Updated: Mar 4, 2020
So, who made the very first cut for our ‘After Hurtwood’ project? That role belongs to the very likeable Tom Lucy, who initially talked with past Muser Honor Roberts about his life as a stand-up comedian, and in so doing helped shape the idea of a whole series of catch-ups with our fascinating alumni. Chatting very recently with Tom, and drawing on Honor’s original interview thoughts, it was a pleasure to hear more about his very interesting progress in the mad world of comedy, from the lunchtime concerts at Hurtwood, to touring with Jack Whitehall, and writing for Micheal McIntyre, this is one interesting journey.
Tom impressed early when he came to us by literally standing up for the school charity, compering a lively and largely impromptu concert in 2014, not long before he left us to study at Bristol. Even before we get going in our recent conversation, Tom is emphatic and generous in his praise: that without Hurtwood, he probably would not have pursued his dream that began when he was a child. Enjoying the role of class clown, Tom had long relished the ability to make others laugh, to turn the everyday and mundane into the ridiculous and entertaining. ‘Being funny was all I really cared about’, he tells me, admitting that lessons were assessed on ‘how funny I had been,’ (and not what he had learned, the teacher in me adds, laughing.) At Hurtwood, he found both encouragement and opportunity to take his ideas forward, to turn plan into action. Lunchtime concerts preceded the charity compering, and very soon he complemented this with a regular round of pub gigs, performing for little or no payment, often to small audiences. He was cutting his teeth on the actual, and he soon found that academic study was no substitute for real experience. Leaving uni, he concentrated on gigs around London, and the key turning point was acquiring an agent. Talent spotted by Rick Hughes, who represents some of the very biggest names on the circuit, he finally began earning enough to be self-sufficient, and the die was cast.
Early in our chat, Tom made an interesting point about comedy: ‘stand up is one of those things that you just have to go and do. You can’t learn it in books or a classroom.’ The ‘hierarchical circuit’ in comedy means that you work your way through pubs and comedy clubs, and as a meritocracy, Tom asserts, sheer hard work pays off. ‘The harder you work the more rewards you get out of it’. Talent invariably rises to the top in comedy, he tells me confidently, so he is totally committed to improving his performance on a gig by gig basis. He so clearly loves what he does in spite of all the challenges. What then are the advantages? A degree if self-understanding, I think, when he admits to a kind of manic drive, in the early stages of his journey. At first prone to feeding off his own drive in performance, ‘I’m a lot calmer now,’ he admits. ‘I’ve become more bearable off-stage now. In the evenings, I can get it out of my system.’ On one level his career choice seems almost bonkers. ‘When it goes badly it is truly awful’ (naturally) but, on balance, the rewards of a good gig are immense. Frankly, Tom strikes me as a very balanced human being. ‘Most of my adult life has been spent doing stand-up. It feels natural to be on stage. I’ve grown up in the industry, and my agent has nurtured me.’ Yet there is humility and passion, as well as drive. His closest friends remain those from his Hurtwood days and, like his family, they save him from the potential narcissism of the performance world.
So, career-wise, Tom is working steady under Rick’s wise guidance. He intends to be doing this when he is ‘60 years old’. He has already worked with some of the biggest names, counts many of them as valuable workmates, and even friends. Right now, he is engaged in the writing side of things, which is not always easy. ‘You live your life trying to see the funny side of everything’. He finds performing an easier opting than writing, but realising it is in this process of evolution that the good stuff comes. He feels he has ‘found his on-stage persona’ through self-deprecation and narrative rather than biting political edge, and this is reflected in his mellow nature.
Big influences? Lee Evans and Billy Connolly were early role models for the growing boy; Michael McIntyre likewise, and the fact that Tom now finds himself working with him, and indeed writing for him, still, he says, ‘blows me away’.
Time for Tom to get on with the excellent work, of course. Any final thoughts? ‘It’s been amazing, but I hope I don’t end up taking it for granted,’ he tells me. He knows ‘how quickly it can all evaporate, how hard you need to work.’ It has been a real pleasure to catch up once again with one truly excited and fulfilled son of Hurtwood. We leave him busy working on a headline tour from August. Beginning at Edinburgh Fringe, he will be rolling out his own quirky brand of humour across the breadth of the UK. Thanks, Tom, for sharing the roller-coaster of this quirky career with us. In our challenging world what can we say but ‘hurrah!’ for laughter.