Comedy on the Edge featuring John Tole
John Tole is an international touring performer, writer and broadcaster. This now L.A. based comic weaves tales of self discovery, positive life choices, and seeing the silver lining in every life experience. Audiences love his ADHD, OCD, take-no-prisoners style and while he may tip toe to the line of edgy he consistently finds the pocket and keeps the audience not only laughing but on the edge of their seats.
Tole is that best friend entertaining your buddies or the relatives in your backyard during a cookout and he takes that same energy and attention wherever he performs to give each show and audience a one of a kind feel.
Tole appeared on Howard TV and was the comedic backbone of The Sold Out Ronnie Mund Block Party Tour, The Killers of Comedy Tour, The Miserable Men Tour and the Sal and Richard Comedy Tour(Stern Show) and wrote and provided content to “The Howard Stern Show,” “The Howard 100 News” and Howardstern.com.
Tole appeared in both the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Moontower Comedy Festivals, the 2013 Fun Fun Fun Fest, The 2013 Hell Yes Fest and performed on the Airhead’s Support Stage for the Oddball Comedy Tour.
Tole is creator, producer and host of both the Disrupt The Illusion podcast available on the Podaholics Comedy Podcast Network and Cart Path Diem on the Tasty Podcast Network. He has also appeared on “The Naughty Show” and episodes of “Deathsquad Chronicles” and The Houston Tour Podcast on Deathsquad TV.
We talked with Tole about his comedy, his career and the show he brings to the Edgewater. Here’s his take…
Talk a little about your background and how you got into comedy.
Tole: I left a banking career and decided I wasn’t going to pursue the life of corporate America and making six figures. It just didn’t make sense to me. I wanted to do something I actually had a passion for and wanted to see if I could really take the time and get good at it. So I’ve been doing standup for 9 years. I played music for a decade before I even picked up a microphone to try to be funny. I had already broken down the barriers as far as stage fright and being comfortable, so now I just had to figure out how to be funny—which takes forever. That’s the part that they don’t tell you—we really start from scratch as far as how to put a sentence together that people from all walks of life and ages can like.
Tole: I always thought Eddie Murphy was great, and Jay Leno, of course was one of my favorites as a kid, but nobody will ever be as funny as Johnny Carson. I grew up with my folks saying, “you gotta go to bed at 10,” then around 11:30, I’d sneak downstairs and at least catch the monologue. My dad would know I was down there listening, but he thought it was cool.
Describe your comedy for people who may not be aware.
Tole: I’m a storyteller. It’s all true stories about my life, about my family. I like to do a lot of voices in there and mimic my parents. I’m in my mid 40s now, so just getting older and just kind of embracing the changes that come. This will be my fourth time performing at the Edgewater, and I’m looking forward to coming back out there.
What was the worst experience you had in a nightclub?
Tole: I had a gentleman in Tulsa—I told a joke about the Dallas Cowboys, and he took such offense to it. I wasn’t paying attention and he lobbed up a half-full water bottle that just happened to land in the crook of my arm, and I caught it. I could have been really mad at the guy, but I just sat there and I said, “You have to leave.” I don’t get confrontational with folks in the audience. It’s not really my thing, while they’re having a good time. So we all just sat there in silence while this guy just waiting for him to leave. He must have sat there for a minute or two minutes and nobody in the room said anything. Then this really gruff voice from the back corner of the room shouted “Y’all better leave or we’re gonna have problems.” As soon as that guy heard the redneck say that, he stood up in a second and was out of there. Then come to find out, when the gentleman went to the lobby, he was on a date with a girl and the girl’s best friend. It was the best friend’s first time meeting him—and he was dumped right there on the spot in the lobby.
We’re now in what they’re calling “first truth America,” so everybody likes to have their opinions heard—and a comedy club really isn’t the place for that to happen. It’s more about I’m gonna talk and the audience is gonna laugh. I do like to engage the audience and ask questions and see how people feel about certain things.
Your thoughts on the recent passing of Don Rickles?
Tole: I was always a huge fan of Don Rickles growing up. So I love to interact with the crowd as much possible. Sometimes I’d rather interact with the crowd than do my act. Don Rickles was the king of the insults, but he always made it a point at the end of a show to make sure everybody knew he was having a good time. I usually sit down when I perform and just to kind of scope out a room and look around. I ask myself, “What do we have here?” I’m really good at gauging audiences and making sure the show is very inclusive. The last thing you want to do is say something or tick somebody off that’s gonna give them a negative experience. Heck, if you go to a casino to have a good time, they’re having a good time, I’m the cherry on the top of the sundae after people have had dinner.
Where’s the strangest place you never thought you’d perform?
