Comedian Tom Houghton on life in the Tower of London
Watching Tom Houghton’s stand-up is an entertaining, eye-opening and rewarding experience, as it humorously – and with unflinching honesty – lays bare his life of privilege, making it easy to understand and often fun for those of you. ‘among us who don’t own a morning suit or don’t know where to wear it.
Tom, the son of the former Chief of the Defense Staff, lives in the Tower of London and a key part of his material is to lift the lid on, among other things, the surroundings of the boys’ boarding school in which he was dived when he was six years old.
“This unexpected feat deserves a 21-gun salute,” says The Daily Telegraph of Tom – or the Honorable Tom Houghton, to give him his full title. Now the comic book and Tik Tok star, who recently supported Milton Jones on tour (“touring with him has been one of the brightest and most educational experiences of my career so far and I will be forever indebted”), is set to embark on his first-ever UK tour – Tom Houghton Honor Tour (“Tom Houghton on Tour”, understood?) – stopping at The Junction on Saturday March 5.
Addressing the Cambridge Independent from home – yes, the Tower of London – the 37-year-old Comedy Central‘s star Roast Battle and channel 4 First dates began by explaining how it happened that he ended up residing in one of London’s top tourist attractions.
“I live in Queen’s House, which is the oldest notable Tudor building – built in 1535 during the reign of Henry VIII – and I live here because my father is the former Chief of the Defense Staff, so the head of the British army,” he said.
“When he retired, he became the Constable of the Tower of London and moved into the Queen’s Household, and that was just around the same time that I was…I was in a band comedy for 10 years and I had just done a Robbie Williams and quit them and went solo.
“I was moving to London for the opportunity to start my solo career, so I had the choice of renting a closet in zone five for £78,000 a minute with 58 other people, or moving in for a bit with my dad in the historic palace. What an incredibly privileged opportunity to have, and so I decided to do it.
“And it was extended because of Covid. Obviously my career was cut off a bit, so I still find myself here for now until I go on tour.
Tom says he was a “pad kid”, which, he explains, “basically means that my parents lived in different army barracks throughout my childhood”.
“I think I moved around 15 times when I was 18. I lived twice in Germany, I lived in Northern Ireland, in the UK…
“So the most consistent geographic location of my childhood was actually a boarding school; I went to boarding school when I was six. It’s the same for the course if you’re a military kid because it’s kind of the lesser of two evils – either you have to change schools every one or two years or you go to boarding school.
Tom attended Sedbergh School in the Lake District, whose famous alumni include former England rugby captain Will Carling and ‘the guy who wrote The full Monty”. Tom adds: “I plan to be the next claimant to fame, hopefully, fingers crossed.”
When Tom first went to Sedbergh it was an all-boys school, but that later changed, thankfully while he was still there. “My year was the first mixed year,” he recalls, “so when I was 17, a school of 600 boys let 22 girls join my year – and it was as crazy as you can imagine .”
Besides the obvious, there was another reason why Tom welcomed the introduction of girls into the school. “For someone like me, who was being bullied, it was actually a relief,” he says, “because I was into theatre, musicals and performing, and so when girls happened, I suddenly became a lot more popular because I was playing all the games with them and everything – so they were my ticket to not being bullied; that was great news.
On his next tour, Tom – who remembers playing Cats the Musical on the stairs in front of his father and his “army officer buddies” at age five, wearing a leotard with ears and a tail (he later studied drama at the University of Kent) – says: “The show is kind of about… when my dad became a lord, I got the title of Honorable Tom Houghton, which I don’t feel like I deserved – it wasn’t deserved.
“I’ve been sacked from Wetherspoons twice, I don’t feel particularly honourable… But the whole show is basically an amalgamation of three Edinburgh shows I’ve done. It’s kind of the best bits sorted on the pane, and it’s an introduction to me and my journey, so my dad became a lord, my mom being the backbone of the family, then me and my sister, what it was like growing up, d go to boarding school…
“There are routines about how she turned into a witch and I decided to run away from home often, but being in a military barracks surrounded by barbed wire, I couldn’t run away from home. me, because obviously there were military patrols taking me home… So it’s a real introduction to me and my family life.
Tom admits he “definitely” bears emotional scars after being sent off to boarding school at such a young age – he recalls, for example, his first day of high school at the age of 13 being pushed into a suitcase and thrown down some stairs. , and be whipped with a taut hanger.
“My third show was called adjourned classand it wasn’t until later in my life that I realized there was a syndrome called boarding school syndrome, which affects… I was six years old when my family threw me into boarding school and it is now well documented, the trauma you have of being abandoned by your family and having to fend for yourself.
“There’s a lot of pent up emotions and I really struggled with that for a while, until I recognized it. I did therapy and all that kind of stuff and worked around that, and I found out that when I did the boarding school show, I had a lot of former boarders who came…
“I actually had a lot of women come up after the show and say, ‘You just explained to me why it’s so hard to talk about things with my husband’ and that was actually a very, very nice thing to hear.
I’ve been kicked out of Wetherspoons twice, I don’t feel particularly honorable
“Going to private school is a difficult violin to play, isn’t it? Because most people are just like, “Well, that’s a very privileged experience that you had,” and in many ways it’s a privileged experience, but I think the ill effects are kind of silenced.
Tom continues: “There is a book called The making of them, which talks about boarding school, and the way he describes it is that as a child you are sent to this privileged school and your parents say, “You are privileged to go to this school; it’s the best school you can go to.
“So when you go there and you feel sad, of course, because your parents sent you away and you’re alone, but in your six-year-old head you’re like, ‘But my parents have always right and they told me that the school was right and that I felt bad, but my parents can’t be wrong so the school can’t be wrong, so it’s me who must be wrong” .
“So these are the kids blaming themselves for being unhappy at school, which is just the saddest thing ever. I vividly remember feeling that when I was at school; the guilt of feeling sad and alone.
Tom, who wants to make it clear that not everyone is having a bad time at boarding school – and he certainly got some good stand-up material out of it – adds: “It’s a really deep interview! But I love talking about this stuff and it’s worth it – and I’m sure there are plenty of people in Cambridge who will relate to that!
Human emotion, Tom notes, is universal and everyone – no matter where they come from – knows what it’s like to feel lonely, happy, sad, etc. says, “is that I come from a very unique situation – I live in a palace and I went to a boarding school for boys and my father is a lord – but that makes the incomprehensible, the relatable. I think we all go through the same emotions – they’re just framed differently.
Although he may be despised and dismissed as “out of touch” by some, Tom strives in his comedy to be as “real” as possible. “I try not to be a cartoon,” he says. “There’s a lot to be said for privilege and having an authentic voice on this side, rather than just saying, ‘Oh, we’re all happy hockey sticks, raft races and vests. “. It’s just such a surface-level assessment of the whole thing.
Tom happily notes that his parents are his “biggest fans” and that his father brings friends from the House of Lords to his shows. He’s also had Beefeaters in the front row at concerts, but sadly never in uniform.
Tom Houghton will appear at The Junction (J3) on Saturday March 5th. Visit