Tom’s home discomforts
LIVING WITH HIS PARENTS PROVIDES A RICH VEIN TO MINE FOR ERUDITE COMEDIAN
AMAN who has supported Sarah Millican around the world (comedically speaking), won the prestigious So You Think You’re Funny Award, and has been favourably compared to Eddie Izzard, Victoria Wood and Oscar Wilde, Tom Allen is quite simply one of the most erudite acts in British comedy.
Never happier than when he’s tossing out quotes from the poet William Henry Davies or lyrics from the movie Grease, Tom is positively purring when he considers his upcoming tour of the land for new show, Absolutely.
And early preparations have been proceeding most agreeably: “I like to do a preview around the house, maybe for some teddy bears: they’re a gay social grouping that I know. You want it to feel fresh and invent around it and add things and you want to be relaxed about it. Last year I talked a lot about things in my past, this time I wanted to do something about my present which admittedly remains dogged by my past because I’m still living with my parents.”
Of course, Tom is not alone in this situation with many people unable to afford their own home. He aims to capture this feeling of frustration in his new show. “As we saw in the general election, my generation and those younger than me are feeling, ‘well, you’ve got to do something for us; give us one thing to look forward to.’ I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a political comedian but it’s an interesting time, though for me it’s still combined with a heightened sense of snobbery: I still have an air about me that’s, ‘well, of course I still want avocado on sourdough bread’ and ‘no, we’re not going to a Toby Carvery for dinner, absolutely not’.”
Living at home with his parents will inevitably lead to some friction, no matter how much they love each other. “At one point, I started giving my dad some interior design advice about having the desk at a particular angle by the window and he said ‘why don’t you get your own house?’ There’s a little bit of tension around. We decorated my room in a bid to create the illusion of me having control over my life; I took time choosing what colours to have and what lamps to go with and then mum and aunt Christine went to Dunelm Mill and bought me a lamp that they liked. It was very nice but not what I wanted, and you can’t just hide that in the cupboard. Socially it’s very complicated, and results in lots of lying and eventually an explosive argument: it’s great value.”
Still, there are some changes afoot in Tom’s life and the good news is that he’s passed his driving test at the third attempt. “I had a lovely two to three years of learning; it was like another degree and I feel very happy that I can drive. What I want to talk about in the show is that sense of moving forward. I think a lot of people experience those around them running ahead and sometimes if you’re not in the same boat as them (not getting married or not owning your own home) you can feel a bit left out. For me, I wonder, well, is what they’re doing necessarily better? So, I’ll talk about weddings and some hen parties I’ve been invited to. I don’t know when that started, when gay men began to be invited to hen dos. I don’t think lesbian hen dos invite a straight bloke along so they can sit in front of Sky Sports.”
You’d have assumed that having passed his driving test, a sense of liberation, freedom and extra bon vivant would have washed over Tom. Not a bit of it. “Because I couldn’t afford my own insurance on a car, I got insured on mum and dad’s Ford Fiesta Zetec, 1.5 litre engine, five doors. The boot doesn’t open, which is not a euphemism. The car is maroon which is great because it goes with nothing, and so clashes no matter what I wear. There’s moss on the back windows and the wing mirrors are held on by gaffer tape. To quote from the song Greased Lightning, it’s a real pussy wagon.”
As someone who is on the road a lot, Tom is now able to get himself around. “One of the things I get anxious about it is getting petrol on my hands: what if it burns? So, I put the gloves on at the petrol station, and there are those tissues you can use. But when I did so, my friend openly mocked me.”
Motoring issues aside, as someone who clearly has a deep love of language, you can imagine Tom joyfully revelling in the discovery of new words. “I do like words. I learned the word esoteric just the other day: ‘that which is created or delivered for a specific audience or an audience with a specific reference point’. I don’t know if I’m esoteric; I think I’d like to think I was, but in reality I’m actually very ordinary. But isn’t that the game we all play, the secret we all hide is that we’re actually the same as everybody else. I do say the word ‘absolutely’ quite a lot and last year I called my show Indeed. They’re just words for saying yes, and it is important to say yes to things and to live life to the full as much as one can.”
Tom Allen is at Galeri Caernarfon on June 9 and William Aston Hall, Wrexham, on July 26.
● Tom Allen’s Absolutely tour is coming to Caernarfon and Wrexham