The son of a former Chief of the Defence Staff is raising belly laughs across social media after his comedy sketches documenting his life living in the Tower of London went viral on TikTok.
Tom Houghton, the son of General Sir Nicholas Houghton who commanded British forces for three years until 2016, has become a hit with his unique brand of comedy.
The comedian lives with his father and their family in the historic castle where Sir Nicholas now holds the title of Constable of the Tower of London.
One hilarious sketch - in which Tom tells a side-splitting tale about his trials and tribulations of getting a pizza delivered to the Tower of London - has amassed more than a million views on TikTok, with other sketches gaining hundreds of thousands of views.
In other videos, Tom even introduces his father Sir Nicholas to his TikTok audiences but these sketches have a very different feel - more heartfelt and serious in tone - in the form of a father and son chat in which they discuss his father's role, and subjects such as World War Three and preparing for conflict.
Tom’s comedy varies from sketches about confusing American tourists to mocking social media influencers and includes a comic take on life as The Honourable Tom Houghton which is his official title since his father took up his role at The Tower.
Sir Nicholas is supportive of his son’s stand-up after seeing him perform on stage and always knew his son was not destined to follow in his army footsteps. Tom said:
“I realised I wanted to be a performer when I was age five or six and I was performing Cats The Musical on the stairs, in a full leotard, dancing in front of my dad and his fellow army officers belting out Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat.
“He looked at my mum and said, probably not for the front line this one”.
A year or two after Tom graduated with a Masters in stand-up comedy, his parents came to watch his first London gig. Tom said they seemed unsure about how their son was going to make a career out of telling jokes.
They were used to the formal pay increases the military offers and could not imagine how he was going to survive as a self-employed comedian.
However, as soon as they saw him perform, all their concerns were lifted. He said:
“My dad took me to one side and said, 'I get it now'.
“It was the first time I’ve seen my dad childlike with excitement where he was suddenly fighting my ground and since then him and my mum have really been the most supportive parents you could ask for.”
Who Is Tom Houghton?
Tom or Honourable Tom as he’s known on TikTok and in real life has had an interesting life.
He currently lives in The Tower Of London because, after Sir Nicholas retired in 2016, Tom's dad became Constable of the historic palace.
Tom has plenty of quirky and colourful life experiences to draw from for his comedy - far removed from the demanding and serious role of his father who, as the professional head of the British armed forces, was the principal military adviser to the Defence Secretary and the Prime Minister.
The stand-up comedian told how he was once fired as a stripper in Australia during his gap year from university for a rather unfortunate all over body rash.
He also has comic tales to tell about how he believes his bedroom is haunted by the ghost of Lady Arabella Stuart, who was once thought of as a possible successor to Queen Elizabeth I and died in The Tower Of London at 39.
He told how there are huge contrasts in his daily life, such as the time he once did a gig in a working man's club in Stoke before the very next day when he was chauffeured to Buckingham Palace to watch his father become a Grand Knight.
His comedy draws on many, many more fascinating experiences of this kind - examining in hilarious fashion the oddities of living in the Tower of London as the son of such as figure with the status of his father.
What’s With His TikTok Handle?
Where to begin? Let’s start with why he is called Honourable Tom. He is not making it up, it is an official title.
He stresses that he has the title through no achievement of his own and explains that it is simply an aristocratic British tradition, saying:
“Basically, what it means is that I’ve got a very cool dad who, when my dad became a Lord ... as his son I by proxy become The Honourable Tom Houghton.”
He does not feel particularly honourable. On TikTok, he clarifies this in true comedy style by explaining that he has been sacked from Wetherspoons twice. He said:
“How honourable can I be? I drank from a puddle once on my way home I was so famished of water.”
Tom’s style of humour is generally self-deprecating, with his aim being to make the seemingly unrelatable relatable and poking fun at his odd status in life, living in the Tower as the son of the former CDS.
The 36-year-old is incredibly open about the self-described 'ludicrous' position he has found himself in, saying:
“I’m an immensely lucky person to have been born to the family I’ve been born into, to end up living in an historical palace.”
The comedian has had a wide variety of different jobs over the years, from working the till at his local NAAFI when he lived on the British Army base in Rheindahlen, Germany, to being fired from a hen party strip club The Crazy Horse in Adelaide.
He and his friend used hair removal cream on their bodies five times the night before their performance to become hairless - a decision that backfired and got them both sacked. He said:
"We rocked up in our union jack G-strings and towels for our first shift.
“They looked at us like two lepers and just went, you can’t come in and we got sent away.”
Tower Of London TikToks
The comedian, who is used to showing off his comedy skills on stage at his stand-up gigs, was encouraged to put sketches on TikTok by his girlfriend. Tom certainly has something unique to offer the social media platform. Not many people are sharing what it is like to live at The Tower Of London with a humorous twist.
Many might be forgiven for thinking few people live at the historical palace, but Tom explains how about 120 people live there.
These include the Beefeaters - guardians of the Tower of London and crown jewels and expert tour guides with exemplary military careers - and their families, the Head of Security, the Governor and his Deputy, Guardsman among others.
One of the funnyman’s first forays into Tower Of London TikTok videos was a story about Cyril The Squirrel.
It tells the gripping story of a squirrel who was discovered by Tom’s girlfriend feeling a little worse for wear and then nursed back to health only to be taunted by the resident ravens.
