to cheat (‘the land’s in Britain, not the Cayman Islands’).

He also claims his system will make schools better and reduce the benefits bill, even though this isn’t explained very clearly through the swelling music and passionate rhetoric – though earlier he asserts that governments are inefficient and uninnovative, unlike the private sector, so maybe that’s the key. You know, like how the American health care system is so much cheaper and fairer than the NHS (sarcasm). And while we’re picking fault, his calculation that London house prices rise by £500 a day is off by a factor of five or so – as if that wasn’t unsustainable enough.

Let’s Talk About Tax is well-presented, and could make a decent TED talk, but it’s something of a stretch to pitch it as a comedy show, given how few laughs there are in it.

Review date: 9 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Teviot

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