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Fringe review: Sad Tonathon the Rapperthon

Written by Arts, Featured

A nineteen-year-old Economics student. Primary school teachers for parents. A hauntingly Harry Potter-esque accent. Not the stereotypical attributes of a stand-up comedian performing at Edinburgh Fringe. But Newcastle first-year student Joe Molander is proof that BSc students can, indeed, be funny.

Despite being a stand-up, Molander’s act can be described as character comedy and revolves around him adopting the persona of Sad Tony the Rapper (formerly known as Tony the Silly Sausage). Tony absorbs traits of Molander’s own personality, but spices things up with a healthy dose of sass to make a very distinguishable and well defined character. In his rainbow sunglasses and fake fur coat, Tony is proudly bisexual, undeniably sad, and very much in love with his Grandpa after accidentally snorting his Grandmother’s ashes instead of cocaine. Tony is furthermore, as the name may suggest, an aspiring rapper – though he would most passionately object to my use of “aspiring” – and he spits bars including the poignant, “it’s me, the hardest black man in town”. Tony is hilariously stupid, but his arrogance makes him even funnier; whether this reflects Molander’s personality too I couldn’t possibly comment.

Through a combination of puns, visual humour and his ­­­nine “sad confessions”, in his set Sad Tonathon the Rapperthon Tony takes us on his journey of exploring his masculinity and ultimately what it means to be a modern man, discussing Gandhi, BoJo and Morse code on the way. Ad-lib humour is thrown in when needed in response to unexpected sounds from the busy bar, including the ferocious roar of the hand-drier next door, showing Molander’s quick-thinking adaptability and gift at impromptu humour. Behind the humour, however, there is a heart. Despite barely a sentence slipping out of Tony’s lips without the audience at the Planet Bar erupting into laughter, Molander utilises his set as an opportunity to address some deeper societal issues. Molander reflects on his relationship with his own father, and in turn with his father, and acknowledges the importance of talking. While the show was pay as you feel, Molander was one of the few acts at the Fringe – and, indeed, one of the only non-professional acts – to see the festival as a chance to contribute to the greater good by donating half his proceeds to charity. Molander’s choice of Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), a charity fighting against male suicide, is indeed particularly relevant to Sad Tonathon the Rapperthon, and it is made all the more admirable when recognising the considerable financial losses incurred when putting on a performance at the Fringe as a student.

It is hard to believe that Molander is only nineteen because of his sheer confidence on stage, but this is because he knows what he’s doing. Since his first outing just a year ago, Sad Tony has really come on in leaps and bounds, navigating the Newcastle comedy circuit and participating in the Newcastle heat of the Chortle Student Comedy Awards, and performing at an Edinburgh student comedy festival in February as part of the Newcastle Revue. Describing the birth of Tony, Molander said: “I started performing as him to try and put a bit of energy back in the open mic circuit. I wanted something stupid that people could laugh at as opposed to something egotistical that people were meant to laugh with and adore, which is what I think a lot of other London comics were trying to do at the time.” Molander has additionally had previous experience performing at the Fringe, including very short pieces all the way back in 2014, 2015 and 2016, leading to a split stand-up bill in August 2018, though unfortunately unaccompanied by Tony.

Molander’s set is highly original and deserves the greatest commendation. It’s fantastic as a stand-up set, and bloody brilliant for a nineteen-year-old. This kid has a bright future.

Last modified: 29th August 2019

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