Excessive Laughs

3 April 2012 | 10:15 pm | Stuart Evans

Xavier Toby runs Stuart Evans through the making of his dinner party comedy show, Binge Thinking.

Is evolution going backwards? Are we ignorant, arrogant, and insular? Are we so self-obsessed that we have lost sight of who we actually are? Do we even care? Tough questions that require debate and discussion, and comedian Xavier Toby is just the man for the challenge. “Binge Thinking is based on general views within Australian society as I talk about climate change, gay marriage and other issues,” he explains.

You are probably thinking that these are strange topics to spruik, particularly as at first glance they don't necessarily appear to provide Toby with much comic fodder. The adage of not talking about money, religion, and politics at a dinner party is largely well known, however, Toby's show, Binge Thinking, challenges that belief. Clearly, the Melbournian is a brave man. “Yes, I do ask about the things you're not supposed to talk about,” he says.

The show details a fictional dinner party with him narrating and acting as a range of characters using bottles of alcohol to represent various couples – couples based on today's society. He has a VB longneck to represent the tradesman, a bottle of red and white wine masquerades as the upper-class couple, while a bottle of Frangelico acts as a lawyer. “I've gone for the stereotypes,” laughs Toby. “At one point I ask about the carbon tax when I then hold up the cask wine, which represents the bogans, who reply by asking about the cardboard tax.”

During the dinner party, he finds himself either frustrated with their insular views on society and the environment, or uninterested with talk of babies. The theme of his jokes is frequently friends' ignorance with a few other bits and pieces thrown in. Not that everyone shares his opinions. “I prefer to do a show with people who don't agree with my views,” Toby explains. “At one point I ask the audience to discuss gay marriage and I ask for a round of applause for those who support it.”

His comedic skills have taken him to the UK whereby he focused more on traditional joke telling. However, not satisfied with merely telling jokes, he wanted to explore issues-based comedy – or comedy that makes people think. “The show is based on facts from society and the more broader landscape. I took a break from what I would call popcorn comedy and telling jokes as I wanted to focus on this style of comedy, issues based comedy, as there are things I want to say.” 

He commenced work on Binge Thinking after the 2011 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and has gradually tested and tweaked the concept. If tackling such a sticky range of subjects makes some nervous, Toby is not one of them. “It's a privilege to be able to speak to an audience and I'm not really nervous, it's more excitement and exhilaration,” he says. “You can use humour to get people on-side regardless of the topic.”