Suzi Ruffell's show made me unashamed of growing up poor | Tom Mayhew picks his comedy favourites

Suzi Ruffell's show made me unashamed of growing up poor

Tom Mayhew picks his comedy favourites

As  stand-up Tom Mayhew returns to the Fringe with his new show about working-class dreams and how annoying capitalism is, he shares his Perfect Playlist of comedy favourites.


I absolutely LOVE Chucklevision. Whenever people on podcasts ask ‘who were your early comedy influences?’, as a stand-up, it is easy to jump to the first stand-up you saw live, or the first ones you watch on YouTube over and over. But really, my love of comedy started from when I was too young to know what stand-up was, and the Chuckle Brothers are a prime example of that.

The pure silliness of the Chuckle Brothers is something that can’t fail to make me laugh, even now. Is Barry the silly one for always following Paul’s orders, or is Paul the silly one for always coming up with such ridiculous plans? How on earth did Paul saying ‘Adadadadada!’ become a catchphrase? And why is their mid-90s album so under-rated? I just love ‘em.

Doc Brown: Unfamous

My two loves are a teenager were rap music and comedy, which Doc Brown combined brilliantly. In an era of live comedy where most ‘comedy rap involved middle-class white men going ‘I couldn’t rap because I am white, it would probably go something like this!’ as if Eminem didn’t bloody exist!

Doc came at it with the skills of a proper, successful rapper, and the comedy chops of someone who could easily have made it as a stand-up comedian without using his music talent.

But combining them was a masterstroke. I watched his show Unfamous at the Bloomsbury Theatre in 2011, and it blended the two worlds seamlessly, in a way that blew both the rap fan and the comedy fan in me away.

Mixing both the warmness of a comedian and the harsh front of typical rap music should not work on paper, but Doc more than pulls it off, time and time again.

Lauren Pattison: Lady Muck

I first saw Lauren gig as part of a two-hander in Edinburgh, in an audience of around six people (that included her Mum and Dad). Even in that small room, I could tell she had the confidence, intelligence, and joke-writing skills to do incredibly well.

Even knowing that, her debut show, Lady Muck, was a revelation. I properly laughed throughout, and then left it in floods of tears. I’d broken up from my first long-term relationship – and my first love – the year before seeing the show, and it perfectly encapsulated that feeling you have at that time, where you wonder if you’ll ever love again, ever be loved again, or whether you can ever exist outside of that relationship.

A lot of stigma can be attached to comedians starting at a young age – especially if all they talk about is apps and being young – but this really was a show that needed to be written and performed by someone in their early 20s. It expressed that moment…I used the word earlier, but it’s the only one that fits: perfectly.

Since then, I’ve seen all of Lauren’s shows, and all of them have made me really laugh, and also made me feel emotional, as she has a real talent for making you resonate with her stories and feelings, particularly if you’ve had similar experiences to her. Go watch Lady Muck on NextUp, or wherever else you can find it. You won’t regret it.

Brian and Charles

I have been a massive fan of David Earl’s Brian Gittins character for around 15 years. I first stumbled upon him on YouTube, performing live at Knock2Bag, and it was the most beautiful chaos that made me laugh in a way that very few comedians can.

I then followed his Spreaker shows – a live internet radio show that he hosted as an inept, sometimes rude, but somehow still lovable radio host – which saw the birth of Charles the Robot (initially called Peter the Robot), David Edwards, and a number of other characters that he still works with on projects to this day.

Eventually, the Charles character evolved into something that Brian performed with live, and somehow it both complimented and upstaged even the beautiful chaos that Gittins had perfected on the live circuit.

Production company Mr Box then made a short film, based on the characters of Brian and Charles, which was adapted into a feature film that was released last year. Both the short and the feature are beautiful pieces of work, that combine surreal oddball characters with real, genuine emotion.

The film is now a go-to film for me and my partner when we want to watch something that is silly, which also makes us cry. Full credit to David, to director Jim Archer, to Chris Hayward, and of course to Charles himself; the fact that a weird, disruptive, and bizarre set of characters – the type who are completely at odds with what most of the industry would deem to be ‘commercial’ or ‘mainstream’ – managed to make a critically acclaimed and successful film is real and utter credit to the magic of the live circuit, and what can be achieved if you put enough heart and silliness into even the weirdest projects.

Suzi Ruffell: Postcards to Portsmouth

When I saw Suzi’s Common  show in 2016, it was a revelation. I left thinking: ‘Wow, there are people who have dads like me who do stand-up!’

As absurd as it feels writing it down, I had seen tons of stand-up shows before Suzi’s, and never heard someone talk about a family background that resonated in quite that way before.

In a very real sense, I think that both Suzi and Lauren were big inspirations for me when it came to putting together my 2019 Edinburgh show, I, Tom Mayhew, where I talked about the experiences of myself and my family of being on benefits. They were both confident, open, and warm while talking about their working-class backgrounds, in a way I had never seen before at the Edinburgh Fringe.

I’d always felt ashamed of talking about it before then, either on or off-stage, but seeing them made me realise how important and vital it is that we do talk about growing up skint, even if our mums did always tells us ‘we don’t talk about money’ as kids.

Suzi’s radio special, Postcards to Portsmouth, continues the trend that I first saw in 2016, but also includes some utterly lovely and heart-warming contributions from her Mum. It’s a wonderful 28 minutes of radio, and the first time I listened to it, I just thought ‘thank god this exists’, as it was – and still is - so refreshing.

Only Fools and Horses

Linking back to my first choice, I think my love of comedy was seeded by the likes of Chucklevision – but those seeds were watered and allowed to bloom by watching sitcoms with my parents growing up. My Family, My Hero, Keeping Up Appearances, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, The Vicar of Dibley….there were so many we would sit do and watch together, and I have hundreds of lovely, happy memories attached to that.

There’s no sitcom that was a bigger inspiration than Only Fools. This was partly unrelated to watching the show itself, as it was simply something that Dad would quote – and still does quote – in his day-to-day life.

But I always felt like Dad and Del shared a lovable rogueish quality. They are both working-class blokes who have hustled (quite literally, my Dad used to hustle people at pools in the 1980s), grafted, and done whatever they could to support people they love. It’s the sign of a great sitcom when you feel you know the characters, and the real beauty of Only Fools is how all the characters feel fully formed, and like people we have met in our day-to-day lives.

If I had to pick a particular episode, I would pick A Losing Streak, as it’s the one episode we had as kids on DVD (free from The Sun). I watched it with my brother tons of times, and it still makes me howl with laughter to this day.

Not only is it funny, but it’s also an incredible blend of drama, tension and comedy, something that John Sullivan did expertly throughout the series, which is part of the reason I think the show remains one of the best sitcoms ever produced.

• Aptly enough, Tom Mayhew’s show is named This Time Next Year, We'll Be Millionaires! and is is on at the Laughing Horse Free Festival @ Three Sisters at 6.30pm

Published: 4 Aug 2023

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