Tole: That’s a good one. I performed once on a moving bus. That was strange. Sometimes people come up with all sorts of odd variations on how to do comedy and they’re like, “We’ve got a lot of folks from out of town, we’re driving around seeing the sights, what if we also had a standup comedian who is on the bus with us and talking?” You end up just commenting more so on the things that are passing by because we’re all having this kind of odd shared experience. It usually happens very early in your career and you’re just happy to be up performing anywhere. Now I look back on it and just laugh. At the time I was excited to do it, and they didn’t pay us, it was like, “come to the weirdest show in the world for free.”
Your favorite thing about being a comedian?
Tole: I love how my day is mine, so if I’m out running errands or if I’m just gonna be writing or editing video or sending emails, I can just do that. When I left corporate America I was escaping work and a boss that was terrible and now I’m my own boss, and I’ve turned it around. Now I’m the boss and I’m a terrible employee to myself. Be careful what you wish for. We ultimately find out what we were trying to stay away from.
Your least favorite thing about being a comedian?
Tole: I gave up social media and I just didn’t want to have my day inundated with people’s opinions and strangers and it’s probably counter-intuitive to having a career where you’re trying to be known and recognized for something. I woke up one day and I was like, “Boy, I can’t wait to get my career to a point where I no longer have to be on Facebook or Twitter.” Then I thought, “Why do I have to work so hard to do something I could stop right now?” So I said, “That’s it. I’m not doing it.” Now that I’m not on social media, I haven’t seen an angry person in public in months. If I were on Facebook, I’d see 75 people a day who were mad as heck about something. It’s like eating carbs. It’s good for you a little bit, but you shouldn’t spend your whole life doing it.
What are your thoughts about the comedy scene today?
Tole: We are in an absolute boom right now. I spend most of my time in L.A. at The Comedy Store, and all of the rooms are sold out, audiences are engaged, and they’re having a great time. I mean, last night, I was watching a charity show, and Kevin Hart just pops in, unannounced and did 15 minutes in front of 120 people who had no idea he was gonna be there. Someone like that who can sell out 15,000 to 20,000 tickets in any arena anywhere in America, for him to show up unannounced for a charity show and do 15, people were beside themselves. They couldn’t believe how exciting that was. I had another time in there where I got to watch Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle work back to back in front of 130. That’s the kind of experience that is just amazing.
Who makes you laugh your butt off?
Tole: I would say Bill Burr, Joey Diaz and Sebastian Maniscalco. Those are the top three, in my opinion, but comedy is so subjective. I end up spending 25-30 hours a week either performing or watching other people perform so in a way I’m kind of a real nerd about it but I’m a technician as well. So I always like to watch people and how they work and those three in general are doing something that’s really just transcending what’s possible. It’s about being very present and being honest about your life and what’s going on and nowadays a lot of my act is just almost reciting conversations that I’ve had with my folks or with people in my life who have had different odd experiences, ’cause everyone in the audience has somebody like that in their life. I’m just trying to connect on a human level, and say, “Hey, what would life be like if you weren’t on your phone all day, if you weren’t watching television, if you weren’t freaked out by the way the news is lying to you on a daily basis and said, let’s take it back to a time when people used to sit down and listen to each other.” That’s why I’m a throwback performer. I like that Rat Pack vibe where you could see a real show and you were gonna get some zingers, you’d get a little bit of satire in there, a little pop culture, a little politics and everybody had a good time, and nobody took anything that seriously.
If you were given a TV show tomorrow, what would be the premise?
Tole: I would be the star, and my idea would be about a person who was retired, who was in his 40s and never had to work. But then because he’s never has to work, he spends all day working. And really, I think people get bogged down in a life where their life ends up being secondary to what they really thought they were going to do through their job. What I really want to say is that if people take a risk and follow your passions and do something maybe you’re a little scared of or if you always wanted to do something, there’s no better time to start than right now. I basically went from the cushy life of corporate American vs. now being a “hand-to-mouth, living from paycheck-to-paycheck” artist, it was definitely worth the risk.
How do you handle hecklers?
Tole: I have a kind of show where if it’s bad, I’ll let the employees of the club handle it and if it’s worse than that, I’ll let the audience handle it. Because they’ve all paid good money to have a good time and we’ve seen in America now that the mob rule does rule, so I’ll just let it happen. I can tell when someone says something, because I’ve been doing this for so long. Their tone behind it really says a lot, so it’s easy to take something somebody says and you can take a little bit of the sting out of it.
COMEDY ON THE EDGE
Friday-Sunday, April 21-23. 7 p.m.; doors open 8:30 p.m. (See Showtimes for tickets)