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Tom Ward: ‘The best way to find out if something’s good is to do it on stage’

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Tom Ward, owner of the ‘most famous fringe in comedy’, will be performing as part of Cambridge’s inaugural Sound + Vision festival – a three-day, multi-venue event packed full of music and comedy taking place across the city next month.

Tom Ward. Picture: Jiksaw
Tom Ward. Picture: Jiksaw

A fine comic talent, Tom spoke to the Cambridge Independent while out and about in North London on his birthday, although he was reluctant to give away his age. “I don’t even want to talk about it, it’s too depressing,” he says. “I’m going to go into denial now; I’m going to do a Russell Kane and start lying about my age, I’ve decided.”

Tom, whose Live at the Apollo set was a very memorable one, converting me into a fan right there and then, planned to spend his birthday sitting in the café he normally frequents during the day to try to write comedy, and then have a cake, go swimming and enjoy dinner with some friends ahead of a gig that night at London’s Comedy Store.

He usually takes a laptop along to the café on which to write down ideas. “I try and do it every day for a couple of hours,” he explains. “At the moment I’m just concentrating on the show [this evening] so it’s not too much of the usual thing of going in there and just messing about.

“It’s more of a case of going through and trying to work out the structure and what it’s about, which is a bit more boring, to be honest. I’d rather just sit there and muck about but I’ve got to be disciplined.”

Tom says that he tends to just jot down ideas that come into his head, admitting that most of it isn’t up to much, “as most comedians I’m sure will tell you”. “You might have 20 pages and maybe half a page will be all right,” he adds.

He sometimes tests material out on friends but believes there is a much more accurate way of finding out if something’s funny or not. “Most of the time I just go on stage,” says Tom, who has previously appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe and has also supported the likes of Jack Whitehall and Joe Lycett on tour.

“The best way to find out if something’s good is really to do it on stage – there’s no other way of knowing. Your mates might laugh because they know you or they have a similar sense of humour, or they might be comedians themselves which means they’ll have a slightly different taste to non-comedians.

“It’s really just best to go on and try it and then talk after and say, ‘What do you think? What does that need? What was wrong with that – why didn’t they laugh?’, that sort of stuff.”

On the subject of his hair, Tom jokes that whenever he tells the hairdresser what style he wants “most of them haven’t heard of Lego or Richard III”. The stand-up observes: “I do think the hair is mainly the thing that tells people that I’m not too serious...

“Long before comedy I was in a band so I had ‘hair’, you know – indie hair. I’ve always had indie hair; it isn’t for the act which people wonder. I’ll be gutted when it’s gone – then I’ll find out if I can do an act at all.”

Tom Ward. Picture: Jiksaw
Tom Ward. Picture: Jiksaw

Tom, who was awarded Best Newcomer at the 2017 Chortle Awards, describes the show he’s set to perform at the Junction as part of the Sound + Vision festival as “rough and ready”, revealing that he’ll be addressing themes such as the environment, love and class.

“It’s usually a fair bit about class and personal identity,” he explains, “and being in love, and then the climate stuff – state of the world.”

Other stand-ups scheduled to take the stage at the event include Mike Wozniak, Nick Helm, Rosie Jones and Sara Barron. Catch Tom Ward at the Junction’s J3 on Saturday, April 23. Visit junction.co.uk. For more on Tom, go to tomwardvoice.com. For more on the Sound + Vision festival, visit soundandvisionconvention.co.uk/.

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