Tom Gleeson: Hard Quiz Live

Reviewed by Lisa Clark 

If you are a fan of Tom Gleeson, the TV show Hard Quiz or comedy quizzes generally why would you miss this?

Tom warms us up with fifteen minutes of quiz related standup talking about the quiz he was on, many years ago, that inspired him to create Hard Quiz, while also having deep digs at other quiz shows, Channel Ten, Ita Butrose and his ABC watching audience ie: us.

Once he’s won us over with his comedic insults, the lights are turned on so that audience members can put their hands up to be chosen as contestants. Tom gradually reveals the four Topics and picks out the most keen audience member to come up on stage and play. Unlike the television show where we are treated to some very obscure topics chosen by the contestants themselves, such as Bricks or The Human Eye, for the live show, the producers choose broader topics so that there’s bound to be someone in the audience with expert knowledge. Tonight’s topics were The Beatles, Princess Diana, Australian Prime Ministers and Seinfeld.

I can imagine how many audience members yell answers at the screen each week while watching Hard Quiz and dream about going on the show. The live version lets people have a go without having to apply or go on TV. We also get the experience of everyone in the audience saying the answers out loud and thus helping the contestants. Tom tells us off but it’s all part of the fun.

We are treated to what is basically a full live run of the wonderful, tightly produced half hour comedy quiz show complete with lit up podiums, a large screen for visuals and scoring, and the coveted Big Brass Mug displayed stage left.  Tom has some delightfully funny banter going back and forth between himself and the contestants, proving that  he doesn’t need a script to get great laughs. I love how delighted Tom is when his contestants ping insults back at him, like a proud Sensei.  We also got to see hilarious clips from the show and some fun behind the scenes as a bonus.

What more could you want, but a big musical finale? Tom is one of Australia’s top standup comedians and knows how to put on a crowd winning festival show. Take your quiz loving friends.

Hard Quiz Live is on at The Melbourne Town Hall until April 9. It will also be touring Australia.

Tom Gleeson : Lighten Up

By Dali Sulejmani-Blackwell

Many would recognise Tom Gleeson as the smart arse on Hard Quiz and to others, including Tracy Grimshaw, he is the man who pilfered the Gold Logie but here he is the brilliant stand up comedian. Gleeson’s show is unbridled with enthusiasm and goes through a range of personas, which at times has him behaving as a lawyer and others a firefighter.

Gleeson, who refers to himself as a drug trafficking scallywag, is a professed true-blue Aussie, with lines like “I chopped up that bit of road kill for me dogs”. Gleeson’s laconic nature has a knack with the audience, which at times makes you question if you are sitting comfortably at home. Gleeson’s Lighten Up is a one hour show but you won’t feel short changed, as his style treats the live audience more like a personal cabal rather than anything else.

Gleeson’s show is highly emotive at times with his use of tone and character changes. The only sour point of Lighten Up is that you are sure to think twice about having a lolly, but not for the reasons you may suspect. However Gleeson demonstrates why he is one of Australia’s comedic stars as his wit and ironic style shines through. Gleeson is sure to make you feel like a contestant on Hard Quiz with his impromptu questions and soothsaying demeanour. Ultimately, Gleeson will strive to make you comfortable throughout his own self deprecating ordeal. It is sure to be traumatic for Gleeson and entertainment for the viewer.

This is a performance that would be sorely missed at this year’s comedy festival, as the hiatus caused by Covid has certainly had no impact on Gleeson’s ability to be one of comedy’s finest.

Lighten Up is on at The Comedy Theatre until April 18

Tom Gleeson – Cheer Up

By Elyce Phillip Tom Gleeson - Cheer Up pic

Game show host and comedic sidekick Tom Gleeson returns to MICF this year with Cheer Up, a show presumably titled as a reminder to Gleeson once he wanders off-stage, because it certainly had nothing to do with the show’s content. It’s a meandering hour of twaddle, generously padded with audience banter that probably appeals to Gleeson’s fans, whoever they are.

I’d not been to one of Gleeson’s solo shows before because I am a fan of comedy. However, I crossed paths with this bloated thumb in a shirt on Hard Quiz – a show where he insults members of the public on the taxpayer’s dime – and as the saying goes, “Revenge is best served via a bitter, needlessly cruel review by a volunteer comedy critic on the internet”.

Hi, Tom. I know you’re reading this. It’s time to review you – HARD.

Gleeson’s brand of competent stand-up covers a lot of the usual topics. He’s got kids. They like annoying kids’ TV. He’s got a wife who thinks he’s boring. They argue sometimes. He owns whitegoods. Isn’t customer service crap? There’s nothing revelatory here. The final story is perhaps the most interesting thing in the show, and that’s probably because it relates a tale that Gleeson wasn’t even involved in.

The tone of the show is deadpan and vindictive. Most of the stories boil down to Gleeson hating someone or other. There’s an ease to his delivery, which makes sense. Gleeson has been doing this for a long time and is just continuing to do more of the same. He should be good at it by now. Instead, we get a laundry list of his grievances and a literal story about him watching laundry dry. Speaking of laundry, how about putting a little effort into your appearance, Tom? You look like you’re about to pop down to dad rock night at your local RSL to get yourself the cheapest possible parma and bob your egg-like conk to a bit of Steely Dan.

This show is the comedy equivalent of five-minute noodles. Sure, it looks like a meal, but it’s unsatisfying and there’s no effort put into it. If you’re into basic stand-up performed by a middle-aged man in dress jeans, go and see Cheer Up, I guess. You’d better be quick, though, as Gleeson is only bothering to do six shows, two of which he cranked out on the same day.

