Page last updated at 06:05 GMT, Thursday, 27 August 2009 07:05 UK

Train comedian on track for award

By Steven Brocklehurst
BBC Scotland news

Tom Wrigglesworth
Tom Wrigglesworth is already attracting attention at the Pleasance Courtyard

Comedian Tom Wrigglesworth said he did not know why he decided to stand up for an elderly lady who was being harassed by a ticket inspector on a train.

But the 33-year-old funnyman is glad he did.

Not only did he get Virgin Trains to change its rules but he also turned the experience into a Fringe show which has been nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.

Last October, the comedian was travelling from Manchester to London when a "jobsworth" attendant reduced a 75-year-old woman to tears because she was on the wrong train.

Her pre-booked ticket was for a train 30 minutes later but her travel itinerary, printed by station staff, mistakenly gave the wrong time.

She was told to pay £115 for a new ticket, 10 times her original fare, because she was not allowed to buy an off-peak ticket once she had boarded the train.

Sheer brutality

"Something about this situation made me act at the time," the comedian said.

"I think it was the sheer brutality of it. The sheer heartlessness of what the ticket collector did.

"It would have been so easy for him to walk away. It was absolutely grotesque."

With the woman reduced to tears, Wrigglesworth arranged a whip-round among the other passengers.

He was then accused of begging and questioned by the police when he arrived in London.

After the incident, Wrigglesworth took on Virgin Trains and got it to change its policy on buying off-peak tickets on the train, although other operators maintain the same restrictions.

A practice the comedian described as "extortion".

The Sheffield-born comedian turned the whole experience into an Edinburgh show called Open Return Letter to Richard Branson.

I can't imagine I am going to turn into Mark Thomas overnight, but who knows?
Tom Wrigglesworth

His performance has earned him a comedy awards nomination, yet he admits he almost did not intervene.

"When it actually happened, I nearly didn't do anything," he said.

"I thought she's just an old woman why should I even bother?

"It was on a knife-edge whether I even did anything about it."

He added: "I was extremely angry at the time of the incident and that quickly turned into farce as he threatened to get me arrested for begging.

"It all just got a bit out of hand and it was only about 20 minutes after it happened that I realised, 'this is hilarious'."

Wrigglesworth said he had never been an "activist" and he did not think his comedy would continue to be about campaigning.

"I can't imagine I am going to turn into Mark Thomas overnight, but who knows?," he said.

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