So after the start-of-year lull I'm back in business and already off to my second show of the year (wait till the next couple of weeks, we're back in silly-amounts-of-shows territory) with a comedy show at Soho Theatre, my first of two in the space of a week. And yes I know I don't usually do it because it's not my area of expertise but maybe I'll blur the lines occasionally on my usual rule about not reviewing standup comedy. Besides, Tom Lenk's Nerdgasm is more one-man-show than straightforward standup, in a show mixing anecdotes with music, roughly themed around "be careful what you wish for." Specifically the fact that Lenk had always wished to star on Broadway, which he recently did, appearing for 6 months in a jukebox musical. This show largely centres on what a crushing disappointment that was, plus a few moments where it did live up to expectations. Mostly though it seems to have been an endless round of illness, bedbugs (in one of those stories that makes you end up feeling itchy after a while) and a cast that universally hated him (and only included one other gay guy, rather scuppering what he'd hoped to spend some of his free time doing.)
Obviously I largely decided to see this show to add to my collection of Buffy alumni I've seen on stage (he only brings it to 3 - it would be 4 but we got Alyson Hannigan's understudy for When Harry Met Sally *sadface*) Well that, and I fancy him. What? I was into geek chic before it even existed. I'd heard mixed things about his shows and was worried about doing a review because he's got a reputation for not taking criticism well but fortunately I enjoyed the show. It's not the kind of act that'll fill stadiums but it's well suited to an intimate space and Lenk is endearing in his self-deprecating, proud-to-be-a-geek persona. My favourite moment was probably him scaring Daniel Craig away from the gym. I also thought his sexuality figured in the story at just the right level - never gratuitously mentioned but cropping up naturally as part of his personality (and rightly so in a story that largely involves being lonely in a different city, the kind of company he's wishing for is naturally part of the narrative.) He sees himself as being a bit of a loser with men (although anyone who bumps into two exes in the course of one anecdote is clearly getting more than I am.) And in case you were wondering no, his alleged desperation did not lead me to go to the theatre bar where he said he'd be later selling merchandise and meeting the audience to find out just how desperate he is; I've been around long enough to know the answer is always "not that desperate."
It all adds up to a slightly haphazard but entertaining performance. Even with people I myself like, I tend to go extra-critical when I know a performer's got an audience predisposed to like them (with only three London gigs the Buffy fans were bound to be out in force¹ so it's not quite the same as walking onstage in front of a hostile crowd) but pretty soon I thought that Tom Lenk has enough of a story to tell, and enough of a unique way of telling it, to make a show that's worth seeing (and incidentally Buffy only gets the briefest of mentions so any non-fans shouldn't be put off; although if you're not into theatre at all this probably won't be for you.)
Tom Lenk: Nerdgasm is booking until the 8th of January at Soho Theatre.
¹as I waited for the doors to open I had a quick panic when I remembered that That Person Who Tried To Talk Me Into Suicide That Time was a Buffy fan and could conceivably be there; actually she was more of an Angel fan but Andrew crossed over into that show a couple of times so the point stands.