“The whole world is a stage”. I’ve always remembered this quote from William Shakespeare.

And it’s true. Especially when you’re a professional comedian.

I think it marries very well with another bit of advice from a more modern wordsmith, Shia LeBeouf, who once repeatedly screamed down the camera lens “JUST DO IT!”

I think the marriage of these two ideas is the most important advice I could give any young, aspiring stand-up comedian. When you’re starting out, it doesn’t matter where it begins, just as long as you’re doing it.

I am what is known as an “Army Brat”; as the son of military parents, I had a childhood of constant movement around various military barracks in different countries.

As such, there weren’t any youth theatres for me to join. I had to start at home.

Cats! The Musical

The Stairs

I often get asked if my parents ever pushed me into joining the military myself. My answer is always to reference performing a one-child version of Cats! The Musical aged six.

Dressed in full leotard, cat ears and tail, I slinked down the bannister belting out Macavity, much to the confusion of both my parents and a collection of other Army officers and wives who just wanted to get back to the supper table.

Other notable productions on the stairs included Jaws, Home Alone and Aladdin.

Lesson: Glitter gets everywhere.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

School Sports Hall

Soon, it was time for me to take my incredible showmanship out of the house and into pre-prep boarding school.

The first production was in the school sports hall, and despite minimal musical skill, I had managed to bag the lead role.

This involved me miming playing the recorder while my music teacher blew out the actual tunes on the flute backstage.

Lesson: Showbiz is all smoke and mirrors.

Tom Houghton

“Walk Outs”

PnO Cruise

The cruise ship scene is a notoriously turbulent one for comedians. A lot of this is owing to the type of people these holidays tend to attract.

As far as I can see, they are mainly either retired couples or families giving Gran one last week in the sun before she gets carted off to Autumn Falls home for the elderly.

In a word they are OLD! As such they tend to just stare at you and have absolutely no trouble getting up and heading to the buffet, if you haven’t grabbed them in the first two minutes.

This is what happened to me. Now, I’ve had people leave shows mid-set before. But never by electric scooter. I can still remember the electronic rev and reversing beep sounding out over the otherwise totally silent room.

The worst thing? Because you are in the middle of the ocean, you can’t even leave the ship. You’re stuck in this limbo for the remaining seven days, queuing up at the buffet and trying not to show your face on deck.

Lesson: Always be able to leave the gig.

Five-minute trial spot

The Comedy Store

There are some venues that are just iconic. The Comedy Store in Leicester Square is one of them.

I managed to absolutely die on my arse in my first trial spot. Obviously, I was nervous. And frankly not good enough to be there. I leapt on stage and did my first joke about performing Cats! The Musical on the stairs when I was five years old. Struck my most flamboyant pose and waited for the laughter to come. What instead hit me was a wall of silence, the like of which I’d never felt in my life.

That is when the death bead of sweat started running down my forehead. It’s well known in the industry that as soon as droplets start forming, it’s time for you to shrivel up and die.

I managed to last the five minutes, but left the stage completely broken, only to be met by a veteran store comedian backstage who patted me on the back and said, “I guess they were more of a dog audience”.

Lesson: Don’t rush it.

Absolute Shambles tour

Leicester Square Theatre

I thought I’d end on a highlight. Selling out the iconic Leicester Square theatre on my last tour will forever be one of my proudest achievements.

My family and friends all came, the audience all laughed, it was the absolute perfect gig.

I remember, as the music played out and the audience applauded, I took my bow and smiled at the realisation that I had come a long way from slipping down the stairs in cat ears.

The only downside was, I somehow managed to get mugged on the way home by a youth in a hoodie who claimed he followed me on Instagram.

Lesson: Enjoy the peaks as much as you can. But always know that the next trough is just around the corner.

See more at honourabletom.com