FRIARS CLUB: You recently lit up the audience at the Friars Icon Award dinner for Tony Bennett. Was that a routine gig for you, or have you performed for bigwigs like Bennett, DeNiro, Larry King and Regis Philibin before?
TOM COTTER: I’m uncomfortable with the term “Big Wigs”, because I think that is Deniro’s real hair. It’s rare that I get an opportunity to perform for such esteemed icons. A comedian’s greatest fear is Bigfoot, but the second greatest fear is to bomb in front of people that you admire and worship. I was delighted that the audience was so responsive. I think I heard Larry King laughing, but it could have been gas.
FRIARS: The Sheraton does have great ventilation... How did you get involved with the Friars Club, and why did they accept someone like you as a member?
COTTER: Even as a kid, I’d always been aware of the Friars Club, and it was a mission of mine to one day move to New York and become a Friar. New York is where comedy lives. Some people call it a comedy Mecca, which has always disturbed me, because I’ve been to Mecca, and it’s not funny at all. New York is Broadway, SNL, and it’s where the Stand-up comedy revolution began. There is a reason why Jimmy Fallon brought the Tonight Show back to NYC.
The Friars Club is where entertainers get to hobnob, and it’s like home to me, because my parents also waived my initiation fee. My surprise 40th birthday party and my bachelor party (roast) were both held at the club, as well as countless other memorable evenings. I’ve been a Friar for two decades now, and it would take another restraining order to keep me away. Prae Omnia Fraternitas.
FRIARS: The Friars do a lot for US troops and veterans. Have you ever performed for them? Do you have to alter your act?
COTTER: I’ve done a bunch of shows for the Wounded Warriors, and other veterans charities. It’s a cause that is near and dear to my heart. I always say that Stand-up comedy is a dream job, if you happen to dream about poverty and rejection, so comics can’t donate a lot of money at these worthy charities, but what we can do is donate our time. It’s not hard to show up, and sling punchlines, especially because it provides levity and a much needed escape from reality. Laughter is the best medicine, and comedians are available without a prescription.
My dad served in the Navy during WWII, and my brother (the favorite) is a Colonel in the Army. I’ve never served in the armed forces. I was in the Salvation Army for a while, but I was dishonorably discharged. I also worked at Old Navy one summer, folding sweaters. Of course, I alter my act for that particular audience, but no more than I alter it for a corporate show, or a college show, or club show. You always have to be aware of audience, and play to them, specifically.
FRIARS: You’re a family man. Do your kids ever crack you up?
COTTER: I have three sons that I know of, and yes they crack me up constantly. My kids will say anything, to anybody, and because my wife is Lebanese, I call them Camel non-filters. It’s difficult to stifle laughter when you are passing a sewage treatment plant, and your son asks from the back seat, “Wow, Dad, was that you?'
FRIARS: Sounds like your own private peanut gallery. Speaking of, how do you handle hecklers?
COTTER: Good question. How do you heckle handlers? I use a Tazer.
FRIARS: Very effective... Now, if you weren’t a professional comedian, what would you be?
COTTER: Wait a minute. I’m a Professional Comedian? No shit?
They say 'find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life”, so I think I’d be a professional bikini waxer.
FRIARS: I understand they do very well... Writer’s often talk about writer’s block. Do comedians ever get joker’s block?
COTTER: Sure we do. We also get writer's block, cock-blocked, and I’ve personally been blocked from several people’s Facebook accounts.
FRIARS: Hopefully for the better. Were you the class clown as a kid?
COTTER: I prefer to say that I was a clown with class, a classy clown. My clown makeup was Elizabeth Arden, and I had gigantic clown shoes, but they were Salvatore Ferragamo’s. My teachers loved me because I was a red-noser.
FRIARS: What comedians were your favorite growing up?
COTTER: Who says I ever grew up? When I was young, my two greatest comedic influences were alcohol and marijuana, but I also worshipped guys like George Carlin and Richard Pryor. If I was well behaved as a kid (very rare), I was allowed to stay up late to watch the Johnny Carson show where I first heard Buddy Hackett, Robert Klein and Rodney Dangerfield. I blame Carson for fueling my addiction to comedy. I still look up to many comics, because I’m only 5’7”.
FRIARS: There are vitamins for that, you know. So, what’s in the creative pipeline for you?
COTTER: That’s an awkward question. Last night I had Thai food...
I’m constantly touring and forever auditioning. This summer I’m returning to both the Great American Comedy Festival and the Nantucket Comedy Festival. I’ll be at the Chicago Improv July 22-24, and other dates that are listed on www.tomcotter.com.
On the TV side, I’m a regular on Red Eye on Fox News CH. and the bride and I have a few irons in the fire, but we have learned to not get our hopes up until we hear “Cut, that’s a wrap.” My first book, 'Bad Dad' just came out this year, and the second book is almost finished. There are other things that I could tell you about, but then I’d have to kill you.
FRIARS: Okay, I want to live, Tom. So, last question. And please answer honestly. If you were a piece of sushi, what would you be?
COTTER: I almost went to Law school, so I’d probably be “Sosumi.”