I remember when Tez Ilyas came to Northampton for a gig and within the first five minutes he’d mistaken the town for Peterborough (not a good move) and said that we didn’t have any cricket clubs here (an even worse move). Fortunately we were a kindly bunch and forgave him, but only after we insisted on a grovelling apology.
Tom Houghton started his show last Saturday in a similarly winning fashion. Good evening Nottingham! he yelled from off stage, which was met with the appropriate level of jeering. I think it was a genuine error. If he starts all his gigs with mislocating himself for comic effect it could be a very risky business. Fortunately Northampton and Nottingham are not known for any local rivalries – primarily because they’re not remotely local to each other.
Perhaps Absolute Shambles isn’t a bad name for the show, because he also proceeded to tell us that normally he would have a support act on first to warm us all up – but, basically, he forgot to book one. Thus his support act was – Tom Houghton! No problem, of course, because The Honourable Tom has got more material than you cram into a wardrobe, so he started off by looking for posh people in the audience. Nobody confessed; but in the interval there were conversations about how I wasn’t going to mention I went to private school and nor was I, too perilous an admission to make.
Tom saw through us though, and worked out who the posh people were – including the four sixteen-year-old girls in the third row who came in for a lot of gentle jibing. Tom’s big thing is his posh background, having only recently moved out of the family home in The Tower of London. But lockdown affected both the rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate, and we got a little insight into the fact that his mental health suffered during those dark days of 2020. Other nuggets that he shared with us included a surprisingly lucrative sideline in selling pictures of his feet to foot fetishists, and his experience as being part of the reality TV programme The Circle.
He has a warm and likeable persona which endears him to the audience, so even when he’s being very cheeky with us – and occasionally rather insulting! – we still lap it up. The show runs at a good pace and, even if it occasionally feels slightly aimless and wandering, there’s always lots to enjoy and plenty of belly laughs to be had. And there’s no doubt, he is an extremely safe pair of hands, and the total master of the art of the callback. The show was sold out, but Mr H is returning to Nottingham, I mean Northampton, to do it all again on 30th June – this time in the Royal Theatre. Recommended!