Tom Houghton: Class Half Empty | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney
review star review star review star review half star review blank star

Tom Houghton: Class Half Empty

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney

There’s posh, and there’s Tom Houghton posh. Like a troll sent to wind up the leftie right-on Edinburgh Fringe, Houghton isn’t necessarily a Tory, but he is privilege in human form. 

Son of Britain’s former chief of the defence staff, he lives in the Tower of London and on several occasions has stood close enough to the Queen to twiddle her tiara, if he so wished. He’s undegone kidnapping survival training because so many people are trying to do over his parents.

Some people will be desperate for him to be a hateful toff, but he is a thoroughly decent chap who’s acutely aware that he’s won life’s lottery. He’s a fine comedian too – he gets considerable comic mileage out of his ludicrous life, the anecdotes speaking for themselves sometimes but still expertly performed. 

His tales of going to boarding school aged six have some very funny moments, particularly his anxious mum’s catalogue of voice messages, and the utter panic that besets the boys when a tiny cabal of girls join the school for the first time. 

Thanks to his years of performing as part of improv group The Noise Next Door, he’s a talented performer, completely comfortable playing off the audience and cutting into his anecdotes with little micro-sketches and ditties. It builds up Class Half Empty to be a fairly hefty package of entertainment. He performs with energy and has the room completely at ease.

Houghton does his best to paint himself as the naive fish out of water with his feet on the ground (I know that’s not possible), and tries to distance himself from the term ‘posh twat’ by owning it. This washes to some extent – he is the camp son of a military man, so he presumably didn’t fit in completely. When he expresses a level of sympathy with royals for being born into the monarchy without any option, he is presumably defending his own position as well. There is a very funny bit in this section about the Groundhog Day nightmare the Queen must live in, hearing the national anthem a dozen times a day, every day for 60 years.

But the charm offensive wears thin as the show gets increasingly laddy. It creeps in as he cheekily tells us he had sex with a ladyboy in Thailand with a hint of braggadocio. Then there’s a story about rugby farewell party in a restaurant that went a bit Bullingdon Club (all I could think was: ‘That just sounds absolutely horrendous for everyone else in the restaurant’), next we’re in Amsterdam and he’s in bed with a trans prostitute … And sure, Houghton is confronted by a prejudice he has, which punctures the relentless bantz and teaches him a life lesson, but final 20 minutes does have the whiff of macho bluster. 

It’s a slightly distasteful end to an otherwise impressive hour of comedy, by a comic who certainly knows how to entertain.

Review date: 18 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Paul Fleckney

What do you think?

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.