New London comics
The trim and dapper Tom Allen (he's the one on the right)
Sell your act in a line...
'A humour that's velvety, grandiloquent and rich in deliciously trivial detail'
Manor Somers Town near Euston: ‘It’s great – within walking distance of the West End. My flatmate and I spend our time dancing round the flat then go out and dodge a gang war or a drive-by.’
Who is he? Trim, dapper, well dressed in a casual kind of way, he looks like a young executive on a leisure break. He doesn’t go much for telling jokes – he tells stories instead. They’re about feeling uncomfortable as a teenager and feeling ridiculous as an adult.
He was born and brought up in Bromley. Turning down the chance to study history and politics at Warwick, because he hated the idea of writing essays for three years, Allen worked as a barman and waiter, temped in countless offices from Fortnum & Mason to a company that maintained railway tracks, and got involved with the National Youth Theatre. ‘I loved the jobs. There’s no better training for what I do now than being thrown into meeting different people in different environments.’
He started out in comedy early last year at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. ‘Not easy for a young man in a tight-fitting suit and pointy shoes.’ Within 12 months he’d won the So You Think You’re Funny? competition and the BBC New Talent comedy award.
‘Perhaps I’m a bit young to be doing stand-up. But I’ll try to keep talking truthfully about my experiences of the frightening, bewildering world that surrounds us, and I’ll try to keep in tune with my insecurities. I seem to have an ever increasing wealth of those. I’m learning, though, that there’s no place for nerves in stand-up – audiences don’t want you to apologise for being there. There’s no need to be humble.’
Worst gig Earlier this year at a south London club when, out of the darkness, a heckler shouted ‘You gay, ugly cunt!’ Allen’s response was to pull his shoulders back and say as calmly as he could: ‘And don’t forget talented. Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce my mother.’
Favourite comedians Maria Bamford (‘whom I met while doing Just for Laughs in Montreal this year and who creates the most incredible characters’), Sarah Millican (‘we started at the same time and she’s honest and kind and very funny’) and Josie Long (‘who is kind and exuberant and loads of other things I think are great’).
Favourite London clubs They include the Comedy Café, ‘where they’re always friendly’ and the Comedy Store (‘The National Theatre of stand-up’). ‘But you can have a great time in a room above a pub with dining-room chairs where a meat raffle takes the place of a headliner.’
Look out for Allen disporting himself on holiday on the beach in Nice. He’s also working on a series for BBC radio.
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