How I nearly won at Edinburgh Fringe by Tom Taylor

Tom Taylor performing at the Edinburgh Fringe at the final of  Foster's So You Think You're Funny? (Picture by Steve Ullathorne)
Tom Taylor performing at the Edinburgh Fringe at the final of Foster's So You Think You're Funny? (Picture by Steve Ullathorne)
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By Graham Chalmers

They say you learn from your mistakes and Harrogate’s Edinburgh Fringe sensation Tom Taylor has certainly learnt from his.

The full-time student and part-time comedian stormed his way to the final last week of So You Think You’re Funny, the biggest contest for up-and-coming funnymen in the UK.

But this talented 21-year-old former Ashville College student says his amazing success has only come after experiencing less happy times in previous competitions.

“I changed my whole act about a year ago after a dreadful quarter-final at another, reasonably prestigious, comedy competition.

“The majority of things that went wrong were out of my control but I still think that gig has been my biggest influence!”

The York University student may not have won last week’s final at Edinburgh’s famous Gilded Balloon venue but his rapid rise is an incredible achievement for a likable young man who first set foot on stage as a stand-up comic only three years ago.

But wasn’t he fazed by performing in front of a celebrity panel which included Sarah Millican? Apparently not.

The level-headed Tom said: “Though winning is nice, I think the competition was ultimately an opportunity to showcase you and your material to the comedy and entertainment industry, including Britain’s Got Talent who were there sniffing for victims!”

Among the audience were his parents and some friends, all of whom thought Tom had put on his best performance to date as a sort of younger John Shuttleworth, all low-key rambling and surreal ditties on his Casio keyboards.

The judges certainly had a hard time deciding, taking a painfully long time to pick a winner by all accounts.

In the event, they opted to fudge the issue, announcing the first tie for first place in the contest’s 26-year history.

Sadly, it didn’t include Tom; the prizes went instead to Australian comic Demi Lardner and wildcard Edd Hedges.

But Tom, who briefly became a reviewer on the columns of these pages at Thorner Comedy Festival earlier in the year, remains unperturbed by his meteoric rise and the whole experience of being in the top flight of British comedy.

“It was a weird gig - I am still not sure about the merits of competitive comedy but, after time to reflect, I am happy with my performance. “

Perhaps, Tom’s impressive cool is the result of being head of school at Ashville College?

More likely it’s down to his experience of regularly MC-ing Sitting Room, the comedy club he set up in Harrogate as a 19-year-old in 2011.

Among the stars he’s played warm-up to since he set up Sitting Room, which usually takes place in the St George Hotel in Ripon Road, are Hal Cruttenden, Paul Foot, Arthur Smith and Paul Tonkinson.

But Tom says he has learnt from all the comedians he has come across on his journey to Fringe success.

“Personally, I love comedians such as Bill Bailey, Tim Minchin, Dylan Moran and Mark Maier. They’ve all helped inspire me but I am not sure how much my own material has been influenced by them.

“For me it’s just a case of seeing good comedians and being inspired to write more and improve.”

It’s been quite a summer for Tom who recently graduated from York University with a degree in music.

A career in ‘showbiz’ now seems almost inevitable but, for the moment, Tom has his next Sitting Room night to organise on Wednesday, September 11.

He likes to keep standards high so even the host tends to be a cracker,

This time round it’s Pat Monahan, the Irish-Iranian stand-up comedian who has appeared multiple times on The Paul O’Grady Show.

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