If, like myself, you are a regular attendee of Melbourne comedy rooms you will have at some point encountered the routines of one Toby Halligan, a razor-witted comic with a topical turn of mind and an appetite for the political. He is one of the conspirators behind monthly political comedy room, Political Asylum and also writer for Channel Ten’s ‘The Project’ so comes with plenty of comedy credentials behind him.
The room in which the show is performed is sparsely decorated in minimalist black with a large portrait of beloved leader Tony Abbott resting on the floor, centre stage, so when Halligan appears it comes as a bit of a surprise to find that this is not just a show focussed around every comic’s favourite political punchline. It is even more surprising when Halligan expresses a certain amount of sympathy for our Prime Minister.
Halligan begins by pondering a question which is most appropriate in the current political climate in this country – specifically, ‘What does it mean to be Australian?’
Identity is at the heart of Halligan’s show as he briefly ponders his recent relationship break-up and the ensuing conversations he had with friends. We are taken through the process of having to get back out into the gay dating scene in a world of GRINDR and SCRUFF. Along the way Toby ponders his own attitudes to meeting people and relating to them – particularly his own Mother with whom he reveals he recently had a conversation about the use of amyl nitrate.
We hear how his upbringing in Canberra (a place with very little to get up to) and nerdy pastimes at school (he likes chess) perhaps led to the development of his initial awkwardness. This appears to melt away when he is on stage, thankfully, and his audience can be certain of forthright proclamations on topics as diverse as celebrity endorsements of public transport, revealing inappropriate facts about animals and how it is impossible for any politician to be completely honest.
So, we are brought full-circle and return to the true meaning of what it is to be Australian via Clive palmer and his dinosaurs.
Halligan is an energetic and impassioned comedian whose delivery style veers from innocent curiosity to full rant sometimes within the same sentence. But there is always a genuine warmth and playfulness to his material which prevents it becoming uncomfortable. Halligan appreciates the value of a well-placed expletive, not using them merely for shock value or to compensate for a poor vocabulary, but as a form of emphasis.
Tobylerone is playing at Upstairs at Errol’s in North Melbourne until September 26th.