Toby Halligan -Toby, Or Not Toby

By Lisa Clark Toby Halligan

In a festival full of funny stories, sketches and silliness that rarely refer to current events because they have to last a long time (& often through several festivals) it’s great to enjoy a shared experience about our shared experience in the Zeitgeist and the news that bombards us every day. Toby Halligan is able to bring that for us, even with, for example, Trump material he may have been doing months ago, it’s not hard for Toby to touch it up with something Trump may have done today or this week. Unsurprisingly there is quite a bit of Trump Material.

Trump keeps popping up throughout the show like an evil gonk doll in a trashy horror film. It’s not really surprising, there is a lot of humour to be found in the Trump horror show and Toby manages to give his own fresh take on this ever spewing source of comedy material. His erotic fan fiction tends to get more “ewwws” than guffaws as it is a bit hard to take but adds a nice vicious edge to a show that tends to poke rather than skewer and fits in with the late night time slot.

Otherwise there is also plenty to say about local news items, I particularly loved his routine about the hilariously mindboggling behaviour of Rugby League players, and Toby is able to quip on up to the minute political exploits. I have seen Toby perform brilliantly as an integral part of Melbourne’s monthly political comedy night Political Asylum (how many cities in the world have a regular comedy gig devoted to skewering politics?) Its heart-warming to know that Rod Quantock has other comedians as passionate, (if not quite as dangerous) as he, to follow in his red ragging footsteps.

Toby also gives us some tales from his personal life, about how he was pranked by the elderly when working with them and how useful it is that he can blend in with heterosexuals because of his straight appearing “manoflage”. Toby doesn’t really use his being gay as part of his stand up but he does reflect on being a minority throughout the show and as outsider of sorts he can’t help but see the mundane world through the prism of his homosexuality; And that there, is pretty much what defines most great comedians. Outsiders who can surprise us with their unique take on the world. So Toby’s compulsion to jeer at politics is totally unsurprising.

The structure felt a bit random and lacking in flow, though the surprise (un)musical interlude is a whacky touch and might suggest that randomness is what Toby is going for. He also seems to be holding back a little in selling his material at full force. There’s some top jokes there and they deserve all of Toby’s personality. But considering that this is a preview night in front of friends and reviewers, nerves are no doubt coming into play. With a bit of tweaking and more confidence in his material, these things will be smoothed over and the talented Toby I’ve seen hold a huge crowd in his hand will get into his groove.

If you are looking for some comedy with a bit of depth and (left leaning) politics in a genial atmosphere at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Toby, Or Not Toby by the personable Toby Halligan would be an excellent choice.

Toby, or Not Toby is on at the Imperial Hotel until April 2

Visit the Comedy Festival website for full details