Interview: Tom Wrigglesworth
Off the back of his successful 2009 show An Open Return Letter to Richard Branson, which won him such accolades as the Chortle 2010 ‘Best Show’ award, Tom Wrigglesworth is back in 2011 with a national tour of Nightmare Dream Wedding. Pete Starr caught up with the affable Yorkshireman to discuss his new show.
PS: A bit of a broad one to kick us off – how was your 2010 and what were your personal highlights, Tom?
TW: 2010 was a wonderful year, extremely tiring but wonderful! The highlights? Well I got married, so not that. I think it would have to be being in New Zealand, where I won Best International Performer at the New Zealand Festival and then during the main tour I sold out the run, and I even ended up doing extra dates out there which was really nice.
PS: That’s obviously a fantastic success; how was Edinburgh this year?
TW: Edinburgh ended up being far more stressful than the rest of my year. I ended up touring for so long with my last show; it meant that I left myself extremely short of time to write the new one. I ended up trying to write it extremely quickly to get it ready in time for Edinburgh, and in the end wrote it in three weeks. It was pretty crazy. So that whole process ended up being very, very stressful. The result was that my Edinburgh show was a little rough around the edges, which is something that I’ve looked at for this tour coming up.
PS: Yeah, your show Nightmare Dream Wedding got more mixed reviews up at Edinburgh than the shows you have taken up in previous years. Do you attribute that to the rushed nature in the way it was written?
TW: Yeah, definitely, I’m afraid. It was a case of I knew what I wanted to do with it, but I put myself in a position where I had to chuck it together really quickly. I was kind of getting it ready throughout the festival but everyone wants to review shows really early and because it was a bit of a work in progress, at the start I got a few kickings, but then reviews got better and better as the festival went on.
PS: Do you believe that the criticism levelled at the show was justified?
TW: Well I try to stay clear of it, but I did read a few that were quite bad. Hmm, yeah, I guess they were initially. But it’s the case that even the good reviews pick holes in your show. So you could still get all upset even if you only read your good reviews, so I try and avoid them or else it can become a constant battle.
PS: So have you tweaked the show ahead of this tour?
TW: Yeah, I have. It’s now a bit longer, as in Edinburgh, due to it being rushed; it was all a bit crammed in towards the end of the show. It breathes a lot more now, has a much better flow. To be honest, during the last week of Edinburgh I was happy with it – it wasn’t quite right at the start, but by the end I’d cemented it how I wanted.
PS: Has the content of the show been modified at all?
TW: Yeah, I’ve tweaked that too. It was a case that I was working off a video, so I had the start and the end points all settled down, so it hasn’t changed massively, but I’ve been able to move and change sections around in the middle quite extensively and I’m happy with how it’s looking now.
PS: You have a quite anecdotal style of delivery – who or what influenced that?
TW: It was sort of all accidental really. I don’t think I’ve ever changed my style, but all of a sudden I was branded as this story teller – which is fine, I’m not complaining. But I think what happened was I started doing longer and longer sets, like you do. And then when you get your own show, working up to an hour/hour and ten minutes, to keep the audience interested, I developed the idea of using one progressional arc throughout, something to refer back to at all times. I guess I used that as a way of dealing with spending longer on stage. Originally that was how it happened and I thought, ‘Wow, I could just tell one story then’. So I just built it up around that really, something to give me a reason to talk for an hour without boring everyone to death.
PS: I understand you’ve just been given your own Radio 4 series, can you tell me about that?
TW: Yeah, it was after my 2009 show, regarding the train story – we did that for Radio 4 and that went well, so were doing now a series of four episodes holding various people to account. So were looking at estate agents, traffic wardens, utility companies and banks and I’m writing the last couple of episodes now.
PS: This is going to be a comic approach to dealing with these people, right?
TW: Oh yes, I’m not turning into Esther Rantzen. But yeah, we are recording now and writing the final two episodes, so it should be really good.
PS: You mentioned earlier that this year has seen you gig abroad. How extensive has that been?
TW: Well there exists these sort of circuit gigs you can do in Dubai and Hong Kong in the East and lots of ski season ones in the Alps, so you can literally go anywhere with them. I’ve been to New Zealand and Sydney and then up to Montreal. Those are the furthest places I’ve gigged though.
PS: What differences are there gigging internationally? Are crowds different or do you change your style at all?
TW: Yeah, the ones I did in New Zealand were really nice. It was quite British, really. In Montreal it was different; I had to change quite a bit for that. Using self deprecation early on didn’t go down well. They didn’t quite get that irony that is popular at home. They just saw it as a sign of weakness, so you just had to come on and be a lot more confident from the word go, to get them on your side. But it was fine, you had to go into things knowing that they were looking for slightly shorter rewards – you might have to look at it if you have a more meandering set, but it’s just different styles at the end of the day. In New Zealand they are pretty tuned into a British style of humour.
PS: Obviously you’ve recently got married – how has the life of a touring comedian affected that? Does your wife come with you when you’re touring?
TW: No, we have been engaged for ages, we got married for a laugh! So in that respect it’s changed nothing really. She tends to come with me if it takes her fancy. So trips to New Zealand and Montreal, she was all over them! But if I’ve got a weekend in Norwich, then she’s not always quite so keen…
More information on Tom Wrigglesworth’s 2011 tour, Nightmare Dream Wedding, can be found on his website at http://www.tomwrigglesworth.co.uk.