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Sunday 11 November 2018

Interview: Comedian Tom Allen Talks Ahead Of Addressing The Elephant In The Room @ Brighton Dome

Soaked in Tom Allen's signature waspish snobbery and self-aggrandising wit, his new show Absolutely addresses the elephant in the room that Tom is still living at home with his parents, because he can't afford not to – in Bromley, Kent: heart of leave voters and Theresa May's Brexit Britain



He's always at home in Alan Bennett and Mike Leigh territory as he shares with us his up-close-and-personal experiences of suburbia, especially since the Referendum.

Tom addresses the 'diffilcult times' we live in – but were things really better 'back in the day', when he was a child and you could fit fifteen kids in one car?

Tom has recently found some independence from his parents by passing his driving test, but as insurance is too expensive he's been added to his mum and dad's policy for their Ford Fiesta Zetec (1.5 litre engine, 2006, five door, maroon, boot doesn't close). 

It's not glamorous but he has been learning how to deal with road rage and motorways, as well as giving lifts to his mum and dad. 

Despite all this, Tom maintains that he's better than everyone else, and whilst maintaining his delusions of grandeur he still manages to take swipes at people who claim to have their lives so much more together than him – as he relishes the delicious details of status, class and the petty eccentricities of modern life.

Never happier than when he"s tossing out quotes from the poet William Henry Davies or lyrics from the movie Grease, Tom is positively purring when he considers his upcoming tour of the land for new show, Absolutely


And early preparations have been proceeding most agreeably. 

"I like to do a preview around the house, maybe for some teddy bears: they're a gay social grouping that I know. You want it to feel fresh and invent around it and add things and you want to be relaxed about it. 

"Last year I talked a lot about things in my past and this time I wanted to do something about my present which admittedly remains dogged by my past because I'm still living with my parents."

Of course, Tom is not alone in this situation with many people unable to afford their own home. 

He aims to capture this feeling of frustration in his new show. 

"As we saw in the general election, my generation and those younger than me are feeling, 'well, you've got to do something for us; give us one thing to look forward to.' 

"I certainly wouldn't consider myself a political comedian but it"s an interesting time, though for me it's still combined with a heightened sense of snobbery: 

"I still have an air about me that's, 'well, of course I still want avocado on sourdough bread' and 'no, we're not going to a Toby Carvery for dinner, absolutely not'."

Living at home with his parents will inevitably lead to some friction, no matter how much they love each other. 

"At one point, I started giving my dad some interior design advice about having the desk at a particular angle by the window and he said 'why don"t you get your own house?' 

"There's a little bit of tension around. We decorated my room in a bid to create the illusion of me having control over my life; I took time choosing what colours to have and what lamps to go with and then mum and aunt Christine went to Dunelm Mill and bought me a lamp that they liked. 

"It was very nice but not what I wanted, and you can't just hide that away in the cupboard. 

"Socially it"s very complicated, and results in lots of lying and eventually an explosive argument: it's great value." 


Still, there are some changes afoot in Tom's life and the good news is that he"s passed his driving test at the third attempt. 

"I had a lovely two to three years of learning; it was like another degree and I feel very happy that I can drive. 

"What I want to talk about in the show is that sense of moving forward. 

"I think a lot of people experience those around them running ahead and sometimes if you're not in the same boat as them (if you're not getting married or not owning your own home) you can feel a bit left out. 

"For me, I wonder, well, is what they're doing necessarily better? So, I'll talk about weddings and some hen parties that I've been invited to. 

"I don't quite know when that started, when gay men began to be invited to hen dos. I don't think lesbian hen dos invite a straight bloke along so they can sit in front of Sky Sports." 

You'd have assumed that having passed his driving test, a sense of liberation, freedom and extra bon vivant would have washed over Tom as he took to the open roads of the United Kingdom. Not a bit of it. 

"Because I couldn't afford my own insurance on a car, I got insured on mum and dad"s Ford Fiesta Zetek, 1.5 litre engine, five doors. 

The boot doesn't open, which is not a euphemism. The car is maroon which is great because it goes with nothing, and so clashes no matter what I wear. 

"There's moss on the back windows and the wing mirrors are being held on by gaffer tape. To quote from the song Greased Lightning, it's a real pussy wagon."

As someone who is on the road a lot, heading to various theatres, comedy clubs  and arts venues to perform his own learned brand of stand-up, Tom is now able to get himself around rather than rely on lifts or use public transport. 

"One of the things I get anxious about it is getting petrol on my hands: what if it burns? 

"So, I put the gloves on when I'm at the petrol station, and there are those tissues you can use: I like to avail myself of all the accessories. But when I did so, my friend openly mocked me."

Motoring issues aside, as someone who clearly has a deep love of language, you can imagine Tom joyfully revelling in the discovery of new words. 

"I do like words. I learned the word esoteric just the other day: 'that which is created or delivered for a specific audience or an audience with a specific reference point'. 

"I don't know if I'm esoteric; I think I'd like to think I was, but in reality I'm actually very ordinary. 

"But isn't that thing, it's the game we all play, the secret we all hide is that we're actually the same as everybody else. 

"I do say the word 'absolutely' quite a lot and last year I called my show 'Indeed'. 

"They're just words for saying yes, and it is important to say yes to things and to live life to the full as much as one can."

Tom Allen will be at Brighton Dome Concert Hall on Saturday 1st December 2018. For tickets CLICK HERE.

by: Mike Cobley & Brian Donaldson




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Photo credit: Sante D'Orazio

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