Rarely is a title so apt. Ok, that’s not entirely fair. Tom Lenk is not trash, but his show is halfway there. Coming off the success of Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist, which has also returned to the Fringe, Lenk’s newest show is an under-rehearsed mess of contradictions. The sketch comedy flounders into improv, and the improv presents as a casual conversation he’s having with whoever happens to be closest. He admits right off the bat that he hasn’t put much preparation into the performance, and that turns out to be an understatement. Is he a funny, likeable guy? Yes. But unfortunately his brand of comedy doesn’t work well in a vacuum.
Lenk’s newest show is an under-rehearsed mess of contradictions.
If we attempt to give it more structure than was actually intended, Tom Lenk Is Trash can be divided up into roughly six segments. Act 1, Scene 1: the audience become the performers while Lenk and his volunteer assistant watch us. There is some light improvisation and a few quirky jokes in the dialogue—calling out fans of true crime for being bloodthirsty psychopaths, referencing the discomfort Scottish people feel about audience participation and accusing a biscuit of being homophobic. This is probably one of the stronger segments of the show.
After that, there is a lot of reliance on the projector. Scene 2: using what we can only assume is some version of Windows Movie Maker, Lenk’s team has put together a slideshow illustrating all that he has learned from becoming an Instagram celebrity. Our leading man gives the impression that he himself did not watch the presentation before getting on stage, and fans of his social media accounts will have seen a lot of the content already. Scene 3: his assistant from the first segment, who turns out to be involved in another show which they spend a few minutes promoting together, helps Lenk do crafts. Very little goes according to plan.
Act 2, Scene 1: the projector is back and it’s time for a TRASHx Talk. The title is promising, the material is not. Lenk now takes us through the three things that prove the past was better than the future. Nothing that is currently springing to your mind right now is included—this I guarantee. Scene 2: we are joined by Lenk’s alter-ego/mother Aileen, craftswoman extraordinaire. She encourages us to be creative with pipe cleaners and we do make... something. Scene 3: Lenk teams up with his assistant again to compete against some audience members to create a Sandra Bullock-inspired ball gown. The other team crushes it.
This man is an Instagram legend, and his Tilda Swinton show has rave reviews. He is clearly very talented in many different ways, but Tom Lenk is Trash just feels like a half-assed add on that he threw together to fill time before the main event. On the bright side, if you play your cards right you might leave with a bag full of Poundland goodies. Perhaps that’s all one can hope for in this garbage-filled world.