Why is it that comedic terms are always so violent?
“I blew the roof off the house tonight!”
“That joke really crashed and burned.”
“I crushed the audience tonight! They died laughing!”
Tom Cotter and I shared a laugh over these terms during our interview. Actually, we share several laughs over the course of our phone conversation. To be honest, I have never laughed so hard during an interview for Fine Living Lancaster magazine. Then again, I’ve never interviewed such a world-renowned comedian! Tom Cotter will be appearing on Sunday, November 1 at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater right here in Lancaster!
Famous comedian Tom Cotter grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. Providence boasts a thriving art community, culture, and the friendly small-town vibe, but Tom remembers getting sent to the principal’s office regularly for being a class clown at his conservative Quaker school which he describes as: “as old as the country.”
“When you’re the youngest of six kids in an Irish Catholic family, you do everything you can to get attention,” Tom says. He was constantly finding the funniest ways possible to get noticed, and it worked. Even though the tolerance level for Tom’s hilarious antics was at an all-time low while he was in school, some of his old teachers attend his shows. They always tell him they had a strong feeling he would be in the entertainment industry, but of course they couldn’t admit that while he was supposed to be behaving himself in school. However, the same behavior that got him sent to the principal’s office so many times is what he now gets paid to do for a living.
Tom actually attended the same college as multi-millionaire comedian and actor, Steve Carrell. Denison University in Ohio had less than 2,000 students when Tom graduated. Other actors such as Jennifer Garner and Michael Eisner also graduated from Denison, but Tom refers to Steve Carrell as the “golden boy.”
Tom really got a taste for comedy during college while pledging to a fraternity his freshman year. Every week during pledge meetings, several brothers would give speeches. However, everyone looked most forward to Tom’s speech which eventually transformed into mini comedy routines. “I didn’t do any academic work,” Tom jokes. “I worked really hard on making those speeches funny. I got so nervous, I got acne and had digestion issues.” As I said earlier, I have never laughed so hard during an interview.
Tom returned to Rhode Island after college and a short career as a cop. “I knew comedy was what I wanted to do,” Tom says.
Every Wednesday, a local Rhode Island club hosted an open mic night. Tom decided to take a stab at a routine. The owner of the club approached him on the fourth week and said, “Look. I’ve seen you sit here in the back by yourself four weeks in a row. I know you aren’t here for the talent. I know you want to do this for a living. If you don’t go on tonight, I’m not letting you back in next week or the next.” And with that, Tom performed, and occasionally performs there today.
Tom then told me my favorite story from our interview. Tom’s three comedic idols have always been Johnny Carson, Rodney Dangerfield, and George Carlin. He recorded a routine called “Addresses of the Stars” on a cassette tapes (which he told me I was too young to remember) and sent it to all three of his idols, hoping for a response. Johnny Carson didn’t respond. Rodney Dangerfield didn’t respond. But George Carlin responded six months later.
“I got a message on my answering machine from George. He was really encouraging and said if he could ever do anything for me to let him know.” Well, Tom had meanwhile been trying to get an audition at the infamous Comic Strip Comedy Club. However, the owner, Lucien Hold, refused to even let Tom audition because he already had enough “short white guys from Boston.”
George Carlin’s answering machine message struck a chord in Tom’s mind, and he ended up calling George back, asking if he could take him up on the offer of doing something for him. He told George about how difficult it was to get an audition at the Comic Strip and asked if he would put in a good word for him. Within two hours, Tom was called by George Carlin who said, “You have an audition at 11 tonight. Don’t drop the ball.”
You may recognize Tom Cotter from season 7 of America’s Got Talent in 2012. He was the only comedian to reach the finals on the show. “I tell everyone I got really lucky–I stepped in unicorn poop. It was the first season with Howard Stern and I was always intimidated by Piers. I knew that I couldn’t have a better combination of judges: Howard Stern, Howie Mandell, and Sharon Osbourne, the wife of the Prince of Darkness.”
Tom really lucked out in every way imaginable over the course of the season. Howard Stern, who wanted to keep his show going in New York, had America’s Got Talent moved to New York just 30 minutes away from his home. He could still wake up with his wife, who is also a comedian, and children every single day. The season aired around the same time as the summer Olympics, as well, and the season’s best rating was over 20 million people.
Tom’s quick, rapid-fire style comedy routine was perfect for the show as you only have 90 seconds to show off your talent. This guy is so fast, he even tells jokes within jokes within jokes… and so on.
The best news in the world is that Tom is actually performing a show right here in Lancaster! On Sunday, November 1 he will be at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater. For just $25 you can experience his witty double entendre, and for $30 you can sit in the Gold Circle–the best seats in the house!
Tom has a Laugh Guarantee. If you don’t laugh, he will follow you home and tickle you until you laugh. Although this is an all ages show, he may tell some PG-13 jokes. “People can bring their children, but I won’t pay for their counseling.” I assure you, this show should not be missed!
His comedy show: tomcotter.com/video