Tom Clark’s persona evokes an overgrown Dennis the Menace, with a head full of cowlicks, a rascally demeanor and an instinct for the laughs lurking in the commonplace.
If he were in middle school today, his blog and you-tube feed might have millions of followers. Instead, his early improvised sketches and “radio shows,” recorded on cassette and the family video cam, are lost to history.
Cut to the present and we find Clark appearing on Conan, CBS’s Late Late Show, The Bob & Tom Radio Show and Comedy Central’s Premium Blend. He’s performed in the New Faces show at Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal and on the Main Stage at The Capetown Comedy Festival in South Africa. Some may recognize him from his acting roles in NBC’s Outsourced, TNT’s The Closer and the Drew Barrymore movie, Big Miracle.
“I always wanted to make people laugh,” says Clark, “I never thought I was funny. I never really thought I would do comedy for a living. When I was 23, I took a comedy class in (his hometown) Milwaukee. I really didn’t know what the process was. I just kept doing comedy (until I) figured it out.
“After five or six years of doing it, it was just fun. I didn't have late hours. I was building audiences, and doing something I always wanted, and I loved learning how to do it.”
As he was figuring things out, he put his college degree to work as a social worker. “I helped disabled people find jobs and worked with emotionally disturbed kids,” Clark says. But he would go to open mics every week and eventually had his own. “There weren't a lot of comics so I I'd have to go up for 30 minutes. That forced me to get better,” he says. When he scored a slot in the Chicago Comedy Festival in 2001, he picked up a manager. It was she who encouraged him to move to L.A. in 2004.
Now he tours regularly and is set to release his own, self-produced comedy special this fall via social media. And, with his comedian wife Stephanie, he maintains a YouTube vlog called “The Clarks,” a sort-of Midwestern working-class Portlandia.
Clark performs at 8 and 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Aug. 4 and 5. Admission is $12.50, 17.50 for preferred seating, plus a two-item minimum. Make reservations at laffstucson.com.