ED2022 Comedy ED2022 Interviews

Tom Mayhew: Trash Rich

By | Published on Wednesday 3 August 2022

We’ve been hearing quite a bit about Tom Mayhew in recent years, and last year one of our reviewers saw – and loved – the online edfringe show he did. The topics he covers in his comedy are really important – and quite serious – ones, dealing with sociopolitical themes, and yet he is still effortlessly funny. 

He makes a physical return to Edinburgh this year with ‘Trash Rich’, a show prompted by the cost of living crisis, and we are of course expecting great things. I arranged a chat with Tom, to find out more about the show and about the comedian himself. 

CM: Let’s start by talking about the show. What is ‘Trash Rich’ all about? What topics will you be covering? 
TM: The show is inspired by the cost of living crisis, and how the working-class have been depicted over the past couple of years. I also talk about how my attitudes to money have been formed by growing up with not much of it!

CM: What made you want to create a show based on this subject? Do you regard yourself as a political comedian? 
TM: It’s all that’s on my mind right now, to be honest, so it’s hard not to write about it. It’s the thing that I think about before going to bed and the thing I think about when waking up.

Financial insecurity is something I am… I don’t want to say ‘used to’, but I have managed to teach myself to deal with it over the years. But it’s a very important – frankly, vital – subject to talk about, especially now.

As for if I consider myself a political comedian… well, most of my stuff is talking about class inequality and how that affects my family and our day-to-day lives. So I guess that makes me a political comedian, but I prefer the phrase “sociopolitical comedian”, because my stuff is always rooted in real-life, and real experiences. 

CM: What’s involved in the creative process of making a show like this, ie, one with distinct themes? Do you sit down and write your ideas? 
TM: I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the topics, and working out what annoys me about them. That tends to lead to comedy fairly quickly, as that’s how my brain deals with these things. 

So when I saw people debating over whether we should give kids free school meals, I sat down for five minutes, trying to think about what sort of reasons people would give when arguing against it.

This led to me writing a routine about the phrase “if you can’t afford to feed them, don’t have them”, which mocks that phrase, mocks the sentiment behind it, while also pulling a punch to the gut, as I hate the fact that the statement implies that poor kids shouldn’t exist. 

If you care about a subject, you can find both the funny and the heart in it.

CM: How did you come to be working in comedy? Was performing something you always wanted to do? How did you take your first career steps? 
TM: I wanted to be a comedian since I was a teenager. I wrote my first jokes when I was thirteen, and performed some of them on stage when I did my first gig at eighteen! The lovely thing about stand-up is that you can just take your ideas and jokes, sign up for an open mic gig in a pub, and do them! 

I love the idea of making people laugh, as I think comedy – both the writing and the watching of it – is something that helps people process life. 

CM: Can you tell us about your Radio 4 Series? 
TM: My Radio 4 series – ‘Tom Mayhew Is Benefit Scum’ – is something I am incredibly proud of. I really wanted to make a show that was representative of my opinions and feelings as a working-class millennial, packed full of both jokes and feeling, which Radio 4 gave me complete freedom to do. 

I try to see each episode as like a mini Edinburgh Fringe show, with a theme, and then a start, middle, and end. That makes them more interesting for me to create – and hopefully more interesting for the listener too!

CM: What would you say have been the highlights of your career thus far? 
TM: The first thing would be the Radio 4 show, as it happens! I’ve loved Radio 4 comedy since I first got into listening to it as a teenager, and I used to listen to things like ‘Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better’ and think “man, it would be a dream come true to make a show myself!” I still have to pinch myself occasionally when I remember I’ve done it, as it was something that was just a dream a few years ago.

Selling out the Soho Theatre was another highlight. For my eighteenth birthday, my parents asked me what I wanted to do as a special treat, and I said I wanted to go and see Jon Richardson at the Soho Theatre. I left the venue that day with playing that very theatre as one of my top comedy goals, so to play a sold out run in January 2020 – in that same room as I saw Jon play when I was eighteen – is something that will always mean the world to me.

CM: How were you affected by the pandemic? How did you get through it, and what impact has it had on your career? 
TM: Well, I think a lot of people just think “oh, you lost a lot of work for six months, but now it’s all back to normal” – but the reality is, over two years on, I’m still not earning anywhere near as much from live comedy as I was before the pandemic.

I can only speak for myself in that regard – it will vary from comic to comic – but the live industry has definitely taken a knock, that was only made worse by the cost of living crisis. To be honest, it’s touch and go every month whether I can call myself a “professional comedian”, or “a semi-pro comedian with a Radio 4 series”, which is mad.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future? 
TM: To keep moving forward, both in terms of my career and in my life. It’s been such a rollercoaster the last couple of years, so it’d be lovely to have a nice uphill ride for a while. All we can do is hope to keep moving forward and hopefully one day we will be OK.

CM: You’ve been to Edinburgh before, of course. What made you want to come back? 
TM: It’s my favourite month of the year. There is nothing in the world I love more than stand-up, and all the best stand-up shows in the world are performed here. All my friends are here, I love the city to bits, and it’s lovely to not live with my parents for a month. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

CM: What are you looking forward to most about being in town for the Festival? Is there anything you are not looking forward to? 
TM: I am looking forward to seeing friends who I have barely seen since 2019, watching lots of great shows, and working on my own show. I’m not looking forward to the usual ticket/money anxiety, but hey, that’s unavoidable.

CM: What will you be doing in Edinburgh when you are not performing? Do you have a list of shows to see? 
TM: Yes! I have a list of tons of shows to see! It’s going to be really lovely to see so many things again – not just comedy, but music, theatre, street performers… there’s even an online show where you can watch a webcam video of a tortoise! That might end up being something I go to for a relaxing break from it all throughout the month, to be honest…

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this? 
TM: Being completely frank, I have no clue. I have no tour shows booked in, no TV/radio work in the pipeline. All I have booked in for September is a week away with my partner and her family! Hopefully this month and this show will lead to big and exciting things in the world of comedy, but even if it doesn’t, it will be lovely to be performing a show every night once again.

Tom Mayhew performed ‘Trash Rich’ at The Stand Comedy Club 2 at Edinburgh Festival 2022.

LINKS: www.tommayhew.co.uk | twitter.com/TomMayhew 

Photo: Andy Hollingworth