Caro Meets Comedy Interview

Tom Wrigglesworth: Utterly At Odds With The Universe

By | Published on Thursday 20 March 2014


I first came across Carey Marx, quite a few years ago, at the Edinburgh Fringe. I was stunned – to put it mildly – when I learned, back in 2012, that he had suffered a heart attack. Fortunately for the comedy circuit, he survived to tell the tale, and, as you might expect of a stalwart entertainer, created a show to, er, tell the tale…

The show has received much approbation since it first saw light at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer, garnering praise for Wrigglesworth’s renowned storytelling ability. Ahead of his upcoming London performances, I asked him the following questions…

CM: Tell us what we can expect from ‘Utterly At Odds With The Universe’?
TW: Well, in a completely over-simplified nutshell, it’s 80 minutes of hilarity, then ten minutes of an emotional free fall. In my experience, most people leave with a tear in their eye and a sudden pang to phone their Granddad.

CM: How did these conversations with your granddad come to be recorded?
TW: Well, it was the mid-eighties and he got a portable cassette player. With a microphone on a cable. It was on the most game-changing pieces of kit he ever owned. He used to tape various machines, and also make frankly illegal recordings of local brass band recitals. Complete with interval food review and a critique of the band…

CM: It sounds as though the show must be pretty poignant. How easy is it to incorporate that element into a comedy show?
TW: I’d have to kill you if I told you that. So if you carry on reading, watch yourself… one trick that I seem to employ over and over is to tag an item, phrase or person in a funny way, then much later in the show I return to it in a different light. Theatre has been doing it for years I suppose. It can work amazingly well.

CM: According to your Wikipedia entry, you “quit your day job” in 2006 to become a full time comedian. What was the day job?
TW: I worked for a company who consulted on satellite radio links and ship radars. Fabulously complicated, and frankly magical. I did acoustics at university you see, so all the theory and formulas were the same, just with a lot more zeroes on the end of numbers. I have sat in labs with the most brilliant radio engineers who would last 5 seconds in a social situation, but could fill a black board with almost cartoon like algebraic scrawls.

CM: When you were growing up, did you have any desire at all to become a performer? What made you finally decide that creating comedy was the job for you?
TW: I don’t think I had any desire when young. I certainly wasn’t encouraged to do this sort of thing. Being the youngest of 4 boys though – you have to learn to get heard when you need to so I probably learned the tricks in the same way the Karate Kid did. I didn’t know I was learning at the time… I gave comedy a go after I got sick of people telling me to give it a go…

CM: You’ve been nominated for quite a lot of comedy awards, and won a lot of them. Do you ever feel cross about the ones you didn’t win? Do you think awards have a tangible effect on your career trajectory?
TW: If I don’t win I am furious. Absolutely furious. I am a massive fan of, and a very competent DIY’er. Being nominated for awards gives me the chance to put up a new shelf. If I don’t win that chance is snatched away. But they do have an effect. They make people notice, or offer a kind of kite mark. But it’s no guarantee you’ll sell out a theatre.

CM: In recent years you’ve guested on lots of different R4 shows. Do you have a favourite? How does radio compare to live performance?
TW: Well my favourite show is the one I’m writing now – ‘Tom Wrigglesworth’s Hang ups’… I’ve got my head around doing radio shows now, so I don’t feel quite so much like a rabbit in the headlights any more. But you can’t beat live performances for the sheer thrill of it all. That said, it’s great doing the radio because you can mess it up and have another go.

CM: Is the current tour the end of the road for ‘Utterly At Odds With The Universe’? And do you have a new show in the pipeline?
TW: After this tour I’m off to New Zealand to carry on the tour there… then I’m writing the next series of ‘Hang Ups’… then I think, a holiday. Finally.

Tom Wrigglesworth performs ‘Utterly At Odds With The Universe’ at the Leicester Square Theatre from 27-29 Mar. See the venue website for info and tickets.

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