Lee Mack is headlining tonight. “Let’s hear it for Tom Morley” says the MC as I step on to the stage. Three other comedians have gone before me and I’m about to perform my own 5 minutes of stand-up pre-Lee. Am I mad? No, this is a tried and tested act. Like a Jack-In-A-Box popping up after a terrifying but ultimately enlightening dark night of the soul I’ve performed this in several clubs around London and audiences seem to love it. Not a drum in sight. I’m thinking, “This could be my big break. Me and Lee on tour together. Bye bye bands, break ups and breakdowns.”
I’ve learned to let the audience know that I know what they’re thinking so I begin with, “Hello, my name’s Tom. I don’t take drugs. Before we get started, is anyone else having a bad hair day?”
From here I lead them on a tension and release journey of personal vulnerabilities, humorously exposing a few universal truths. Head and heart in see-saw harmony. Tonight I’m going down a storm, this is my fifth gig in a row where it’s really worked and I’m loving it. Laughter. My new career. I can’t wait to hear what Lee thinks. I’m guessing he’s at the back taking notes.
Lee’s cab has taken him to the wrong venue. He sweeps in just as I’m saying, “You’ve been great. I’ve been Tom Morley”.
I get into all this via a somewhat debilitating bout of insomnia in 1998. I’m so bored with having 24 hours to fill every day I sign up for a smorgasbord of courses at The City Literary Institute. One of them is comedy and it’s harder than climbing Mount Everest.
Oh yeah, and the first time I die on stage is in Whitstable two weeks later. My carefully honed act just isn’t working out of town. I’d like to say you can hear a pin drop but it’s worse than that. It’s bonfire night and there’s a big display going on right outside this Comedy Club on the beach. Excited Kent ooohs and aaahhs fill the gaps in my London-centric set, which goes on for about half a century of stoney faced graveyard mourning.
A fellow comedian buys me a pint afterwards. “Welcome to life after death” he says, “We all have to go through it. What’s the biggest thing you learned tonight?”
“It was profound” I say, mentally planning my route back to the music business while inviting him to come closer. I need to whisper in his ear without the comedy booker hearing, “My name’s Tom Morley. I’m just a drummer”.