Tom Stade Review: Comedy that is far from staid

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Image courtesy of Lancaster Arts

Rock-n-roll comedian Tom Stade begins his 2017 tour on the back of a year away in Africa. The middle-aged Canadian is far from the usual age for jetting off on a gap year, but with his characteristic grey swagger he delivered fresh, new comedy to his Lancaster audience. He early on identifies three age groups: baby-boomers, the middle-aged and millennials, and no-one is safe from being the target of his often astringent comedy. Though personal stories about his family punctuate the performance, it isn’t one to bring the kids along to. The majority of Stade’s jokes circle back to the fairly pedestrian themes of relationships and technology, but not without characteristic detours down dark alleys where the best of his humour lurks, ensuring that his reception is far from staid.

“If you’ve got a moral compass, you should leave now!” Stade remarks twice – gesticulating the fire exits: a warning for the torrent of f-bombs and sexual innuendo he is about to let loose. Though the title of his tour provides an accurate ‘trigger-warning’ for a university, Stade’s comedy is hardly controversial to the ears of an audience scattered with his youngest age-category: the sandal-wearing young night-owl creature who wakes only to Snapchat the crude excitements in the lives of other sex-crazed, drugged up millennials – also the smartest of the three generations, apparently. His open-minded political views also run as subtle undercurrent to the whole routine and for the most part save it from being overly crass.

The barely 100- strong audience in Lancaster has to be one of Stade’s smallest, after previously performing this gig at the Edinburgh Fringe and earlier performances in his 20 year-long career having taken place at venues such as Live at the Apollo. Stade works this into his comedy, creating a personal connection with his audience, as he weaves spontaneous jokes about Lancaster’s ‘infamous Great Hall’ into the act. Stade is known for keen interaction with the public, as a man not at all encumbered by his notoriety in the comedy world. In ‘I Swear’, Stade bounces from person to person, asking them sometimes rhetorical and often personal questions to keep the flow of his professed ‘comedy river’ lively and engaging. Though his stories range from encounters with child soldiers in Mozambique, to his future grandchild despairing of his inability to use the newfangled forehead-chip to turn his stove on, it’s easy to keep up.

That is with the exception of one joke which falls flat, about his vegan daughter who encourages him to eat his vehemently-expressed nemesis: the brussell sprout – by covering them in cheese? This was met with confusion, but Stade launches into the next topic – possibly drugs, sex, or old people’s curtains, with ease and the misunderstanding doesn’t prove much of a dam to his comedy river.

The support act, another Canadian comedian: Nigel Lawrence also ensures that it is definitely worthwhile turning up to this gig on time. Lawrence delivers original material on pole dancing as an Olympic sport, and witticisms on English culture through a Canadian’s eyes. Having now performed ‘I Swear’ in five venues, the pair are due to take the tour to 19 more, including London’s Leicester Square Theatre and The Stand in Glasgow, as well as some more intimate localities such as Ilkley’s King’s Hall. Check out dates and venues at: http://tomstade.co.uk/live/