When Tom Gleeson starts to run away with his imagination, he tends to drag the audience along with him. With his highly expressive face and spontaneous bouts of shouting, Gleeson performs his delivery in true, Gleesonian style, morphing hotel room advisory signs into slam-poetry performances, explaining how his wife is still his ‘favourite album’ and lamenting that he has never been ‘vagina-slappingly funny’ (a bit that, within context, remains just as bizarre).
Born in rural New South Wales, Tom Gleeson went to the University of Sydney and graduated with Bachelor of Science. Despite the academic undertaking, it was here that Gleeson met Andrew O’Keefe, Sarah Kendall and a number of others who would become successful in Australian media. Gleeson started doing comedy and TV spots full time, but he cites a tour in Afghanistan performing for the troops as a huge boon for his career. In an interview for the Sydney Morning Herald, Gleeson explained that doing comedy for Australian soldiers made dealing with hecklers back home no problem at all. It’s this candid confidence that audiences love so much, which he has also brought to his current spot on The Weekly with Charlie Pickering where he interviews controversial figures in Australian media.
Early on in his unabashedly titled Tom Gleeson: Great at the Comedy Theatre, the seasoned comedian pointed out hypocrisies in a common complaint from his wife. He explained that, while out doing shows and travelling around the country, she’s at home alone in a small town with their two young kids and she says she feels isolated. Yet when he comes home to see her, she can hardly take a few minutes to talk to him because she’s always on her phone. Imitating her, Gleeson interspersed the refrain ‘I just feel so isolated’ with texting, checking Instagram and calling her mum, all before her husband has even managed to say anything.
Gleeson seems to relish in pointing out the little ironies and oddities in modern life. Championing the Uber service, Gleeson said he couldn’t wait for the taxi industry fall to pieces—he emphasised his point by suggesting the audience call an Uber from a bay of taxis, just to rub it in their faces. He also continued to lampoon ubiquitous smart phone usage by demonstrating how using a phone in a dark, indoor area casts a footlight on the dumb, slack-jawed expression on the phone-user’s face. He made this crack before stating he and his wife have a rule about not using smart phones when they’re out at restaurants, even if there’s little else to say after 20 years of marriage.
Despite the goofy, light-hearted nature of Gleeson’s material, he’s an incisive and observant comedian whose funniest gags usually have a point to them. Are we really so isolated if we have an internet connection? Should we, every now and then, just ‘stare into the middle of the distance’ while we’re waiting for a tram? Slip these nuggets of thought into a show that also includes relentless mockery of a hotel managed by his parents and Tom Gleeson’s show lives up to its title.
Check it out at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre April 15 and 16.