It can be a hard sell to get people into a 6pm weekday show, but Rob Thomas’ show Callback managed pretty well. Making a concerted effort to avoid the danger-zone of the first two rows, the audience settled in for an hour of stand-up from the 2018 UK Pun Champion, on the first day of this year’s Brighton Fringe. From the outset, Thomas doesn’t take himself too seriously. There’s a half-hearted attempt to get people to move forward, but with some self-deprecation he swiftly drops the endeavour and gets stuck into his routine.
The show is named Callback for two reasons: firstly, he discusses his childhood and reminisces, and secondly, it’s the name of a comedic device in which a joke refers to another joke told earlier in the set. This gives away a bit about his style, which seems loosely gathered, but actually seems to be the summation of very careful editing and consideration. Early on, we find out that a group in the audience is from North Wales, which segues smoothly into tales of his mother’s Anglesey café breakfasts and on to Brexit, then loops back for some soul-piercing seagull imitations. Happy coincidence or rapid-fire mental connections? I suspect the latter.
As anyone who’s seen him before will know, Rob Thomas is an extremely energetic comedian with long limbs and wild eyes, and a propensity to leap around which, considering we’re in a venue made from a small, low-ceilinged shipping container, ensures rapt attention from the audience throughout. Put simply, Rob Thomas is vastly engaging. There were only a few moments that miss the mark, when he took suspiciously long sips of water in order to consult his notes, and a sketch about language students which seemed a bit contrived. On the whole, the writing is thoughtful and cleverly sequenced, the puns are groan-worthy, and the physical comedy sketches see him practically bouncing off the walls: this is a comedian who pretty much forces you to laugh along, particularly in the parts where he’s on the move. The sketches about TV theme tunes and his short-lived career as a late-night house DJ have the audience in tears.
Rob Thomas returns to the Warren on 14th and 15th May.
The Warren: The Burrow, Friday 4th May 2018