Comedy's supposed to make people happy, and it usually does. As misanthropic as most comedians are, they still allow themselves to enjoy the feeling of a well-performed set. But when youve been in the business as long as Tom Simmons, simply making people laugh isn't always enough to smile about. A visibly bothered Simmons sat down with CL last Thursday, after that nights round of the Laughing Skull Comedy Festivals competition. Simmons had failed to advance to the next round for the semi-finals. He discussed his feelings on that evenings performance, the ups and downs of comedy, and the festival in general.
You look disappointed right now but you had a great set up there tonight. When you come to perform at a comedy festival is winning the only thing that matters to you, or can it be good enough just knowing that even though you didnt win, the crowd liked your jokes?
Eh, I dont know, Im just frustrated with myself right now. I feel like I wasnt prepared enough up there. I guess I did fine, and Im glad I did the jokes that I did tonight, because those were the jokes I wanted to do, I just never felt sure up there. I didnt want to do all of my old jokes that Ive been telling for 10 years. I wanted to try some new stuff out, but I just wasnt as prepared as I should have been.
How does a comedian who's been performing for so long and has as much material as you even go about choosing the five minutes worth of jokes youre going to use?
I struggle with the five-minute sets. I didnt even know where to begin for choosing material because I wanted to tell jokes that I know work well, but I didnt want to do something the judges have all seen from me before. I tried to do different stuff and figured that if I made it to the finals then Id do my best stuff. I guess that was arrogance on my part assuming Id make it to the finals, you know.
So was it actually a disadvantage coming to compete in Atlanta, where you lived for so many years and have a following of people who have already heard a lot of your stuff?
No. At least it shouldnt be. I just didnt go with the right jokes tonight, I just never felt that energy or got a read from the crowd.
Did you assume youd be going to the next round, or even all the way to the finals because this festival is mostly newer comedians and faces a lot of people wouldnt know?
No, it wasnt that at all. There were some great comics here. It has nothing to do with who else was in the show, its just that ego again. I could be in the show with anybody, its just like, You mean I cant be top four of the show?
So how long does it stay with you, when you have a performance youre not happy about?
I dont know, its kind of like breaking up with someone. You think youll never get over it and then one day, you just do. Theres that weird line between trying to ride the energy of the crowd and trying to be the energy, and crowds can tell.
So do you still ride the emotional rollercoaster of comedy after every show?
Oh hell yea. That never goes away I take it personally man.
As upset as you may be now, can you step back and think about a positive from the festival?
Well the festival itself is a lot better than I thought it would be. I love Marshall [Chiles] and what hes doing. Its been fun seeing so many great comics, and seeing it all go down in Atlanta. The festival has been great, and Atlantas been a great host.
(Photo by Lauren Grundhoefer)
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