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Tom Brady returns to comedy home to headline Limestone

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Editor’s note: Limestone Comedy Festival is committed to putting standout locals onstage as headliners. This year they asked Tom Brady, who came up in Bloomington and relocated to Chicago two years ago, back as headliner. We called Brady up to chat about coming back to headline, touring with Nikki Glaser and transitioning to Chicago. Our first question: How does it feel to come back home to headline, Tom?

I'm excited, I’m nervous. I feel the entire range of emotions right now. I didn’t know that I was even going to be a part of the festival — I was just going to come down and hang out — so when I got the call [from Jared to be a headliner] I was like, “Oh my god.” I’m really excited. They had me headline one night in December at the Attic. I think that was the precursor to this.

I met Nikki [Glaser] in Bloomington years ago. Probably five years ago. We didn’t work together, but we did kind of hit it off as friends. She would have me do guest spots and stuff when she came through town, like a five minute spot on her show. When I moved to Chicago last year, she was coming through and asked, “Hey, do you want to open for me at this one-night thing at The Hideout?” And I was like, “Yeah, of course.” That was in mid-December. That went well, and then she had me open for her at this club in Appleton, and that went well. She was like, “Ah, let’s work together.” That’s been since January of 2014, so about a year and a half. We both talk a lot about relationship stuff, but we are different enough that I think it works well together. I think I’m a little bit more silly than Nikki. I think we have similar subject matter, but we have such different perspectives on similar subject matter that I think I fit her audiences really well.

Being in Chicago, the main difference is that you get a ton of opportunities for stage time. You’re surrounded by a lot of different voices. In Bloomington, there were only six of us at first. You only have so many people that you come up with. In Chicago, you have hundreds of people that you’re hearing all the time. You refine your voice a little bit. I think I’ve become a better performer because I’m just getting more stage time. You have to perform in front of comedians a lot, so you have to get to the point faster sometimes.

At the same time, I’ve felt more freedom to throw everything against the wall here, because you’re just going up constantly in front of the same people, so you have to constantly be writing. In Bloomington, you have real crowds more often. Bloomington is a little bit more warm of a scene. It’s a scene that’s more conducive to working out material over a period of time because audiences are more excited that you’re there.

There’s so much talent here, and it’s such a huge scene. It’s only gotten bigger since [guys like Kumail Nanjiani, TJ Miller, Pete Holmes] left. I’ve heard a lot of stories about when those guys were here, because they’re the guys who put Chicago on the map for standup a little bit. Chicago wasn’t a huge standup scene before; it’s always been known more for improv. Lately, Matt Braunger, TJ, Kumail, Kyle Kinane, Cameron [Esposito]. I think that it’s going to just keep happening. There are people moving constantly from here. I feel like in two, three, four years, you’ll start to hear names and say, “Oh, that person’s from Chicago.” Like Marty DeRosa, Ali Clayton, Kristin Clifford. I think there’s a junior stopgap. There’s a ton of really great comics here, like David Drake, who just got representation. My friend Marlina just got a job on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and moved to New York. Right now that you’re seeing the seeds get planted.

Bloomington will always be my home, but there will be a tiny bit of Chicago [in me]. I’ve only spent two years in Chicago, but I do love it here. You don’t have to be defined by one thing, you know? [But] I don’t think I would have anything if it weren’t for the Comedy Attic.

Interview as told to Katherine Coplen. This text has been condensed and edited

When / where:
• June 5, 10 p.m., The Back Door, 207 S. College Ave. (Bloomington), 21+
• June 6, 7:30 p.m., The Bishop, 123 S. Walnut St. (Bloomington), 18+
• June 6,10 p.m., The Comedy Attic, 123 S. Walnut St. (Bloomington), 21+

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