Joe Thomas: Trying Not To Panic
- Brian Donaldson
- 17 August 2021
Ex-Inbetweener chats about his life in The Inbetweeners and getting recognised for being in . . . The Inbetweeners
Joe Thomas has problems connecting with people. He puts it down to various factors attributed to the particular place he occupies on the spectrum. While his girlfriend is often in the right place at the right time to try and help him out, on the evidence of Thomas' anecdotes, he's never quite able to read the signs she's sending and gets things horribly wrong leading to social awkwardness par excellence. Of course, were he to take the hint she's dropping, a piece of silver stand-up material would not otherwise be available to him.
For anyone thinking that Trying Not To Panic might be a classic tearjerking Fringe comedy hour about mental health, it turns out to be more of a trawl through Thomas' career to date, focussing very heavily on his life in The Inbetweeners and the legacy (not always positive) that this Channel 4 comedy has left him. While he is close to arriving at his fifth decade on the planet, people still assume that he will be exactly like Simon, the show's desperate teen virgin loser. Thomas' seemingly terminal boyish looks have probably not helped with that.
While no one at an intimate Edinburgh Fringe comedy gig is going to shout out catchphrases from someone's past career, there's also unlikely to be anyone in the room who's not keen to hear about behind-the-scenes larks featuring Thomas, Simon Bird, James Buckley, and Blake Harrison. This foursome is dubbed by Thomas as the actorly equivalent of a boy band, albeit one that's been put together by an impresario who has rather lost the plot.
After a an achingly slow preamble, Trying Not To Panic does get firmly into its stride and Thomas hits a rich vein around the critical half-hour mark as he digs deeper into his own flawed psyche, detailing incidents which make him look as foolish as possible (one horrendous yet hilarious audition pretty much seals the deal on that one). As a work-in-progress show, there's a fair chunk of tightening up to be done and Thomas will want to work on a rather limp finale, but his stage persona is vulnerable and charming enough to get everyone onside. He may even now have climbed higher in the rankings from being everyone's second favourite Inbetweener. Or, he wonders out loud, is he really just destined to be third?
Joe Thomas: Trying Not To Panic, Pleasance Courtyard, until Tuesday 17 August, 7pm, £14.