Q&A: C.A.B. Comedy student Tom Garland

BY DI STAFF | NOVEMBER 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Daily Iowan sat down with University of Iowa student Tom Garland, a journalism major, and asked him about the upcoming Campus Activities Board Student Comedy Showcase, in which he will be the host, and his career as a comedian. The event will begin at 10 p.m. today at T-Spoons, 301 E. Market St.

DI: What is your job at the Student Comedy Showcase?

Garland: I will MC the event, so at the beginning of the night, I will tell jokes for about 10 to 15 minutes to get the crowd going. Then, between each person performing, I will try to do about a minute or two on the topic they were last talking about.

We have about 10 really funny guys who are going to be in this showcase. People don't realize how many comedians are at the University of Iowa. I think it's going to be a great time.

DI: When did you decide you wanted to become a comedian?

Garland: I started comedy about a year and a half ago. But it wasn't until three to four months ago when I knew I had a solid act that could boost my performance. I'm still working on doing it to get paid, but mostly, I like doing it for fun. It's definitely a hit-or-miss business.

DI: Were you the class clown in school?

Garland: Yeah, I was kind of a goof. When I was really little, I used to get picked on a lot, so I thought people would stop picking on me if I could make them laugh.

When I was in high school, I started to write humor columns, so that really got me interested in comedy. Then, I started doing open-mike nights, where I found my voice, and it kind of fell into place.

DI: Which comedian do you admire?

Garland: Eddie Murphy would be the guy that I watch and really admire. He was doing specials when they didn't have Comedy Central and stuff like that, and he is responsible for a lot of what black comedy is today. He is insanely funny. He figured out how to balance being vulgar and being funny. He proved that you could do raw material, but you also have to base it on clean jokes.

DI: How do you come up with most of your material?

Garland: If something funny happens to me, then I'll usually jot it down in the little notebook I carry with me. I used to text myself or tweet myself so it wouldn't be so obvious. Also, current events are a good thing, like the Penn State scandal or Kim Kardashian's divorce.

The newspaper also gets you thinking about making weird connections. It's all about making twists and connections with everyday normality. During my show, I want to send the people one way and then bring them a complete other way.

DI: What is your favorite joke to tell?

Garland: I have a joke about how college kids should rewrite the Bible. I've been using that joke for almost two years now.

Usually, you start to find material that works night in and night out. Some nights it gets a roar or just a laugh, but I always know that the audience will have some kind of reaction. So I guess my favorite jokes are the ones that work.

DI: Have you ever performed for a crowd that didn't laugh at your jokes?

Garland: I have a lot. My first three months in comedy were really rough, because every joke you tell is new and fresh, so you don't know what will work because you haven't had that experience.

I got booed off the stage one time. A guy at a bar was heckling me, so I gave him a hard time back. Everyone knew the guy because it was a small town, so no one sided with me.

You have to learn to pump the brakes with people, and if people are going to interrupt you, let them talk, because they didn't come up with material. Usually, they will dig their own grave.

Some nights, you will do the material that is proven, and no one laughs, so the best thing to do is ride it out. It's kind of like a roller coaster. You can go from an ultimate high to just being background noise. You bomb, you kill; you bomb, you kill. You learn to just have fun with it, and for the most part, people just want to have fun with you.

— by Samantha Gentry

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