I, TOM MAYHEW
I, Tom Mayhew was my 2019 solo show. It was critically acclaimed
at the Edinburgh Fringe, and transferred to a sell-out Soho Theatre run in January 2020. This led to a Radio 4 series being commissioned off the back of it, titled Tom Mayhew is Benefit Scum. The 2nd series of this show aired in July 2022.
Edinburgh Fringe review by Jack Boyles for Chortle
As you may or may not know, I’m writing these very words because I won a Chortle bursary to help working-class critical voices become better represented in comedy – an opportunity I will be eternally grateful for. Because good things don’t really happen to working-class people, and when they do we feel like we have cheated, are not worthy or in my case, a charlatan.
But it’s not only critical voices that are not being conveyed; there are few working-class comedians, too. And given the cost of being at the Fringe, it’s no surprise: the festival is inclusive, but for only those who can afford it.
So, it’s an absolute pleasure to hear the working-class voice of Tom Mayhew, whose show is an honest portrayal of a life signing on, a tale of how the benefits system is corrupt, and an exploration of the stigma surrounding our socio-economical group. He evokes the struggles and hardships people go through simply because they are not born into wealth nor given the opportunity to blossom.
Mayhew’s first-hand knowledge of the subjects enlightens many audience members into how policies and systems are perverted and recalcitrant. And people listen because of his delightful charm and the sincerity in his delivery. He is creating crisp jokes about working-class society, not glib ‘Rola Cola’ stuff.
Like all the best set-up/punchline comedians, Mayhew makes jokes about the matters he wants to talk about, rather than choosing the subjects to fit the jokes. It’s a highly polished act that has laughter and applause reverberating around the room.
He ends on a monologue that drives all his points home. It’s a speech with more meaning and power for working-class people than any Wonderwall, God Save The Queen or Tubthumping song will ever do; a soliloquy of our lives.
I, Tom Mayhew offers authentic material we can relate too: funny, sharp, intelligent, meaningful and pleasing. Mayhew is a voice that needs to be heard.
Review date: 9 Aug 2019
Reviewed by: Jack Boyles
Reviewed at: Just the Tonic at The Mash House
Comedy is, nowadays, a broad church.
By Kate Copstick in The Scotsman
Tuesday, 13th August 2019, 1:12 pm
And although, generally speaking, the more you laugh the higher the star count, there is always an exception that proves the rule. And so Tom Mayhew gets four stars. We definitely laughed about Job Centre Plus and the whole misnomer that is ‘benefits’ and about Tom’s inability to manage proper football banter.
The hour is studded with delightful little one liners. His working class credentials are unimpeachable – he grew up poor, in a devoutly Christian household, his dad drove trucks, his mum works in Boots – and when he gets stuck into the stigmatisation of the working class and the sweeping judgments that are made about the poor he lights up the whole room.
Tom Mayhew is the quietest, most self-effacing, most diffident of comics and to see him click it up several gears and give it some serious emotional wellie is a wonderful thing. His Dad is his hero and gets to headline Tom’s set. It is genuine, powerful, political stuff, this. These are four stars for a voice that should be heard more. Four stars for comedy shining a light on some grim, unjust places. And four stars for Tom Mayhew’s Dad, who sounds awesome.
Written by Chrissy Ross on August 6, 2019 for The Edit
I have been attending the Edinburgh Fringe every year or so for nearly twenty years and ‘I, Tom Mayhew’ is upon reflection a show that I have the deepest appreciation for. It’s quite simply an absolute gem of a performance from 2018’s BBC Comedy Award Semi Finalist Tom Mayhew.
The show focuses on Tom’s experience of unemployment, how his parent’s Christianity affected him and gives an insight as to how politics of austerity and inept political mechanisms impact upon the working class. Deeply personal throughout, this marvellous show delivers a narrative of anger, dismay and frustration at the injustice of the UK’s benefits system and those that experience it’s archaic and somewhat bewildering judgements.
Tom delivers sharp observational political comedy throughout and the emotional and compelling narrative that was his families experience of the system is beautifully drawn together by his willingness to be open about this trauma.
Throughout the performance Tom was actively seeking engagement from his audience, it was natural and heartfelt as it was quick and hilarious. A segment of heckling to which Tom was called “Scum” for admitting being a Chelsea fan and the ensuing 5 minutes of interaction was some of the funniest improvised rebuttals I’ve seen from a performer. All the while delivered with a warmth and affection that drew the crowd and the heckler onside more with each passing comment.
Those in attendance gave a rousing ovation at the end, as the show ended on a reflective note that reached out on an emotional level to anyone with a conscience.
I promised when I started reviewing these shows that I would loathe to hand out a 5 star review to any show unless it was truly exceptional. This performance easily met that criteria and Tom’s clever writing and well-timed delivery no doubt means a bright future within the comedy industry for this talented young comic.
‘I, Tom Mayhew’ may not be the funniest show you see but it’s balance of harrowing recollections and hilarious beats to counter it means you will enjoy it greatly.
Tom Mayhew's Edinburgh Fringe show is a rousing call to arms for working class comics
Review by James McColl for The Skinny | 19 Aug 2019
Tom Mayhew is unabashedly working class and it's a topic that has taken him a long time to talk about. In an industry and festival overrun with middle class acts, it is a relief to see anyone that doesn't fit the bill. In I, Tom Mayhew, his working class roots and continuing struggle dominate the conversation. When it comes to talking about these issues, Mayhew is passionate, articulate and – above all else – hilarious.
Mayhew was unemployed for three years after dropping out of university. Stuck in a system that punishes the poor, he found himself in a poverty trap. The fight to remain a part of an industry he loves has been all too real. For Mayhew, stand-up has always been the goal. His jokes are punchy, sharp and forthcoming. His onstage presence is disarming and welcoming and despite the often weighty subject matter, laughs are never too far apart. Mayhew, for the most part, balances the two with precision.
Whether you are desperate to see someone talk candidly about working class issues or not, Tom Mayhew delivers. The fact that I, Tom Mayhew is one of the few shows discussing working class experiences here at the Fringe is a worrying and growing trend. The crowd is behind him for the entire show, willing him on.
Come the end of the hour, our laughter turns to anger as an impassioned Mayhew boils over with righteous fury. He is angry at a system that has unfairly punished his hard-working father, angry at a system that has made it harder for his family to survive if he moves out, and angry at a system that is rigged against people like himself succeeding in the arts. It brings an already charmed audience together behind Mayhew, whose comedic voice should be heard, even if you don’t want to hear it.