Tom Price is a comedian who grew up in Wales. He is most well known for his TV and radio presenting, along with his acting performances as PC Andy in Torchwood. In his comedy career, Tom Price was a finalist in the Daily Telegraph Open Mic Award, along with other awards – and can be found touring the UK comedy circuit. His work as a presenter has sen him host MTV’s Senseless, The World Series of Dating with Rob Riggle on BBC 3, and currently he is a radio presenter on Magic Radio. Tom Price also has a flourishing career as an actor, having featured in shows like Torchwood, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Episodes, My Family, Count Arthur Strong and Holy Flying Circus. Recently, Tom was in Sky One’s thrilling The Five and ITV’s massively successful new drama Victoria. I was excited to learn more about Tom’s reading habits, and I wasn’t disappointed! Please enjoy my interview with the very funny, Tom Price…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I usually patiently wait for my wife to say ‘very little’, and then I explain that I present on Magic Radio every weekend.
Oh you’ve gone from my least favourite question to my favourite question. So I’m nearly at the end of the crime thriller, Snow Blind by Ragnar Jonasson. It’s set in the northern most tip of Iceland. Basically it would seem I’ve worked my way north with crime thrillers – starting with Ian Rankin and Scotland, I then went crazy for the Scandi noir set (especially the incomparable Henning Mankel and Jo Nesbo) and now I find myself getting to bed as early as possible to enjoy some death near the Arctic Circle. And who ever said comics have dark souls!?
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
My Dad was fanatical about books. I owe my obsession to him. I think about his Arthur Ransome collection, his Just William books and all of the musty old PG Wodehouse paperbacks which took up an entire wall of his flat. I can remember reading We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea by Arthur Ransome when I was about 11 and first getting that sense of how a plot can slowly snake its way around you until you’re utterly immersed and lost in it. I’ve been chasing that feeling with every book since, I reckon!
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
All I ever wanted was to be an actor. There was a brief period of about a day where I considered being a vet, but then I realised I could just act the part of a vet in something and kill two birds with one stone (poor analogy – that would make me a terrible vet).
When did you fall in love with making people laugh?
I’m not sure I’ve ever fallen in love with making people laugh, but I’ve always been hugely driven by wanting to laugh along with people. Some of my happiest memories are of laughing to the point of incontinence with my brothers, my classmates, my parents. I’ve always enjoyed being made to laugh by tv shows, but nothing quite matches the pleasure of a properly funny moment shared with people you really know well. I think that’s informed my comedy a lot: I’m always trying to re-create that sense of the moment.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
He’d ask what the hell happened to my hair. He’d wonder why I haven’t had that Morrissey tattoo done, and he’d be disappointed I didn’t have a flying car. It’s 2017! Come ON, science – we’re waiting!
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
You said books, right? Cool because I can’t decide between How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran or The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins so I’ll take both. They both changed my life immeasurably for the better. If you’d told me when I was 15 that I’d be an Atheist Feminist I think I would have jumped out of Monmouth Boys School’s chapel window.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
When our two young kids have gone to bed my wife and I usually sit in shell-shocked silence for about an hour. I tend to get some reading in then over the noise of a bottle of wine being opened and some light sobbing.
I really enjoyed Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. His energy and passion and insatiable curiosity for comedy is infectious – it properly dawned on me that I have one of* the best jobs in the world. I’d also say that Difficult Men by Brett Martin has been a huge inspiration too. It’s about the revolution in the telly making world over the last decade or so – the core message being that you need to be an incredibly stubborn individual to get anywhere in the creative industry.
*professional golfer is the other, obviously.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring comedian or radio presenter?
Be an incredibly stubborn individual. And train as a vet so you’ve got something to fall back on.
Who would you say your three biggest comedic influences are?
Steve Coogan (Partridge comes through in most of my links whether I want him there or not).
Daniel Kitson (best stand-up I’ve ever seen. I literally aim to be 0.00000001% as good).
