Tom Houghton: ‘My dad held the Sword of Temporal Justice at the Coronation... I was on a stag do in Spain’
Tom Houghton, the talented comic who asked “Do you ski?” – and who then “found himself in Tuscany” – is returning to Cambridge, a city where he’s something of a comedy favourite.
Indeed, when the Right Honourable Tom Houghton (to give him his full title) performed at the Junction’s J3 in early 2022, he received such a friendly and positive response that when he came back to the same venue early last year, he sold out the much larger J2.
Now, the star of Netflix’s The Circle and host of the Bad Manors podcast – who previously lived at the Tower of London, where his father, the ex-Chief of Defence Staff, was appointed constable upon his retirement – is set to bring his latest show, It’s Not Ideal, to the same venue in February.
Since we last spoke, Tom, who now resides near Borough Market, has also done an American tour, as well as dates in Norway and Denmark, and also appeared at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
Describing It’s Not Ideal, he says: “It’s a show a bit about tradition and progress; it talks about the monarchy and the King’s Coronation, which my dad actually was part of – he held a sword next to Penny Mordaunt and we’re very proud.
“He held the Sword of Temporal Justice, whereas I didn’t go to the Coronation – I was on a stag do in Spain, drinking from the Pint of Continual Consumption, so we had very different days…
“But I think with the Queen passing, sadly, moving on to having a King, our country is going on to the next stage in its identity, and then I think that is sort of reflected in my own life – stepping down from living in the Tower, to going through a break-up, to having a big period of time quitting alcohol.
“I realise I had some bad habits in me that I needed to address, so the whole thing has been about recognising the habits you’ve formed and then knowing which ones to keep on and which ones to move forward with.”
Tom, a comedian who always tries to spread a positive message through his work, adds: “This is the first show that I’ve done that I’ve been doing internationally, and so with that I think the ideas and the jokes are becoming more ‘worldly’; I can feel that I’m trying to have a bigger outlook on life.
“I’m now writing material that is more translatable. I think I’m trying to open my eyes to a bigger world, which is exciting. It’s been fun.”
Tom’s podcast Bad Manors is about “the secret scandals and shocking history and sordid tales of manor houses and stately homes and castles up and down our country”.
The multi-viral social media sensation, a fan of fellow stand-ups Milton Jones, Troy Hawke, Josh Pugh, Jack Skipper, and Tatty Macleod, elaborates on this, noting that Chillingham Castle in Northumberland, for example, is regarded as ‘Britain’s most haunted castle’.
“When I arrived, I realised that I’d actually been to a wedding there,” he explains, “and I saw the front steps and realised that I’d actually thrown up after the wedding – when I was about 17 or 18, I should add, so a long time ago…
“We’ve also done the Hellfire Caves in High Wycombe, we’ve been to places like Samlesbury Hall in Lancashire, and I now know a lot about priest holes...
“Then also things like Bletchley Park, where the Enigma code machine was made, so hearing all about how we defeated the Germans in World War II and all the big sacrifices that went on behind the scenes that people don’t really know about.
“I’ve always wanted to try and do a history degree again, and now it feels like I’m learning more about our country’s history than I ever have before. It’s been really lovely.”
Tom kicks off his 2024 tour in Cambridge, on February 1, noting that he’s “excited by that” as “Cambridge has been my favourite place to perform each year I’ve done it”.