The ex-Inbetweener’s new work-in-progress standup show, about breaking beyond being typecast, has a self-lacerating character
The maladroit comic parlaying their anxiety into humour is as old as standup itself. But it’s a highwire act: other people’s neuroses can be funny, or – one wrong step – troubling instead. Is it unfair to expect sure-footedness from Trying Not to Panic, the standup debut of ex-Inbetweener Joe Thomas? Perhaps – it’s a work-in-progress after all, like so many of the offerings on this year’s Edinburgh not-quite-the-fringe. Comedians have had few opportunities to hone their shows, or their craft, over the past 18 months. It’s not been the optimum period in which to launch a new set, much less a new standup career. (A difficulty with which fellow Inbetweener Simon Bird has also wrestled.)
So: the good news is that this is a striking debut from Thomas, here to lament his career stasis and how the Channel 4 sitcom for ever defines him in the public perception. And the less good news? Well, I’m not sure the show’s humour is sufficiently buoyant – yet – to lift audiences above Thomas’s pit of despair. Some of the gags are awfully cynical, and the self-lacerating character of the comedy left me uncertain whether to laugh with Thomas, or worry for him.