Most entertainment is just watching people sweat, whether it’s the actual perspiration dripping off a runner’s face as they cross the finish line, or the implied sweat of a sitcom character nervously blagging their way out of a sticky situation. Whether literally or metaphorically sweating, it’s all about witnessing the effort people are willing to put forth in order to meet their goal. Australian comedian Tom Walker is clearly a fan of the former tack, quickly turning his light gray t-shirt darker over the course of his Amazon Prime special Very Very.
Now, sweat alone does not make for good entertainment. If that were the case, then everyone who slaves over their clunky screenplay for years would win an Oscar. But when the combination of sweat and talent are just right, you get an hour as satisfying as Walker’s latest release. The comedian devotes his entire set to mime, “the unlovable child of theatre and dance,” though he thankfully talks throughout the set. His physicality is scarily impressive, equal parts believable (you very rarely are lost in imagining what exactly he’s doing) and profoundly absurd (see: the entire bit where he has a giant retractable penis).
Just as vital to the hilarious special is Walker’s impeccable timing. Using a clicker in his hand, he sets off sound effects at the perfect moment to sell a scene. Memorizing every noise and movement seems a Herculean task, but Walker makes it look—easy may not be the right word, considering how sweaty he is—seamless.
Walker also takes a considerable leap by integrating the audience into some of his bits. In an old Western quick draw, he has one crowd member face off against him in a duel, and every now and then he tosses an “object” into the throng and asks for them to throw it back. This takes more confidence than your usual crowd work, as not everyone is likely to be game for something as niche as miming. Walker’s decision to take this bold step generally endears him to the audience, though watching him and one man deep-throating the imaginary detachable schlong until they almost kiss each other is more than a little unsettling.
Fans of more traditional stand-up are not completely left adrift during Very Very, as Walker moves between short bits to longer skits and callbacks that reflect a more conventional set. Some, like his impression of a printer or Venetian blinds, are funny, if a little tired, though most of his goofs are inventive to the nth degree. His best continuous story involves a love story with a coat, which also showcases just how convincing he can be with his movements.
With Netflix fueling stand-up special fatigue, Walker’s approach is a welcome reprieve from the same old schtick. Let’s put it up there with saving Nakatomi Plaza as one of the best reasons for ruining a shirt.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast, hibernophile and contributing writer for Paste’s music and comedy sections. She also exercises her love for reality TV at HelloGiggles every now and then. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.