Cotter had already had a taste of success before AGT with appearances on 'The Tonight Show', 'The Late Late Show', 'Comedy Central', and 'Last Comic Standing' to name a few. But finishing second place on America's Got Talent has turned him into one of the most in-demand comedians in America. On New Years' Eve he'll be returning to his home state of Rhode Island for 2 shows. But first he takes a few moments to answer 10 Questions.
1. Congratulations on your success on AGT. On the show they referred to you as a New York based comic, which is true, but you are originally from Rhode Island. Can you talk a little bit about growing up in the Ocean State?
"Actually, If you want to be technical, I'm originally from my mother's uterus, however her uterus was in R.I. when I was born. I grew up on George Street, on the East side of Providence (some would argue effectively that I never "grew up")."
2. You have 2 shows coming up at the Comedy Connection in East Providence on New Years' Eve. Other than work, do you get many chances to come back to Rhode Island?
"It's difficult to get back to Rhode Island with all of the restraining orders, but it is still home, so I manage to get there whenever I can. All three of my sisters live near Providence, so family gatherings are almost always in the Ocean State."
3. How did you get started as a stand-up comedian?
"My first time on stage was in college at a talent show, to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I was disqualified by the judges, but it was enough to get me hooked. My first time on stage at a bonafide comedy club was at 'Periwinkles' in the Arcade (formerly in Providence, RI). I kept showing up at open mic night hosted by Charlie Hall, but I would sit in the back and watch, never having the nerve to sign up to go on stage. After several weeks of sitting in the back of the showroom like an open mic groupie/stalker, Charlie Hall approached me and said "you are going up tonight, or you can't come in". That was the motivation I needed to get over my stage freight. Charlie went on to become not only an excellent comedy mentor, but a great friend, whose wisdom I still seek to this day."
4. Who are some of your comedy influences? Who inspired you to become a comedian?
"I used to sneak Richard Pryor and George Carlin albums into my house and listen to them when I was a kid. I also got to stay up late on special occasions, to watch Johnny Carson. In my fraternity, we watched Eddie Murphy's Raw & Delirious. Once I got started, I was influenced by Charlie Hall, Frank O'Donnell Kevin Knox (R.I.P.), and Don Gavin."
5. Do you think your success on AGT has helped bring attention to stand-up comedy as an art form?
"I do. 'Last Comic Standing' has been off the air for a long time, so there are no other high profile platforms for stand-ups (prime time network exposure). I've already heard from the producers that the number of comedians auditioning for the show for next season (of America's Got Talent) is up dramatically."
6. Despite losing to a bunch of dogs, how would you describe your experience on 'America's Got Talent'?
"Thanks for putting that so delicately. The show far exceeded my expectations. Based upon the past 6 seasons of AGT, I never expected to go very far. I set a goal to get past the 'Vegas round. I truly never thought I'd get out of the quarterfinals, so everything beyond that was gravy. I'm the first comic to make it to the finals (top 6), and that is a badge of honor I wear proudly. Clay Aiken was also a runner-up. I think his career is going pretty well."
7. Having only 90 seconds to make America laugh on TV is quite a challenge, but you made it look easy. What did you do to for writing, preparation, and practice each week?
"My act is pretty well suited for the format. Friends, colleagues and industry types had been telling me to audition from the 1st season of AGT, because of my style. I can cram a lot of punchlines into a small amount of time, where as some comics need 2 minutes just to say hello. And my school councilor said my A.D.D. would only hold me back. To prepare for each round, I used William Shakespeare's famous quote "Brevity is the soul of wit" as inspiration. I took a tight set and made it tighter. Maximum jokes in the minimum amount of time."
8. Looking back now, is there anything you would have done differently on AGT?
"I don't like to look back and play "what if". Again, the experience is by far and away, the best thing that has ever happened to my career, and it far exceeded my expectations. having said that, I wish I had put Xanax in the dog food."
9. What advice would you give to aspiring stand-up comics today and would you recommend talent shows like AGT?
"Write, write, write + stage time, stage time, stage time.
I've been pretty lucky in comedy competitions thus far, but every time I enter one, I remind myself that they are all suspect. How can you compare comedians who have completely different styles? It's comparing apples and oranges (I'm not suggesting that we are 'fruity').
Who is to say that a physical comic (a-la Jim Carrey) is any funnier than a monologist (a-la Steven Wright)? As long as you go into it knowing that, I'd say go for it."
10. What are your future plans now that you have received so much national exposure?
"We are trying to cash in right now, and strike while the iron is hot. Everyone has been really great, and I'm more appreciative than words can express. I know full well that this could be my 15 minutes and nothing more, so I have to ride this wave. That said, NBC has been really great to me, and I don't expect that to stop any time soon. We are also meeting with other networks and production companies, and weighing our options.
I don't know what the future holds, but it's a shit load brighter than it was a year ago."
You can check out Tom Cotter at his website www.TomCotter.com and on Twitter at @TomCotterComic
Tom Cotter will be performing at Comedy Connection on December 31st, New Years' Eve for two shows. You get tickets and info at www.ricomedyconnection.com.