Tom Ward is living for the weekend

Talking Bono, Dylan and Saturday night burger binges with the stand-up who’s rethinking everything

“You can’t really know who you are until you’ve been properly tested,” sighs Tom Ward, running his hands through a helmet of hair. “You can have ideas about yourself for years, and then it can all change in a heartbeat. So that’s the theme of the show, really: the flimsiness of the subjective experience. The thinness of reality.”

In other words, Tom Ward has just become a dad. “It’s a shit show of various levels of pain and pleasure,” he sighs, comparing himself to Walter White in Breaking Bad as he talks juggling work and family. “Everything I’ve been told is percolating in my head. If you asked me now, should I have kids? I’d say yes and no in equal measure.”

Great time for a major new tour then? Choose Your Delusion has been brewing for a few years now – developed alongside appearances on Live At The ApolloQI and Roast Battle. “I’m at that point in my Work-In-Progress show where I’m doubting myself,” he says, staring down the barrel of a run of UK dates that stretches from September to November. “I’ve gone through the stage of feeling like a god and now, I’m feeling like a fraud. And then hopefully, come September, I’ll feel like a god again.”

Currently in the process of evolving his critically-lauded show to keep up with his own changed outlook (“When you have a kid you can suddenly find yourself agreeing to do a corporate gig for Esso… So yeah, there’s definitely going to be more about existential dread now I reckon…”), Ward is refining one of the best deadpan sets around. Before all that, we get stuck in a lift to ask the big questions. 

Tom Ward 'Live at The Comedy Store' on Comedy Central

Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with? 

I think it’d probably be a musician that I could talk to about all their songs, lyrics and their opinions. But I don’t know which one it would be… Okay, let’s say Bono because I’d really like to ask him about how he reconciles his faith and his morals with his rampant materialism and egotism.

I’m sure he’d love to talk about that if he was stuck in a lift with a stranger

He’d be delighted. And he’d probably charm me, and I’d probably back off because I like him. Yeah, he’d play me for sure. You don’t get that big without being able to weasel your way out of an awkward lift conversation. He’d probably convert me. I’d come out a Christian wearing a leather jacket.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?

Who makes me feel like I’m going a bit mad every time I see them? It’s usually someone loud who doesn’t really say anything. Someone who talks at you and doesn’t seem to ask any questions about you, who just rants and shouts.

Sounds like you’re describing a heckler? 

Yeah they can be like that. I had one on Saturday. She was screaming at me to get off and she tried to storm the stage to fight me. It’s usually women. I only have angry women. I don’t ever have angry men. This one last weekend was a very angry woman who was really set on what she thought I was saying, but she was misreading it. She got up and tried to fight me and had to be taken out. I’m pretty sure her feet were dangling when they took her out. If she’d made it onto the stage, I don’t know what would have happened but she was definitely going to hit me. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a lift with her.

What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve ever had with a famous person?

I had a nice drink with Jerry Dammers from The Specials. He was DJing and I just went and had a chat with him over a lime and soda. That was unexpected. It wasn’t weird, though… Do you mean something odd? You really want me to have a story about Kevin Spacey don’t you?

Well, yeah, but I probably won’t be able to use it.

I don’t know… I was in a mosh pit with Joey Barton once. It wasn’t a heavy metal gig either, it was an indie gig. But, you know, the last few songs were extra jingly jangly and he came down to the front. 

What was the last gig or show that you went to?

I went to see Jane’s Addiction last night. That was good, although they didn’t play my two favourite songs. I think they maybe look down on people that discovered them later. You know, bands can be a bit funny about that. I discovered them in the early 2000s when they had their comeback. So they didn’t play ‘Just Because’ or ‘Strays’, but it was still great. 

Where do you stand on that whole Bob Dylan thing – artists who don’t want to play the hits anymore?

I mean, it’s a bit harsh, isn’t it? But it’s maybe why he continues to play because he’s still interested. Maybe he wouldn’t play live if he was still playing ‘Tambourine Man’. He might be like, [puts on Dylan voice] “I’m getting out of here man. I’m bored with entertaining these fools.” So yeah, rough with the smooth I guess. But it does hurt when you’re there and you want to hear a song so badly. A song that has so much memory and so much feeling attached to it, and they’re standing there holding the instruments… They can do it if they want to… But, yeah, I get it.

What’s on your rider?

Not much. I stopped drinking last year so just some 0% lager and fruit. Unless it’s a weekend, then I’ll have the full works. I’ll have a veggie burger and chips and ice cream and a pizza and anything else. Except I’ll try not to eat it all before the gig, because then I’ll just fall asleep and need a poo. But yeah, during the week it’s all about staying healthy – Saturday nights are for colon carnage. 

Tom Ward - Stand Up Comedy Tour UK 2024

What did the 12-year-old you imagine you’d be doing now?

I was in the church then so I might have been too battle-worn to dream. I didn’t start dreaming until I was about 15. I don’t really remember having any ambition at 12 – other than just to get through the day, and to try and save some souls.

Which film have you rewatched the most times? 

Fletch, with Chevy Chase because it could so easily not work, but it does. I don’t know why. I mean, it’s a bit crap, but it’s brilliant. 

Did you watch the recent sequel with Jon Hamm? 

No he’s too good-looking. He’s immortalized in Mad Men for me as the smoothest, most handsome, most duplicitous guy ever. He’s no Chevy. 

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

I’ve done door-to-door charity fundraising in the street. I’ve promoted nightclubs in the street. I promoted a Mexican restaurant – a really shit Mexican restaurant – but that was good because they paid commission and I was really good at it. I’ve done a lot of delivering flyers to people’s doors, and that was a pretty low point. The only exciting part of the day would be when someone would open the door and scream at you that they didn’t want any junk mail. I remember some lads cycled past and called me “Butters”. And I remember thinking, why are you assessing my aesthetic? If you’re heterosexual boys, why are you even interested in how I look? But I’ve been planning my response for 15 years and the moment’s gone. But yeah, I got £30 cash and I used to listen to comedy when I was walking along. So I listened to Billy Connolly and Joe Brand and Eddie Izzard, and that’s where it all started for me.

You’ve done a lot of voiceover work on TV haven’t you? 

Yeah that took off around the same time as the comedy. I got a voice reel together, I put it up on a website and then I got a gig doing an advert for Marvel, which was very unexpected. Now I mainly do documentaries. Apparently I have a reassuring voice that can turn dramatic when needed. I’ve been in hotel rooms after a gig and I’ve come back and turned on the TV and there I am. I’m everywhere. I own this world. I feel like a king.

Do you have any superstitions?

I’m sort of repetitive with food. I eat the same thing pretty much every day. Is that a superstition or is that an eating disorder?

Well, do you think something bad might happen if you eat something else? 

Yeah, I’ll get fat. Turns out it might be an eating disorder…

Tom Ward brings Choose Your Delusion to venues around the UK from September. Find tickets here