COMEDIAN Tom Wrigglesworth has an unusual list of people to thank for his current stand-up routine — a ‘jobsworth’ train ticket inspector, a police officer who nearly arrested him and, most of all, Richard Branson.
It sounds like a routine fabricated purely for its comedy value but the tales the 32-year-old funnyman recalls in his act are actually based on a true story.
Last autumn Tom was threatened with arrest after he went to the aid of a sobbing pensioner who had boarded the wrong train from Manchester to London. Lena Ainscow, 75, was left in tears when she was ordered to pay more than £100 for a new ticket and Tom explains how he couldn’t just sit there, a few seats behind, watching it all happen.
“I started to organise a whip-round to help her,” said Tom, a stand-up for the last six years. “No-one minded and it was obvious she’d made a mistake. But the guard said my actions were akin to begging and called the police, who waited for me at Euston.”
Tom revealed the comedy potential of the scenario did not occur to him immediately. That only happened when the ticket collector told him that if he were to hand back the donations, he would not press to have the comic arrested.
“He was suggesting a kind of reverse whip-round — that I run around Euston trying to find people who’d been on the train so I could give them their money back.
“It was at that moment I thought, ‘this is beyond ridiculous . . . I could get a routine out of this’,” he said.
In fact, he got an entire show out of it. — Open Return Letter to Richard Branson, which was nominated for this year’s Edinburgh Comedy Award.
“It stars the world’s biggest jobsworth, my fellow passengers, and a brown paper bag from the onboard canteen for the collection,” said Tom, who used to work in electronics.
Tom brings his critically acclaimed show to King George’s Hall, Blackburn, this weekend.
It’s a comic rant based on real life material other stand-ups would kill for and if you catch it you’ll be one of the first in the country to see it. Since its run in Edinburgh Tom has only played the show to his home town of Sheffield and won’t start his national tour until the new year.
Tom will appear as part of Blackburn’s ‘You Must Be Joking’ comedy festival, using the date as a warm-up for his major tour, which sees five shows a week across the UK for most of 2010.
“I’m really looking forward to Sunday. I like the crowds up there. Last time I was there it was the walk around town with Frank Sidebottom.
“It was a bit strange. We just wandered around and told jokes. So this time I’m glad I can stay at King George’s Hall for the entire set,” he laughed.
Despite his success it is only in recent years that his parents have come to see him in action.
“I would put them off because I couldn’t handle them hearing the bad language. Not that I swear much, I don’t think, but there wouldd be words said after the performance.
“But recently I thought I just have to bite the bullet. I didn’t hold back either. I just went for it and they liked it.”
And it’s not just Mr and Mrs Wrigglesworth in his fan club, but Mr Branson himself, the Virgin trains boss and star of Tom’s set.
“Richard Branson told me he liked my show,” Tom smiled. “And his sister came to see me after I did it in Edinburgh and she said she liked it too. In fact, we’re still in touch.”
l Tom Wrigglesworth — King George’s Hall, Blackburn, Sunday November 8. Tickets from box office 0844 847 1664.