Comedian Tom tugs the heart strings

MANY comedians would be delighted to see a crowd with tears rolling down their faces.

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Tom Wrigglesworth
Tom Wrigglesworth

It's slightly different for Sheffield stand-up Tom Wrigglesworth though - because often the tears are out of sadness, not laughter.

The comic is bringing his current show, Utterly At Odds With The Universe, to the Stand this Sunday as part of the Glasgow comedy festival.

It's a touching tale that jumps from laughs to tears, as he recalls chats with his late grandfather, and reflects on wishing you could have a last conversation with someone before they pass away.

"It's personal to me and to the audience, because it reminds them of people they've loved," he says.

"I've noticed most people leave the show in tears, or saying they're going to phone their grandad, at which point I'm quick to remind them it's half 10 at night so they might not be awake.

"It's very funny and very touching, so a bit of a mixture."

An unlikely comedy starting point, perhaps, but it's a concept that was very close to Tom's heart, and started when he discovered some old tape recordings when moving thing out of his grandparents' house.

Among the tapes were various conversations between a very young Tom and his grandfather from years ago, which started the ball rolling.

"When I started thinking about it, I thought wouldn't it be great to have one last interview with folk right before they died, just at the end," he says.

"That's what the show's about, really - what you'd say to someone before they died and the effect people have on each other."

Given the personal subject matter, it's hardly surprising that Tom found it quite hard to write the show at first.

"It took me ages, and a lot of the time was spent staring at the laptop and slightly welling up," he admits.

"That went on for a few weeks, just remembering my grandad, and I did get a bit fragile. Once I got that done it was quite easy to write, so it's fine now to perform it. It was a bit hard at one stage, though."

This gig isn't the first time Tom has dipped into his family background for inspiration. There's his radio series, Tom Wrigglesworth's Hang Ups, just about to enter a second season.

That show featured him looking at the contrast between his "mad" parents and his grandmother, a much calmer individual.

Tom believes he's more like his grandparents with his rational outlook, but he can get angry.

His second show at the Edinburgh festival, 2009's An Open Return Letter To Richard Branson, was sparked by a train journey where he witnessed a train conductor arguing with an elderly woman.

The comic organised a whip-round among other passengers to pay for her fare, which resulted in police being called by the ticket inspector. After turning that into a show, Tom has enjoyed a prolific run of TV and radio appearances, although live is what he still loves most.

Given his background, it seemed fair to ask his thoughts on the recent BBC decision to ensure more female comics are featured on TV panel shows like Mock The Week.

"I think it's a reasonable thing. There's certainly enough good female comedians out there.

"I don't really watch programmes like Mock The Week but I've had mates who've gone on them and they've said it can be a boys' club, so maybe that needs taming a little bit."

He's also optimistic that the Glasgow crowd this Sunday won't need too much taming either.

"There's a fear that Glasgow gives to some comedians that I've never had," he says.

"I hope I'm not cursing myself saying this, but I've never done a gig there on a rowdy Saturday night so that might change my perception, but to me the Stand has a twee festival vibe where everyone is receptive and nice."

l Tom Wrigglesworth, The Stand, Sunday, £12, 6.30pm

Wouldn't it be great to have one last interview with folk just before they died?

JONATHAN GEDDES

Arts and Entertainment

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