Interview: World Traveler and Stand-Up Comedian Tom Rhodes

By That's Shanghai, August 16, 2018

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A world-traveling comic with over 33 years in the business, Tom Rhodes has built a career consisting of stellar stand-up specials, a sitcom, a travel show, a late night talk show, numerous live albums and his critically acclaimed podcast Tom Rhodes Radio. The original voice of Comedy Central, The New York Times describes him as “a mostly natural intellect with a knack for reporting the harsh realities of life with a dark and absurdly optimistic cynicism.” His last special, Light Sweet Crude, is currently available on Netflix.  

Tom will be touring China with the Shanghai Comedy Club, stopping in Shanghai for one night only at Cages Sports Bar on August 25th.  Standard and VIP packages are available, and VIP tickets include two drinks, front row table seating and a meet and greet with the man himself after the show.

Growing up in DC, there's a lot to make fun of in the city - be it politics, professions or the notion that no one actually lives in the district. What were your first jokes about and would you tell any of them in a set today? 
I was just a young boy when I lived in Washington D.C. but the impression that it left on me was that all of the different flavored humans there made me feel connected to every kind of person that populates the planet. It's also where I fell in love with comedy. My father took me to a comedy show when I was 11 years old.

The show was in progress when we arrived and the entrance was next to the stage. I was wearing a Washington Redskins jacket and the comedian pulled me on stage and started to interview me like I was the coach of the Redskins. Even though I was shy like any kid would have been, that moment changed my life because I'll never forget the sight of all those beautiful humans with their heads thrown back in laughter and all of the teeth in their mouths. That moment forever changed my life.

How did it feel to win the award for "The Funniest Person in Central Florida"? How did it compare with performing in Los Angeles?
It was an honor to be recognized at such a young age as I was when I won that award. As for performing in Los Angeles nothing could compare.

When you go on in Los Angeles you're performing with some of the best comedians on the planet. You always need to bring your best when you're there.

What was it like being the first comedian spokesperson signed to Comedy Central?
It was among my happiest memories in life. Comedy Central was a relatively new network at the time and they sent me out to cover many big events like the Super Bowl, The US Olympic basketball dream team and many live comedy performances. I would dream up jokes and they would put them on TV. To this day I feel connected to Comedy Central as if they were my own family.

As a travel writer and comedian, you've been to a lot of different countries and cities. What's the weirdest thing that's ever happened to you while traveling?
That is a tough question because I have traveled so much in my life. None of my experiences I would define as weird. Some men in Paris pepper sprayed me because they were trying to rob me, I almost drowned in Thailand while scuba diving with bad equipment, I did the tango in Buenos Aires on my 40th birthday, I ate fried scorpion on a stick in Beijing, I had my own late night talk show in Amsterdam, I've been to Machu Pichu in Peru, Chitza Nitza in Mexico, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, I've been to St. Petersburg, Russia during the white nights of summer. 

None of these experiences would I consider weird. I think the full life I have lived traveling goes back to my childhood in Washington D.C. and seeing all those embassies and people from all over the world. It planted in me the idea of traveling to all of these places in order to be the kind of person that has friends in every corner of the globe and to give me the experiences that would create the best stories.


If you could pitch your dream show - no budget, no filming restrictions - what would it be?
I've been pitching it for a few years now already, but I want to do a show about humor around the world. A show where I would be like the Anthony Bourdain of comedy, the way he traveled the world highlighting the best food in every country - I want to do that with comedy. I have so many brilliant comedian friends all over the world I think it would be the greatest show of all time to highlight comedians from China, Russia, France, Brasil, Kenya, Morocco, New Zealand or any other place that does comedy. 

I think all of humanity would benefit from a show that presented the best from every country and gave the viewer an idea of what humor is like in all these different places. I believe it is a winning formula, because when people gather together to forget their problems and have a good laugh it is always a beautiful thing.

Aug 25, 8.30pm; RMB150 for GA, RMB250 for VIP. Cages Sports Bar, see event listing, buy tickets.

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