saints and sinners of the stage and screen
saints and sinners of the stage and screen
The Thom Tween Show
The Phoenix Artist Club
7th August 2014
Photography supplied by Thom Tween
From the opening gambit of a cot death joke, it is clear that Thom Tween hopes to aim for the bar set by the established "shockers" of recent years such as Jimmy Carr or Frankie Boyle. Unfortunately for him, while his rivals manage to get away with their offensiveness by creating a detached stage persona, Tween (seems to) pour a lot of himself into his act, which perhaps makes him a little too relatable to be truly sociopathic.
Tween's act moves through contemporary topics: atheism, Rolf Harris and his anti-child molestation song, learning how to chat up girls by learning from gay people, diet plans, and other ways the world's little problems annoy him. Not original topics, sure, but he does blend in anecdotes about his early life, losing his virginity (well, almost) and the unpredictability of the olfactory nature of performing oral sex... I warned you it was trying to shock. His strongest gags are the ones where he has a definite gripe with an idea, such as Mormonism, where the "marketing strategy" actually drove him towards Judaism, with some of those weird opening gambits coming back as effective running gags.
Also unlike Jimmy Carr, whose show attempts a populist, cleverly constructed barrage of witty one liners, Tween spends a lot more time on contemplation, some of which wouldn't be out of place in a straight monologue. Occasionally his tangential meanderings bring him to a great unexpected punchline, but we do sometimes just find ourselves at a comedic cul de sac. It would be good if all his stories ended as well as his funniest ones, because there were a couple of great moments where his hard work paid off and the story ended with a huge laugh.
He did check his notes once or twice, and there was a feeling of not having complete control of his act, but maybe - as he himself points out - it could all be a carefully planned part of the act. This is true of greats such as Stewart Lee, who will deliberately and purposefully unfold paper to read "quotes" but let's just say Tween is no Lee. Saying that, his outlook is strangely mature for someone out to offend - he makes sure to pronounce burka correctly, he apologises if the language is too much, he draws distinctions between cultural and religious stereotypes - very un-Frankie Boyle who doesn't give a damn what people think. This is good for his charm, which he seems in denial about, but less so for his chosen arm of humour. Although maybe he just needs to refine the delivery.
Overall, the "shock" factor seemed lost, but this is perhaps because we have been spoiled, saturated with the level of rudeness in comedy that, when done right, can be beautiful (sorry, but we can't help but mention Jerry Sadowitz again). Paedophile jokes, vagina jokes, dead baby jokes - they aren't really new, although can still be entertaining with the right twist. Perhaps the "angry atheist" side to this persona has the most potential - although that's been done to death by Robin Ince recently - who doesn't like watching an angry man really loose his rag over a no-alcohol diet plan? It may also provide a bit more pace, as the show was at risk of dragging.
To his credit, Tween also had a go at audience participation - always risky unless you know your crowd - and got someone up on stage for the room to judge whether or not he looked like a kiddy fiddler (the room were unanimous that he did). Probably one of the laziest, hackiest gags of the show, that still inexplicably got a laugh, probably based on the goodwill garnered earlier. If I were him, I'd drop it before Chortle see it because it's not going to win him any favours.
The shock factor may not be there as much as he's hoped, and the humour might play more to older men who are trying to stay young than... anyone else, but provided you can handle the discussion of the C-bomb in various British dialects, you can probably find something to enjoy in Thom Tween's trying-slightly-too-hard show.
The Thom Tween Show ran on 7th August and next runs on 10th August 2014 at the Phoenix Artist Club, as part of the Camden Fringe.
Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road (Northern, Central)