Thom Tuck: An August Institution

Thom Tuck’s stand-up show, An August Institution, opens with an extended maths joke, which sets the tone for an hour of fairly niche humour. In this territory, Tuck is at his best; a geeky and somewhat odd approach to comedy works well for him. When he tries to engage with broader topics, however, he ceases to be funny, and his heavy-handed and, at times, insensitive treatment of some material feels really uncomfortable. Particularly problematic moments include a gag that belittles and disregards the seriousness of alcoholism as an illness, and another that generalises that all Uber drivers are immigrants. This latter skit grew from the idea that Tuck ‘likes being right’, claiming to have a talent for guessing the drivers’ nationalities based on their names, but here Tuck really gets it wrong.

Tuck’s clear capability of writing good material was somehow lost with this show

Quite a considerable portion of the show’s material centres on Islam, including the show’s big reveal, but its inclusion in the show comes across as gratuitous, capitalising on topical politics without really saying anything. Many comics this year at the Fringe are, unsurprisingly, addressing ISIS and talking about Islam (some in brilliantly important ways, such as British-Kurdish comedian Kae Kurd) but Tuck, a white non-Muslim comedian, is ill-positioned to make half the jokes he does. When he quizzed the audience on the five pillars of Islam, it struck a jarring chord; it was unclear why this was such a focus of his show alongside anecdotes such as about DJing a midday roller-disco.

The Mail on Sunday’s branding of Tuck as ‘the next David Mitchell’ led me to expect some erudite political commentary blended in with the silliness of Tuck’s clown-like character. Previously part of The Penny Dreadfuls, Tuck is now in his fourth foray into solo comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe. When his set ran slightly short, on a suggestion from an audience member, he performed a snippet of material from a previous showl Thom Tuck Goes Straight To DVD. That show earned him a Best Newcomer nomination in 2011, and just five minutes of it were so much better than An August Institution that I almost felt annoyed that Tuck’s clear capability of writing good material was somehow lost with this show.

Reviews by Laura Pujos

Pleasance Courtyard

Kae Kurd: Kurd Your Enthusiasm

★★★★
Paradise in The Vault

Think

★★★★
Heroes @ Dragonfly

Thom Tuck: An August Institution

Pleasance Courtyard

James Acaster: The Trelogy – Recognise

★★★★
Laughing Horse @ The Counting House

The Breakup Monologues

★★
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Man and Boy

★★★

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The Blurb

Thom Tuck returns for his sixteenth consecutive Fringe with his fourth stand-up show. Containing free blasphemy and guaranteed stupidity, Tuck takes on sacred cows and, most probably, gets his bum out. Best Newcomer Nominee 2011, one third of The Penny Dreadfuls and star of his own Radio 4 show: Thom Tuck Goes Straight-to-DVD. Not for the stupid or the faint-minded. 'A seductive experience' (Guardian). 'An exquisite hour of comedy' (Chortle.co.uk). 'The next David Mitchell' (Mail on Sunday). 'A little icky' (Independent). 'Ostentatiously erudite' (Fest). 'Especially' (Telegraph).

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