Like in all things human, there is a hierarchy within comedy. Comedians understand this and we accept it. Not all comedians are the same. Some comedians are funnier than others and the funniest comedians tend to be the most famous although not always.
It is often said that well-known comedians can work less hard (get a free pass) because their funny is augmented by their fame. I don’t agree. If anything, I think famous comedians are under even more pressure because everything is bigger – the ticket price, the size of the venue and people’s expectations.
But fame can certainly be a great cushion (I imagine), as was the case when Tom appeared at some event in South America somewhere – with a few thousand adoring fans hanging on his every word and laughing at every refrain and aside. Tom might even have ‘stormed’ the gig, a word comedians used back in the day to describe a great gig. He called me up straight after the gig to tell me how thrilling it was to make people laugh.
Comedians (and dads) more insecure than me might have interpreted this harshly. ‘…and you’re telling me this, why?’
Tom was so excited, he suggested that he might even try his hand as a stand-up. I doubted this immediately and for many reasons. There are no examples of film actors transitioning to stand-up comedy. But mostly because Tom is delusional and was seduced by a loving and partisan audience.
And with this in mind, to this week in a wet and cold January. Just a normal week in the Holland household – mum and dad pottering about and generally fretting about their premature retirements and the New Year being the SAME! Meanwhile, Tom is somewhere far flung doing something wildly exciting – which this week happens to be in Vegas.
Before I get to the meat of this post – a little vignette to add some colour and flavour.
Harry is heading from London to Vegas to accompany Tom (fraternity) but more importantly because he makes the Instagram videos that are viewed by 100’s of millions. Nice work all-round and for all concerned. On-board the BA flight at Heathrow and sitting comfortably in Business, Harry is tapped on the shoulder by an air-hostess.
‘Excuse me, Mr Holland, the Captain would like a word, please.’
Now I know that have your interest piqued and why I used this scenario in Only in America for Jonson’s second flight to the US.
Harry follows the lady up the plane, where el Cap-i-Tano is duly waiting. It turns out that years back, his wife and daughter attended a Brothers Trust screening in London – his daughter has a rare heart condition and Harry and his brothers were particularly kind to her – and so he would like to offer Harry an even bigger and (flatter?) seat at the very front of the plane.
This is Harry Holland all-over – and it proves the maxim, what goes around, comes around. Be nice to people – is enough of a takeaway from this post alone, so you can stop reading now if you wish, although, there is more to come and I venture, the main course…
You remember Vegas right, and Tom wanting to be a stand-up comedian?
The event taking place is a technology conference and Sony being a tech giant and owning Spider-Man and Uncharted… you can see where this is going. Obviously, a Sony big-wig had the idea – ‘wouldn’t it be great coup if Tom Holland could attend?’ This was put to Tom and Tom being nice…
He agreed to present a session with Tom Rothman, the Head of Sony Pictures.
An audience of 400 technology suits/nerds all expecting a business presentation from just another businessman. Little to do they know that Mr Rothman will be accompanied for this presentation by none other than…
Their time on stage is pretty loose. Play it by ear. No doubt there are some key messages to convey but they should factor in audience applause, excitement and nervous laughter at anything Tom says.
Backstage, Tom isn’t nervous, not because he’s a performer (I still get nervous) but because he’s done this before and this quasi stand-up thing is a walk in the park. ‘I did this gig one time in Rio I think, or maybe Mexico City… anyway, the theatre was packed and I rocked it.’
There are many words for what is about to happen but schadenfreude is perhaps the best – the enjoyment of someone else’s failings. Not very edifying but humans are not perfect – we are all flawed and this is definitely a thing.
The host of the conference probably got word in his ear that he was good to go – that the next presenter/s were backstage and ready and he got right to it…
“…please welcome on to the stage head of Sony Pictures, Mr Tom Rothman and… (pause to ramp up the moment)… Mr Tom Holland.”
Tom and Tom walked out from the wings to almost nothing. Of the 400 people, barely a handful could be arsed to clap. No whoops, no cheers. Nada. And this is Vegas, remember. Four people clapping and 396 people reaching for their phones.
No doubt, this will have thrown the two Tom’s but their agenda was already set to jokey banter. Their first few quips miss badly and now their minds will be spaghetti. Believe me, I know.
To give my Tom credit, this being a new experience for him – (an audience completely unmoved) he spoke with remarkable aplomb and so did his affable boss. And further chops to Tom H because while he was speaking, I wonder if he could hear Harry back-stage laughing his ass-off and of course filming everything. (The videos, remember).
Knowing Tom as well as I do, I know also that while he was speaking in to the nerd abyss, he will have been assuring himself that there is no way a Harry video of this is ever going on my Gram…
Unfortunately for Tom, the internet is pan. Whether we like it or not, everything and everyone is constantly filmed nowadays. You can find the clip online. It’s how Nikki and I watched it even before Tom phoned to recount this experience.
And with it, Tom went up even further in my estimations. On a film set, actors get to do it again and again until they get it right. Not so on stage. One time only. That’s your lot.
And I expect as he stood on that stage, that I went up in Tom’s estimations also.
Tom has had a big year end and good for him. Like millions of others I enjoyed watching his latest movie – the conclusion of the SM Home trilogy – but in truth I enjoyed watching this short speech in Vegas just as much because it was a life lesson and an experience to keep him grounded – and this is even more valuable than being in the biggest movie of the year.
Sometimes when I write a post, I have a good idea that it will fit in my series of books, Takes on Life. I expect a version of this blog will feature in Takes on Life, Vol.2 which I am busy writing and putting together and will be published later this year.
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