Conan O’Brien (amazing US presenter. Spontaneous, charming, incredible use of ginger hair).
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
I really love a lot of the late Sally Beauman’s books. Destiny, Dark Angel, and Rebecca’s Tale are particular favourites. Big, epic, beautifully written. Annoyingly I think she was often portrayed as a slightly light, slightly chic-lit (horrible phrase!) type writer had she been a man she wouldn’t have been. Anyway I read a lot of her stuff when my now wife and I were first dating. In fact one Valentine’s Day we both got each other her latest book as a gift – we’re such a pair of book losers. We spent that 14th February on a mini break, in a hotel room, barely looking up from those novels. Romance alive and well right from the offing then…
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Absolutely anything by Kate Atkinson. Life After Life and A God In Ruins are just utterly mesmerising reads. I can’t think of anyone writing today whose books I look forward to more – she’s dark though, really dark. There’s a lot of brutal deaths and emotionally gut-wrenching moments written with a stunning lightness of touch. She’s a genius.
She wrote the amazing Behind The Scenes at The Museum, where any time a main character entered that shop they worked in, they’d always shout “SHOP!”. My wife and I still scream “HOUSE” whenever we enter the building.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
Fiction, I think. Although the most influential books I’ve read have been non fiction, the most pleasure I get from reading is when I’m escaping to somewhere else entirely. It’s harder to get that in non fiction – although obviously not impossible. For example I read Politics by Nick Clegg the other day and for a second I had a really lucid imagining of what it would be like to have weekly meetings with George Osbourne and David Cameron. It’s the first time I’ve cried at a book in years.
Do you think reading is important?
Ha! Yes I obviously do. Unless it’s Twitter or any social media. Then it’s NOT IMPORTANT AT ALL. And that message is as much to myself as to anyone else. I need to put that stuff away!
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
Oh it’s a new one – it’s called Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito and it’s coming out in April 2017. It’s about a girl who is dating the perpetrator of a high school shooting, and as a result gets accused of helping to plan the attacks. A really well written thriller along the lines of The Secret History by Donna Tartt with a little bit of We Need To Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver thrown in for good measure. Loved it.
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
I held out for a long time about E-books, but eventually relented about two years ago and got a Kindle. I love it! I love the flexibility, the light, the lightness of it. I really thought I would never get one, and that the pleasure of reading was somehow linked inextricably to the material and smell of a book. Newsflash: it’s actually about the writing. Although if any e-book designers are out there and they could create a device to give off the smell of a book in the sun, that’d really make my life.
Name a book that you feel every human should have to read by law.
Lord of The Flies by William Golding. It’s an entry-level instruction manual on the human condition. And it’s short enough to force a bored teenager to read it.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
Probably Middlemarch by George Eliot because I spent an entire summer trying to get through it in order to be ready for an Oxford entrance exam. I hated every second of that book, lost loads of time in which I could have been reading for pleasure, and failed to get into Oxford. Instead I went to Warwick and got my first big break in comedy. Thanks Middlemarch!
Don’t die without reading A Dance To The Music of Time by Anthony Powell. Also make sure you read Atonement by Ian McEwan. And all of the Wallander books. And every single Lee Child book including the most amazing meta-Lee Child book Reacher Said Nothing by Andy Martin – it’s like a DVD commentary of the process of a book being written. A joyous exploration of the agony and ecstasy of writing.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I’m really into political stuff at the moment – I wonder why – and I also plan to take on Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace and the new Jonathan Franzen. The reality, though, is that I’ll be so tired I’ll reach for my comfort reads. Anything set in the first or second world wars, or anything that’s based on murders in Scandinavia. Just the usual light and airy topics, then.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
I’m really hoping it’ll be called: Tom Price: how I made millions working only three days a year. In reality I suspect I’ll write it when I’m 70 and it’ll actually be called something like: Tom Price: the man who ate a billion biscuits. I’ll let you know.