'America's Got Talent' comedian headed to Tacoma Comedy Club

Staff WriterApril 10, 2014 


Comedian Tom Cotter is performing in Tacoma this weekend.

NBC — Virginia Sherwood/NBC


    When: 8 p.m. Thursday; 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

    Where: Tacoma Comedy Club, 933 Market St., Tacoma

    Tickets: $10-$15

    Information: 253-282-7203, tacomacomedyclub.com, tomcotter.com

Comedian Tom Cotter’s claim to fame is losing to a dog act. Not that he minded. It was on ratings juggernaut “America’s Got Talent,” and he was the most successful stand-up in the show’s history.

The 50-year-old comedian — who will perform through Saturday at the Tacoma Comedy Club — has been performing for 25 years. In 1994, he won the Seattle International Comedy Competition. But his career got a huge boost from “AGT” in 2012.

Cotter has returned to “AGT” to perform as a special guest star, hosted its “Snapple Viewing Party,” and headlined “America’s Got Talent Live” at The Palazzo Las Vegas.

The comedian also has had an extensive voice-over career. His wife, Kerri Louise, also is a comedienne.

Q: How did “America’s Got Talent” affect your career?

A: It absolutely changed my life. I’m not at all bitter I lost to a dog act in front of 20 million people because there is no other venue that a stand-up comedian can perform at in prime time television. For comedians like myself, we all do the Lenos and the Lettermans and the Kimmels and the Fallons — those are great — but there’s just not that many eyeballs on those shows. And the people watching you are falling asleep.

Q: I understand you shot a pilot for a new show.

A: It’s a kids show. It’s hidden cameras, practical jokes and pranks with kids. It harkens back to Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”

Q: How old are your kids?

A: My twins are 11 and my youngest is 6. I’m not a child psychologist. I’m probably the antithesis of that. I’m sure I’ve made a lot of bad decisions being a parent, but being tasked with that show — I’m sure they liked the fact I have kids. I don’t know if it will go anywhere. Most pilots I’ve shot have failed miserably.

Q: Are you going to let your kids go into comedy?

A: We’re not pushing them into it. We had a TV show on Women’s Entertainment Network for awhile — which by the way was incredibly emasculating for me — but the kids were in it and we got calls from casting people. The twins were cast in a Wal-Mart commercial and a Chuck E Cheese commercial, and they didn’t love it. So we backed off. The money is stupid. If you invest it, your kid is golden. Friends and family said, “You’re a moron. Make them do it.” I just didn’t want to. When I was in voice-overs, I used to see these stage moms torture their kids and yell at them. If my youngest, Tommy, who is a ham, wants to do it, we’ll introduce him to it. Tommy has my name and is going to look like me and he’s going to get in trouble a lot like me, so I think he’s going to be our loose cannon. Q: Do you still play colleges?

A: You’d think (not). I’m old enough to be their parent. It’s a younger man’s world. But just this past weekend I played two colleges in Iowa.

Q: Do you deliver a completely different act?

A: You’ve got to play to your audience. When I was working for some older people down in Florida where the average age is deceased — that’s a dramatically different crowd than a college crowd. A.) They’re young, they’re a couple of years removed from high school. B.) The kids in my audience are probably not the cool kids because the cool kids were invited to the kegger off campus. They don’t want to hear about being married. They can’t relate to that. They want to hear about the drunken roommate. Whereas when I do the older folks, they certainly don’t want to hear about the drunken roommate or missing classes. They want to hear about having kids, paying bills — the things they can relate to.

Q: And what about foreign gigs, like your recent trip to London?

A: I had some issues over there. We filmed a bunch of shows there for their cable TV. I had to figure out what vernacular they relate to. For example, they didn’t know what Cocoa Puffs were. And a cigarette over there is a fag. And an apartment is a flat. It all worked out.

Q: Do you enjoy working with your wife?

A: There aren’t that many married couples in comedy. It’s fun. Some guys go to work to get away from their wives. I bring mine with me to work.

Q: Is there an advantage to having a fellow comedian as a spouse?

A: We get to diffuse fights with humor. As a couple, we get to avoid ugliness in fights by being funny. Sometimes that works, sometimes it makes it worse. It’s gasoline on a fire.

Q: How did you get into voice-over work?

A: They say I have a great face for radio. I stepped in Leprechaun poop there much like I did with “America’s Got Talent.” Some (advertising) producers came to my show in Boston and maybe they didn’t care for my comedy but they thought my voice was the voice of Gen X at the time. That, unfortunately, has not lasted because I’m on the road so much and you have to be around to audition. For a while there, it was everything.

Q: It looked like you were performing improv on “America’s Got Talent.” Were you?

A: I’ve been at it for so long it would be pathetic if I didn’t have a line locked and loaded for virtually any circumstance or situation. I have an arsenal of stuff I can pull out. It looks like its improv, but that’s the genius. Q: So then are you good at improv?

A: I’m OK at it. Improv and sketch groups always say, “Wow, I could never do stand-up comedy because it’s so hard,” and we comedians look at the improv guys and go, “I could never do what you do because I know what I’m going to say. You don’t know what the audience is going to give you.” So, it’s a mutual admiration society. I always try to engage the audience with me. That makes it fun and makes you pay attention and makes your heart beat a little faster.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541


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