The Hippo


May 31, 2020








Tom Cotter. Courtesy photo.

Tom Cotter – A Comedy Night Fundraiser Benefiting Alex’s Lemonade Stand

When: Wednesday, June 22, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester 
Tickets: $25 & $75 (VIP) at

Making lemonade
Comic Cotter plays Palace benefit

By Michael Witthaus

 Adaptability is an underappreciated skill in standup comedy, but it’s one that Tom Cotter has in spades. Whether it’s whittling his act down to 90 seconds for America’s Got Talent (he finished second to a pair of dogs) or telling hydroponic pot jokes to a landscaping industry group while flanked by a giant shovel and a bucket of dirt, he’s a flexible guy.

“Generally you just kind of tailor it to who you’re in front of,” he said in a recent phone interview. “When I do college gigs I can’t talk about being married — they don’t relate to it. When I do the senior citizen places down in Florida, they don’t want to hear about a drunk roommate.”
He’ll have plenty to draw from at his June 22 show in Manchester, a benefit for child-centric cancer charity Alex’s Lemonade Stand. On the subject of kids, Cotter just published a book called Bad Dad – A Guide to Pitiful Parenting. The short tome is filled with tongue-in-cheek tips like, “a good substitute for the game Operation is a fork and a light socket,” and wry one-liners such as this one: “Your child is one in a million, so there are 10,000 just like him in China.” 
Cotter’s also sure to riff on his local connections. His brother lives in the area, and as a comic that came up in the early ’90s Boston scene, he has long enjoyed performing here. 
“Manchester clearly has a funny bone,” he said. “We used to do one-nighters [and] I just never regretted going there. I always knew they were going to get it; they were sharp, whereas in the middle of the country you’ve got to slow it down — their synapses are not firing as fast.”
Family members are fodder for Cotter’s jokes, though the horror stories are all fiction. His dad, a doctor, is often a foil. The elder Cotter is good-natured about it, and his son’s career path. 
“After a ridiculous amount of money invested in my education, I decided I was gonna be a joke-slinger; he could have had a meltdown, but the opposite happened,” Cotter said. “He’s been very supportive. I verbally defecate on him a lot in my act, and it’s all contrived. … He never put me on his shoulders and jumped up and down under a ceiling fan.” 
Cotter is married to veteran comic Kerri Louise. He believes that ribbing her onstage is “tit for tat … she craps ridiculously on me. Her act is 45 minutes, a good 30 of which is about what a moron her husband is. When I get up, that’s just a rebuttal. The other thing is she just wrote a book called Mean Mommy — it just came out. Every chapter is just abusing me, I swear to God, and she asked me to proofread it. So I’m like, ‘Well honey, douche bag is not hyphenated.’”
All kidding aside, it’s a great marriage. 
“We do have a lot of fun actually,” Cotter said. “She’s very good at what she does. She went further than I did on Last Comic Standing — don’t think for a moment that I don’t hear about that every time we have an argument. I went further than she did on America’s Got Talent, so we get to hold those over each other. We’re kind of a novelty; there aren’t many married comedy couples that have survived. We’re at 15 years in June.”
Getting beat on the television talent competition by the rope-jumping, scooter-riding Olate Dogs provided Cotter with some good jokes. It also gave his career a huge boost, though he’d come to the show reluctantly. 
“My comedy is very rapid fire and everyone told me I should do it, but Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan just don’t get American comedy,” he said. “Then Howard Stern was announced as the new judge; I figured I had Karen Osborne, the wife of the prince of darkness, and Howie Mandel, who’s obviously a comic and gets it.”
Stern’s arrival goosed the ratings; it was AGT’s best season ever. Sharing the airwaves with the summer Olympics also added to the show’s success. 
“The exposure was ridiculous [and] I stepped in leprechaun poop by getting on that season,” Cotter said. “We have three kids, so the best thing I took away from it was a financial relief of knowing that they will be able to go to college. My retirement plan literally was a joke, scratch tickets and a buried treasure map. Now, suddenly, I will not be homeless when I’m 65.” 

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