– Ed’s Note: Jeez Elyce, you lose once on Hard Quiz and all reviewer’s objectivity flies out the window….

Tom Gleeson – Cheer Up is on at the Comedy Theatre until April 22

Tom Gleeson

By Luke SimmonsTom Gleeson

With years of working in the Australian media and on the standup circuit, you know what you’re in for when you watch Tom Gleeson perform. A tightly written hour of brilliant standup comedy.

Gleeson got off on the right foot by warming up the crowd with some funny banter with the poor souls that made the rookie mistake of sitting in his line of sight at the front. He’s not afraid of starting with a little back and forth with the crowd as a way of reassuring everyone that he knows what he’s doing on the stage.

As he got into his show, he made it clear that family would be a key theme of his show with the announcement that he’d just added a new baby boy to his family.  When he’s not working in comedy, he’s clearly a dedicated family man and discussed slice-of-life issues almost everyone could relate to. He also brings his extended family into the mix and it’s worth the ticket price of the show alone, if you just sit through the riveting story relating to his mathematician brother.

He’s a gifted storyteller meaning that he’s able to set the scene, engaging the audience, before switching on his comic hat and finishing with the punchline. Be prepared for a bit of blue language in the mix which adds some power to his punchlines. He had the audience laughing throughout the hour long show so they didn’t seem to mind.

Tom Gleeson can sell a show with his name alone. He is a polished performer at the top of his game, and will no doubt continue to be a staple in the Australian comedy diet for years to come.

Tom Gleeson is performing in the Lower Town Hall until April 19

I love Green Guide Letters with Steele Saunders

By Lisa Clark

Let’s start with The Green Guide. It’s a weekly newspaper magazine about television, radio and technology and astronomy (for some inexplicable but delightful reason) but mostly about television in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper. The Letters to The Green Guide are from the public about television and radio, but mostly about television and mostly about ABC public television. I Love Green Guide Letters is a weekly podcast by Melbourne comedian Steele Saunders about the Green Guide Letters, which he loves, despite not watching many of the actual television shows that the letters are about. Steele usually has two comedian or celebrity guests on to discuss the letters with him and everyone has a lot of fun. The podcast has become very popular, even outside of Melbourne where they have no access to the Green Guide and this has a lot to do with the work Steele has put in to make it so much fun to listen to.

Steele has built a culture around the podcast of running gags about the Green Guide Letters and he has rules that his guests and listeners must obey; 1. Listeners will not send letters into the Green Guide just to have them read out on the podcast. 2. Steele will read the letters out in a high pitched, silly voice and 3. There is no talking allowed by guests during the reading of the letters. It helps add structure to what might otherwise be an excuse for comedians to get together and have a laugh and makes it feel like a special club.

This is the fourth time I’ve been to a live recording of I Love Green Guide Letters and they are always great fun, probably because everyone loves talking about television. The comedians not only have their own favourite shows to talk about but many have been on TV with their own fascinating behind the scenes experiences to share. They come on the podcast knowing that Steele is going to find some letters to read out about them or the shows they have been on. This can occasionally make for uncomfortable listening from some of the guests but he generally tries to find something nice as well as the usual negative letter. The guests for the first recorded episode of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival were Tom Gleeson, Pete Hellier and Dave Thornton and they worked well together.

If you are a fan of Steele’s podcast, then being in the audience at least once is a must, if only for the visual gags, like Pete’s framed gift for Steele apologising for his character being accidentally cut from the credit list at the end of the episode of It’s a Date that he was in and Pete and Tom’s stage whispering to each other in a huddle about Steele & Dave going on too much about the fun time they had together at the Meredith Music Festival. If you’ve never heard the podcast before this is a great chance to join in the fun and find out what it’s all about.

I love Green Guide Letters is on at the Swanston Hotel (note the venue change!) until April 19

Listen to I Love Green Guide Letters on iTunes or the website

Tom Gleeson’s Hello Bitches

By Luke Simmons

Tom Gleeson has been the staple in the Australian comedy diet throughout the last 10 years and this night’s performance demonstrated that he’s currently on the top of his game.  Rather than calling his show Hello Bitches, he could easily have called it, “I’m getting old!!!”

The night started with a lengthy and entertaining session of banter with the crowd.   Many performers would not choose to open with this, but Gleeson’s a quick thinker and turned even the most mundane of nuggets of crowd input into laughs.

Without a hint of jealousy, he started by targeting hipsters who have the audacity to wear their hair long on top – when he’s clearly a bit patchy in that area.  To Gleeson’s credit, he’s able to take the piss out of his aging body and sexual prowess (or lack thereof) in a charming sort of way.

Anyone who can draw a parallel between changing nappies and strippers without drawing groans is to be commended.  And a certain DIY technique that some strippers (perhaps) perform on themselves proved to bring out the loudest laughs throughout the show.

Things then got a bit philosophical as he outlined his views of the afterlife (see: none) and how much he loves the church (see: sarcasm).  He presents his case from a logical viewpoint and, based on the crowd reaction, he had everyone except for one on his side.  Yes, there was a solitary walk out when he took aim at Christianity.  Their loss.

After a pseudo ending, he returned to the stage for a long and disjointed feedback session with the crowd.  Sensing the quietness in the air, he then closed strongly with an agonising tale about his baby’s immunisation.

For the vast majority of the show, Gleeson had the audience laughing at volume.  Although he’s getting older, there’s plenty of funny stuff left in this performer.


Tom Gleeson’s Hello Bitches at the Melbourne Town Hall