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Comedy Culture Fringe Theatre

Joe Thomas: Trying Not to Panic — Review

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

During the first few minutes of Joe Thomas’s set it’s easy to feel a bit tense as the crowd is all clearly wondering if he’ll mention the iconic-three-series elephant in the room. Like many comedians, Thomas exudes a neurotic energy anyway, and when somebody is famous for such a particular role it can be hard to separate the actor from the character they played. This all means there is a very palpable worry that someone will heckle ‘ooh friend’ and Thomas will respond with a very Simon-from-The-Inbetweeners reaction and fall apart. 

However, all the tension floods out of the room as soon as he mentions the Channel 4 sitcom, and from that point on the set really does start to kick on. If anything, it’s fair to say his self-effacing jokes about his time playing the incredibly awkward yet depressingly relatable teen are a highlight of a show that will deliver laughs throughout the hour, if not as consistently as the programme that made him famous.

Thomas bounces around topics throughout the hour-and-a-bit set but Trying Not to Panic is very much what it says on the tin – including in its delivery. At times it’s hard to tell what’s Thomas being flustered, and what’s him playing into the character of a flustered comedian, but generally he is able to keep the crowd’s attention as well as their favour. 

The content isn’t as polished as it could be, but it’s clear that Thomas is a pro. His natural ability to make his own awkwardness the butt of the joke means he breezes past some of the less developed bits of his act. Much of this can be forgiven as opening-night nerves: it’s quite clear that as the four-show run reaches its end it will be a much slicker prospect, and likely deliver on the promise it shows. 

Non-Inbetweeners bright spots include a hilarious comparison between Thomas and ‘someone from Blue’, and the easy win of dunking on Piers Morgan. The winding delivery and occasional hesitation does make it hard to follow the thread of longer jokes, but Thomas is usually able to pull it back, or at least make a well-timed quip about his inability to do so. Either way, he gets genuine laughs, and in the end, what more can you ask for from a stand up set?

Dates: 13/8/21 – 16/8/21 at 19.00 each evening.
https://www.pleasance.co.uk/event/joe-thomas-trying-not-panic/performances
Image: Rich Hardcastle