After years slogging it out on the Canadian comedy circuit, Tom Stade came to Wolverhampton to try his luck in Britain.
Enticed by the value of the British pound ("it was like making double the money!") he and his wife eventually settled in Edinburgh where you can now catch him in a 25 date residency as part of this year's annual Fringe Festival.
Known for his "Canadian stoner" accent and appearances on Live At The Appollo, Mock The Week and Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow, Stade also had a hand in writing Frankie Boyle's critic-alienating (but actually quite funny) Tramadol Nights.
We caught up with Tom in London to talk about receiving advice from Robin Williams, fighting fishermen and how to give the best comedy show ever.
What the main different between doing TV and performing live?
When you do television shows there’s no room to suck. If you go on the show and suck in front of however many million people, they don’t give you a second chance. Live, it’s a bit easier. You can incorporate whatever happens into the performance. No one ever saw Richard Pryor do a bad live show because he was so good at doing just that, you know?
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
He’ll never remember he said this, not in a million goddam years, but my manager got me on a show with Robin Williams at Stand Up New York. I was on the bill with Ray Romano and Chris Rock and I was freaking out. Robin Williams came over and said, “You’re nervous man. I’d be nervous too, but listen: if you’re gonna be a star you might as well start acting like one.” That just kind of hit me. Burt Reynolds doesn’t get nervous before going onto a set, you know what I mean? Every time I go on I think "are you gonna give them this nervous guy, or are you gonna make them think they just witnessed something?"
What’s the worst gig you ever done?
Try the first 10 years of my career. One time me and a couple of Canadian friends drove about nine hours to this gig. We got there after leaving at 6am and we walked into the bar and the guy goes “Oh shit, that’s right, it’s comedy night!” He didn’t have anything prepared. The audience was just a couple of fishermen. After the show we ended up getting in a massive scrap because the bartender went around asking them for money to watch the show, when they were already there anyway.
How do you deal with hecklers?
There are two types of hecklers. The first are the ones who get lost in the show and feel connected and want to talk to you. Then there’s the guys who just don’t think you’re funny. They’re determined not to enjoy it. Sometimes I like these guys the most, then you can go into the audience and actually find out what’s going on with them – unless you’re one of these comedians that have a show that’s written like a monologue. They get very angry at hecklers, these monologue comics.
You got married in Vegas. What was that like?
The thing about Vegas is that it’s not really about getting married in Vegas, it’s about getting wasted. My wife and I had just come off a Hunter S Thompson, Route 66-style road trip and were completely fucked up. That’s something you can’t really do in the church. The best part was we could wear anything we wanted. I was in a cowboy hat and cutoff jeans.
What part does luck play in the career of a comedian?
I came over to England to be near my wife’s family. We decided to live in the middle of the country so I could travel all around to shows in London and all the shires full of people who don’t even know what year it is, so we settled in Wolverhampton. When you’re travelling you can end up in some fucked up places and Wolverhampton was one of those, but if I hadn’t been there I would have never written the meat market joke [see video], which ended up setting my career on fire.
What’s your advice for people watching a live comedy show?
When you come to comedy, be open to everything and you’ll have a dynamite time in that show, and life.
Tom Stade’s Decisions Decisions tour runs until August 24 at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh. tomstade.co.uk
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