Dominic Frisby: Let's talk about tax

Wed 3rd – Sun 28th August 2016


Isobel Roser

at 09:30 on 6th Aug 2016



Taxation is not the obvious choice of subject material for a stand-up comic. Dominic Frisby is certainly ambitious in his aim to ‘make tax sexy’. As a financial writer, actor, voiceover artist and stand-up comic, Frisby is a man of many talents. Nevertheless, in many respects the financial writer in Frisby takes over from the comedian, with the show moving ever-closer to the format of an entertaining lecture, as opposed to a comedy production. He passionately argues for the transformation of the UK tax system, ending with the proposition that land value tax would help to equally redistribute wealth, as well as benefiting society. While engaging and thought-provoking, this level of economic discussion is seemingly lost on an audience who are expecting a comedy show.

I had high hopes for this production and was not disappointed in the early stages. Frisby’s endearing and nerdy persona makes for a perfect comedic backdrop. Clever homemade props only add to the homespun charm at the outset. An audience member points out that Frisby’s ‘swingometer’ was propped on a wooden spoon, a remark that Frisby capitalises on with charm and comedic panache. At the start, Frisby outlines his ‘staging system’, which is a delight for pernickety audience members like myself. This includes a soap box and megaphone for any political ranting, a ‘joke mic’ for traditional pub jokes, and an area in between for general discussion and ‘banter’ with the audience. Frisby is able to maintain a good rapport with the audience, with a distinctly gentle and polite tone. However the audience are perhaps less desirous to participate than Frisby had hoped, with many holding back when he asks politically leading questions.

Though the set-up for the show was promising, the balance soon slips towards economic and political discussion as opposed to a witty commentary. Whilst engaging, with highlights including references to historical taxes on urine and beards, the comedic sparkle which had been evident at the start begins to wane. A couple of jokes fall relatively flat, while Frisby hesitates and stumbles over words on a few occasions. The sense that it is reverting to a lecture becomes apparent further, particularly after the initial amusement caused by Frisby’s ‘sexy bullet-point’ voiceover starts to wear thin.

This show has all the right ingredients, including strong opinions, clever staging, witty comment and expert insight. Unfortunately the balance between these ingredients never quite reaches its optimum, despite glimmers of brilliance being evident. Frisby’s critique of the British tax system is both succinct and punchy, but the show itself left me waiting for the punchline.


Caragh Aylett

at 16:53 on 6th Aug 2016



Dominic Frisby is self-defined as a ‘writer-performer’. He has appeared as an actor, a writer, a voice over man and a presenter and, in contrast, he has also published books and written documentaries on finance and economics. It is the amalgamation of these many areas of his life that has created his 2016 piece at Gilded Balloon entitled, 'Let’s talk about tax'.

The performance begins with great promise; the stage is full of colourful homemade pie charts, quotations, a ‘wheel of history’ and a megaphone alongside a ‘joke mic’ and Dominic Frisby in a bowler hat and outlandish suit. However, any hopes of the props being used creatively or humorously are quickly dashed. The exciting looking ‘wheel of history’ becomes a wheel which allows Frisby to give rather dull facts about tax and historic events. His script isn’t presented as comedic, it is awkward and unforgiving. The flow of the speech is interrupted by continuous looking at his notes and his banter with the audience, while being natural and slightly amusing, adds little to the performance. The addition of a female voice-over explaining Frisby’s internal bullet points is confusing and the ‘sexy’ tone of voice is uncomfortable in places.

His political leanings were certainly not well hidden; it is obvious throughout that Frisby is opposed to the taxes levied by the current UK government. While revealing political opinions in stand up is by no means a sin, in many places the performance seems more like preaching, and as though I was sat in an anti-establishment lecture.

Indeed, ‘lecture’ is the most appropriate word to describe ‘Let’s talk about tax’. From the notes on a lectern to the hand gestures, I felt very much as though I was at university and perhaps that the notes I was taking shouldn’t be about his performance but rather about the endless facts that he was spouting at the audience. Expecting satirical, political comedy- the audience got politics and economics.

It would be unfair to say that Frisby’s performance gained no laughs, it did. Half way through his stand-up Frisby announces that his ‘day job’ is voice overs and gains a few deserved laughs through the recital of many famous ones. However, the funniest parts of his performance were laughing at the tragic, silent response to his ‘your mama’ jokes. Frisby begins ‘Let’s talk about tax’ by stating that tax isn’t the most common topic in comedy, and by the end of the performance I think most would agree that it should remain that way.


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