Forget all that Hemingway stuff about manliness. Honour and grace under pressure? Bullfighting? To hell with it. A man should be able to match tweed with diamante, he should hold his own on the asymmetric bars and he must, must smoke. It is absolutely vital that he smokes.
This is the eccentric paragon found in Thom Tuck, a stuck-up, pissed old professor type who happens to be just 30 years old. In style, he is heavily mannered and in tone, ostentatiously erudite. In execution, where many standups fail to mask the reek of desperation, he emits not even a whiff. He is simply showing us what he is capable of, be it the philosophy graduate's grasp of Descartes, the broadside against tobacco legislation, or the tales told louche and swaying of waking up in a pint of Guinness. Considering his years with the Penny Dreadfuls and last year's best newcomer nomination, perhaps this self-assurance is no surprise.
There's a wisp of a ghost of a theme in here, some nebulous, token prod at "what it means to be human". But Tuck seems to know his appeal lies less in his subject matter and more in his character and colourful diction. He has this roundabout way of saying just about everything, so that even a graphic tale of Cosmo sex tips gone wrong is oblique and full of verbal flourishes. When denouncing marketing speak and talking head economists, he comes across like a cantankerous cartoon Tory – managing to do so even when slamming the Cameron cabinet. And when spinning yarns of mind-altering excess, he is the charmingly dishevelled and witty drunk that everyone thinks they become after a night spent forcing down brandy.
It was that very drink, along with some choice chemicals, that gave rise to a night of ignominy at Glastonbury that lends some structure to this set. It's a recurring tale, unwound piece by piece, that exhibits Tuck's skill as a storyteller. And it's this talent that keeps us engaged as he meanders not through what it means to be a man, a Briton or a human, but what it is to be "a Thom". Whatever that may mean, he makes it look very fun indeed.