Tom Cotter on Lucky Breaks and America's Got Talent
Courtesy of Tom Cotter

Tom Cotter on Lucky Breaks and America's Got Talent

It's a dog-eat-dog world out there.

And no one knows this better than Tom Cotter. The New York comedian came in second to a troupe of dancing dogs on the seventh season of ABC's America's Got Talent. Since then, he's been riding out his runner-up success, restocking his arsenal of quick one-liners, and taking his show on the road. Up next is Phoenix, Arizona.

We caught up with Cotter before his upcoming shows in the Valley to discuss talent, timing, and the dogs that still give him nightmares.

See also: Jamie Kilstein on Performing in Phoenix, Panic Naps, and Politics

Any future TV projects in the works? Well, I shot a pilot for NBC in November and that's allegedly still alive. I'll believe it when it gets on the air because I've shot many pilots in the past, well not many, about eight over my 25 years of comedy, and none, zero, have ever made it to the air.

Was there a noticeable difference in your career before and after America's Got Talent ? [There] absolutely was. It's unfair because you know the show is a mega hit and it's up against reruns, so the amount of eyeballs that tune into that show every year is absurd. But I'm lucky because it was a perfect storm. It was the first year of Howard Stern, so you had all those people watching, and that same year, it was 2012. So you had the Summer Olympics and they did a lot of cross promotion. So you had even more people watching. So I just got really lucky to be in the right place, right time.

I was the first comic to make it to the finals in America's Got Talent in [seven] seasons, and I credit Howard Stern for that because Piers Morgan was in his seat before that and Piers Morgan is this stuck-up British guy who hated American comics. So no comics had ever made it out of the quarter finals let alone the semi-finals or the finals.

So would you say comedic success is part talent, part timing? For me, yeah, it really was. I mean I'd like to say it was just because I was a comedic genius, but the reality is there are a bunch of comics that are [like] me that have been at this for 25 years and have been doing well for 25 years and they're paying their bills. But they just didn't have the spotlight on them like I was able to get, and the reason I got it is because every year everybody in the industry -- managers, agents, comedy club owners, my friends who are comics -- would all say, "Tom you gotta go out for the show," because my style of comedy is very rapid fire, one-liners, and you only get 90 seconds to perform on America's Got Talent. So it's perfect for me because I can do a lot of jokes in 90 seconds, whereas someone like my wife [Kerri Louise], who I think is very funny, she's a storyteller. So it takes her three minutes just to say hello to the audience. So my style is perfect for the show, and for eight seasons everybody kept saying "you gotta go out for it, you gotta go out for it," and I refused to go on it because I knew Piers Morgan was going to say something nasty and I didn't want to be humiliated in front of 20 million people. So Piers Morgan leaves, Howard comes in, I go out for it and I got very very lucky. Now, I did lose to a dog act in front of 20 million people and I still have nightmares about that.

So who are some comedians that you would say are in the same place your were -- plenty of talent but just haven't had that right place, right time moment? Well perfect case in point is this year on America's Got Talent, there are two comics that have both been around for a long time that are still in the mix. They haven't been eliminated yet and they could go all the way. One is Dan Naturman, and he was just in the quarter finals and moved onto the semi-finals and he's a buddy of mine from New York. And the other is Wendy Liebman, and if you don't know Wendy Liebman, you're not a fan of comedy. She's been around for a long long time and her style is very similar to mine -- kind of rapid fire, kind of quick one-liners that are perfect for the show. And she's a doll on stage. So I'm pushing for them.... A comic has been so close to winning, a comic has come in second place for two years, and I just think it's time for a comedian to win that show.

Tom Cotter will perform at Friday through Sunday, August 22 through 24, at Stand Up Live. Showtimes are 7:30 and 10 p.m. on Friday, 7 and 10 p.m. on Saturday, and 7 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets for this 21-and-over show are $22 with a two drink minimum. For details, visit

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