Tom Stade at Arlington Arts, Snelsmore, on Thursday, November 17
I AM totally rubbish at spotting the next big thing when reviewing them in relatively small venues in and around Newbury. Those I have failed to predict would go on to play massive arena tours include Russell Howard (Arlington), Jason Manford (New Greenham Arts), Tim Minchin (NGA), Michael McIntyre (a tiny makeshift stage at Donnington Valley Golf Club) and Russell Brand (an audience of 16, including his dad, at The Forge in Basingstoke). I gave them all nice reviews (am I ever anything but encouraging?), but I didn’t foresee any of their careers going stellar. I’m just too pessimistic by nature for that sort of sagacity, I suppose.
So it’s a major thing here for me to stick my neck out and declare Tom Stade, just might, potentially, with a fair wind and enough television exposure (that might be a problem as he’s a bit of a sweary Mary), make it big. Possibly.
It was the atmosphere at Arlington Arts that made me think that there might be something going on here that transcended the average Thursday night comedy gig in the wild woods of West Berkshire. For a start, the place was heaving, but it wasn’t just that; there was a buzz in the air, an electrical prickling of something, suggesting that tonight wasn’t just a night out, but a happening. “Who is Tom Stade?” I thought, getting a sense that everyone in the building - representing an unusually wide age range - knew exactly who he was except me [I don’t tend to do much research before reviews. That’s just the way I roll].
And then, the man himself. Greeted with a cheer akin to that heard usually at rock concerts, British-based Canadian comedian Stade strode on to the stage, short, dark and handsome, a rhapsody in double denim. Bit of a potty mouth, and slightly dubious attitudes to women (his wife is the brunt of many of his tales), but you can tell it’s all part of the act. I’ve grown tired of getting huffy every time a comedian makes a dodgy joke about their partners. I’d much rather they didn’t, but I’m not going to let it spoil my enjoyment of the rest of the act, and I’ll go with the assumption that no one who goes to see Stade is going to be offended by things like that. Slick, relaxed and with a rough-hewn charm, he’s a professional who knows his audience, and who am I - clearly the only person in the entire universe who didn’t already know and love his work before the show - to opine differently.
And then, the big moment. The joke that everyone had been waiting for (except me; I was still convinced I had never seen Stade before in my life). The Meat Van joke. And finally, the penny dropped. Ah yes! The Meat Van joke! I remember seeing him do that on the telly, on one of those stand-up shows! Again, the audience reception was like to a band saving their biggest song until last - and performed by Stade in a similar way that an oft-played hit might be - slightly off-kilter, with a “you all know the words, but I know you want to hear it anyway” feel to it. Really quite obliging - as he was outside afterwards, already there as the crowd left, happy to pose for photos. Best to catch him while you can - it won’t be so easy to catch him for a snap when he plays the O2.
- First published in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, November 24, 2011