John Thompson

Review: Tom Stade: What Year Was That? – Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

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Tom Stade

Tom Stade is a comic who simply won’t pull his punches. We discover this first-hand when he breaks from his stoner drawl to bark, ‘You’re not fucking sexy!’ at an unimpressed woman who informs him he ‘isn’t funny’ on her way out, 20 minutes into his set. Side-splittingly funny and offensive in equal measure, Stade, contrary to what this example might suggest, is anything but low-brow.

Certainly not for the faint hearted Stade, exuding Hollywood cool, starts slowly. Kicking off with some decent audience interaction seemingly designed to warm him up as much as the audience, we got started on our journey with Stade and his old Chinese buddy ‘Heroin Jimmy’ (a teen plucked at random from the audience).

Jimmy is used as a reference point throughout the show and the seemingly random stories and topics are moulded into some kind of a narrative arc through him, as Stade paints a picture of an epic friendship between the two.

In truth I didn’t think the first half was up to much. His early material, focusing on the first settlers in Canada being from Scotland (and predictable comparisons with Canada’s noisy neighbours), felt a little laugh-lite and made his more offensive material a little harder to smile at. A routine about Scotland’s failure to capitalise on their groundbreaking inventions was nevertheless excellently received.

However, in the second half Stade brought things back round admirably and proved why he is one of the most respected acts on the circuit – and far more than a handsome face with a foul mouth.

Brazenly taking on African poverty, AIDS, paedophiles and terrorism in the second half of his unflinching set, Stade got the crowd laughing and then wondering why.

Taking these prickly topics, he hands them to the audience in his own crass and occasionally silly way, leaving you wondering who’s really the bad person. Him or you for laughing?  It’s a similar trick to that of Brendon Burns in his 2007 show So I Suppose THIS Is Offensive Now, but Stade doesn’t quite pull it off with the same success.

The final fifteen minutes – a routine about what effect terrorism has had on our collective conscious – was easily one of the best conclusions to a set I’ve seen this year. Despite his bad boy reputation, this piece in particular is thought provoking, relatable and ultimately very funny.

But the show itself, from start to finish, is a bit of a mishmash. An often funny mishmash that’s good value, but What Year Was That? had the potential to be excellent.

3 Stars

Date of live review: Sunday 21st August 2011.