Footlights President: The Interview

Tom Fraser, Footlights President: BNOC, Liam Neeson, David Attenborough, God, or none of the above? You decide.

ADC ADC theatre Cambridge Theatre David Attenborough Footlights Footlights President God indigo cafe Liam Neeson tom fraser

Over the phone Thomas Fraser, Footlights President elect 2014–15, does not sound as I had expected. He comes across as someone who knows what he wants, but there’s something equally personable about his vowels – somewhere between Liam Neeson in Taken and David Attenborough in The Blue Planet. We arrange to meet in Indigo, his ‘favorite of the cafés’.

As I wait for him to arrive, it hits me that somehow I don’t know what he looks like. At that instant, a lanky figure glides across the floor. I wouldn’t say heads turned, but a few people certainly turned around. It’s clear that Tom is chummy with the barista; a President, doubtless, with the common touch. I introduce myself whilst he orders a lapsang and some millionaire’s shortbread. He sounds only marginally different in real life – more a cross between Liam Neeson in Taken and David Attenborough in The Blue Planet.

A beautiful picture of Tom (credit: Jamal Foster)

A beautiful picture of Tom

Ashram: Hi, Thomas. Or is it Tom?

Thomas: I don’t mind, really. My mother and my family call me Thomas, but I’m often referred to as Tom. Can I call you Ash?

A: First of all, I think congratulations are in order! How do you feel?

T: Thank you. I feel very proud, but also I can’t wait for next year. We’ve got a great committee. And there’s talent emerging everywhere, and all the time.

A: What’s the biggest challenge for next year’s committee? 

T: I think getting as many people involved as possible. It’s not just about being involved, however. The essence of that involvement should be about developing as a comedy artist. The worst thing is to become complacent like one of those magnificent sperm whales that just feed on the bottom of the ocean.

A: What kind of leadership qualities does one need to be Footlights President? 

T: You certainly need a lot of quality.

A: What advice would you give to anyone who harbours ambitions to end up in your position? 

T: Practise, practise, practice. Commitment to what you love doing. Always on the look out for collaboration. But then again I don’t think you ‘end up’ as President: you’ve either got it or you don’t.

A: I’ve heard from some quarters that you are the most stand–offish and aloof President the Footlights has had since John Cleese. What do you have to say to those people? 

T: No comment.

A: You comedians get a lot of exposure. How do you deal with reviews of the shows you’re in?

 T: I don’t read reviews, nor do I agree with reviewing as a concept. Why should audience members do the reviewing? Surely the ideal reviewer is someone who knows the show well, as well as the performers. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that performers should review their own shows. All I’m saying is that the performers know their own shows better than the reviewers.

A: What’s your proudest moment on stage?

 T: A review is just one person’s opinion and therefore I don’t give a flying fuck about what the fucking hell they have to say.

A: Do you think there’s such a thing as a BNOC?

 T: Does God exist? He may not, but if He does…(Thomas gives a shrug which suggests he is referring to himself).

 A: So before we part, one last question: have you got any projects coming up at all?

T: Not much. I’m rehearsing for The Footlights International Tour Show, Real Feelings, that opens at 7.45pm at the ADC on Tuesday 10th June, and is in Cambridge until the 21st June, but apart from that, not much.