In another video, Tom, with a heavy heart, reported that Cyril had gone to “the great big acorn tree in the sky”. This video also went viral with, at the time of writing, about 72,500 views.
From there he has filmed himself doing funny MTV Cribs style tours of where he lives, explained how difficult it is to get a pizza delivered to The Tower Of London and, in one particularly funny sketch, told tales about the ghost of Arabella Stuart haunting his bedroom.
Why Is Sir Nicholas On TikTok?
Tom has started to shift gear slightly by introducing his father, General Sir Nicholas Houghton CBE, to his audience of comedy fans. These videos have a very different vibe. The premise is simple and incredibly effective.
The audience gets to watch a father and son sit down for a sincere chat and pluck out some genuinely helpful advice from Sir Nicholas's successful career in the British Army. It gives us a peek into family life at home and how lighthearted Sir Nicholas can be in his home setting.
It is a stark contrast to Sir Nicholas's public speaking on the nation's most important defence matters of our time.
Tom asks his father about subjects such as how close we are to World War Three, how does he keep up morale, the importance of a successful relationship in achieving success and how does one prepare for conflict? Sir Nicholas replies:
“You can prepare for a war but you can’t prepare for the war because inevitably when war comes it takes a slightly different shape to the one that you were expecting.
“The best thing you can do it retain a broad range of capabilities and capacity - both manpower and equipment capability.
“That gives you a basis on which to adapt to meet the specific circumstances of the war that then comes along.”
Sir Nicholas also speaks with admiration for the partners of military personnel and how vital they are for achieving success, saying:
“Trying to achieve much of what I’ve done without the support of your mother … frankly would have been impossible.
“I think equally, if not more important is that you then have someone with whom to share that success.
“Success is the means to an end and the end is emotional contentment.
“You can have all sorts of things that are going your way on a desert island on your own but if you’ve got nobody to share them with you are going to be a touch sad about that.”
VIDEO: Contains Swearing
Did Sir Nicholas Want To Get Involved?
Tom’s father did not ask to get involved with his TikTok content. He did, however, want to work with his son. The two of them enjoy writing together and both have a passion for public speaking.
As they live together, quite often Tom will come back from a gig and Sir Nicholas will come back from the House Of Lords and they will discuss their day as though they both performed a gig. Tom said:
“He'll go, 'I smashed my gig at The House Of Lords today Tom. I got five minutes of absolute gold' and I was like 'oh really? I absolutely died on my a*** in a hole’.”
Tom also uses his writing skills to help his father write his speeches – not the content but adding humour and how to get the pace right. And his father returns the favour by helping him with his stand-up routines because, as Tom says, his father is a “well-spoken, articulate and funny guy”.
Sir Nicholas was once described as the David Attenborough of the military, soomething Tom agrees with wholeheartedly.
This time spent with his father making videos has been immensely important to Tom, he said. He went to a boarding school from the age of six as his father was often deployed on a tour, so there were large chunks of his childhood that Tom did not get to spend time with Sir Nicholas, he said.
Having this time to reconnect and get to know each other as adults, is priceless to Tom. Something he hopes others will do, saying:
“I don’t want to get to the stage where I’m suddenly 50 and they’re in a home and I go I’ve never asked them those questions that I could have done.”
VIDEO: Contains Swearing
Has Tom Houghton Ever Performed For The Troops?
Tom's commitment and support for the armed forces is evident, including his response to a request for this interview when he said: "Of course, anything for the forces."
He has shown his support in other ways too, including the time in 2009 when Tom was part of a comedy group called The Noise Next Door during which time the group performed at several CSE (now BFBS Live Events) shows at RAF and British Army bases. He said:
“They all scream 'naked bar' halfway through the set and you’ve got a bunch of completely nude squaddies all downing beers.”
Can Tom Go Out Out While Living In The Tower?
When Tom moved to the historical palace, he knew he was not going to be able to have lots of friends round for a massive party until the early morning. He said he understands how important it is to respect and honour the privileged position he has found himself in.
His father is Her Majesty The Queen’s representative, so Tom ensures he never dishonours that. That being said, there is a pub inside The Tower for residents - The Keys Pub.
When he first moved to The Tower, in 2016, there were times he would wake up after a night out and sometimes find himself in an uncomfortable position.
His bedroom is next to a walkway where Elizabeth I used to get her exercise when she was kept prisoner there and sometimes, on Sundays, Beefeaters would take private tours along this walkway. There are about six inches of wall that separate him from a very proper and sensible tour. He said:
"The Beefeater grandly talking about the history of The Tower and how noble and proud it is and there's me with a pint of water in my pants and half a b****** hanging out, dying.”
VIDEO: Contains Swearing
Supporting Comedian Milton Jones In Concert
He is currently the support act for comedian Milton Jones on his ‘Milton Impossible’ tour and has formed double act Comedy Chaps with his friend Naz, or as he is known in Turkey, Prince Nazim Ziyaeddin Nazim Osmanoglu who is as Tom says, “an heir to the Ottoman Empire”.
They started filming themselves separately due to lockdown and then the footage is edited together for TikTok. They have since been able to film content together now that lockdown has started to ease.
Tom is on the cusp of a big announcement about his career which he could not reveal and will start a tour in March 2022 called 'Honour Tour'.