Words by Kevin Hawkins
If you voted for either the Coalition or the Greens in the last federal election, chances are that you won’t appreciate all of Tom Gleeson’s comic material. With mic in hand and audience at his feet, Gleeson’s one-hour show Quality is an opportunity for him to speak about his political beliefs (and specifically his hate for Tony Abbott). And there’s nothing the audience can do about it.
Two things save Gleeson from crowd heckling and mid-show walkouts. The first is that his show is part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, a cultural event in arguably Australia’s most progressive left city. The second is that Gleeson is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Even if you’re ideologically opposed to some of his rants, it’s difficult not to appreciate his clever critiques of the government’s demand for a surplus or their lack of action on climate change, not to mention his caricature of Tony Abbott as a bumbling idiot.
While politics is a prominent theme of his set, Gleeson is smart enough not to limit himself to that arena. Gleeson speaks in depth about his experiences as a parent, and is brutally honest about his struggles with alcoholism and his sessions with his counsellor. Gleeson’s confessions may make some audience members a little uncomfortable; laughing at Gleeson’s expense has more than a little bit of schadenfreude to it. But Gleeson’s self-deprecating style and ability to read the audience means the show is more than just a sad AA meeting.
While converting his crowd into Labor supporters probably isn’t Gleeson’s intention, it wouldn’t be surprising if a few audience members leave the show with a few reservations about Tony Abbott, or a few question marks over the Greens. In doing so, Gleeson demonstrates how powerful comedy is as a persuasive tool. While my personal allegiance to Sir Tony was not shaken by Gleeson’s repertoire*, the quick-witted comedian nevertheless convinced me of his natural comedic talent. And for this reason I’d implore you to give him your vote.
*Disclaimer: Don’t worry. I didn’t actually vote for Tony Abbott.
Tom Gleeson’s Quality is on at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at the Melbourne Town Hall from April 10-20.