Second place ain’t that bad—just ask him
The seventh season of America’s Got Talent went to the dogs … but second place went to Tom Cotter, and he truly couldn’t be happier. No other comedian has yet made it to the finals. Cotter has been in the laughter biz for more than 25 years, appearing on Comedy Central, Last Comic Standing and The Tonight Show; he’s also won first place at the Boston Comedy Festival. Now, Cotter joins the cast of America’s Got Talent Live at The Palazzo, as the show’s sole comedian. He chatted with Kiko Miyasato about his new gig and his comedy style.
Q: Tell me about your America’s Got Talent Live role.
A: I’m the only stand-up comic. I come out more than once. I’m like herpes, I keep coming back. I’m going to come out and try and make people laugh … I’m putting a bunch of topics on a board behind me and letting someone in the audience at random pick what topic they want to hear about. Once they pick it that’s the theme I run with. I’m trying to leave it in the hands of the audience. That way, if I suck it’s their fault.
Q: Do you have a favorite act?
A: It’s hard to say; I love them all. But I did go to the semifinal round with William (Earth harp) and Joe (sand artist); I love them. I will tell you that I thought about bringing wire cutters and a leaf blower to the finals though.
Q: Were you nervous competing in the TV show?
A: Yes, unbelievably. You’re being judged by three people who can ruin your career as well as make it, so it was nerve-wracking for me. And then, as the show went on and my family got invested in it, all of a sudden my judgmental father, my wife and kids were in the crowd, and so my give-a-crap factor was raised dramatically.
Q: How did you handle those nerves?
A: I wore adult diapers.
Q: Why did you choose comedy as a career?
A: Because it beats selling encyclopedias door-to-door. I’m the youngest of six kids, and when you’re the youngest, you’re a ham. I’m from an Irish-Catholic family. When you’re the youngest you cry out for attention ’cause your parents are like, “Been there, done that.” I always did outrageous things, and I loved getting a reaction from that. All the stuff that used to get me sent to the principal now brings me money.
Q: Give us a taste of your comedy.
A: My dad was a foster parent. That’s what he drank, Foster’s. I’m the youngest in my family; I was always getting beat up by the two oldest: my mom and dad. I used to get smacked around by these Green Berets in the neighborhood, some people call them Girl Scouts, but whatever.
Q: Are there boundaries in comedy?
A: I would love to say it’s freedom of speech but the reality is some people try to be so edgy for edgy’s sake. I am here to entertain people; I’m not here to make people uncomfortable. I definitely go up to the line but I don’t cross it. … I’m just trying to make people laugh. Laughter is the best medicine and I’m available without a prescription.