Tom Garland won’t quit.
When a fellow buddy busted school-aged Garland for telling a stolen joke as if it was his own, it didn’t stop the comedy career that he didn’t know he’d begun. After a humor piece the Cedar Rapids resident penned for Xavier High School’s student newspaper incited controversy, Garland continued to seek opportunities to be funny on the page. And even when an audience doesn’t respond favorably to his persona, the 24-year-old comic simply plows forward.
“The guy your roommate always has over,” is how Garland described his stage self. “I think my act comes off a little rough around the edges … It’s almost a delusional winner. In a lot of my jokes, I come out on top even if they’re self-deprecating.”
The reward for Garland’s perseverance? Success, of course. Just a few months shy of his 25th birthday, Garland’s resume includes a stint in Las Vegas opening for Steve-O and Tom Green.
On Thursday, April 18, the spotlight will center on Garland. For the first time he will headline his hometown stage at Cedar Rapids’ Penguin’s Comedy Club and record “Unleashed,” the follow up to his debut comedy release, 2012’s “Leash Your Kids.”
“(It’s) a brand new hour of my standup,” Garland said. “It’s kind of cool because, pretty much, I got done with the last one and began writing the next day.”
- Tom Garland Live Album Recording
- 7:30 p.m. April 18
- Penguins Comedy Club at The Vault
- Tickets: $5
The album is scheduled for a June release and is slated to include an intro from comedian and former MTV star Andy Milonakis. Much of the material will focus on Garland’s trifecta of universal comedy themes: childhood, food and relationships.
Garland waited until he was 21 to step onstage. He and his friends made some comedic videos but hit a bump when they started getting cold feet about having their names and faces associated with the content in this world where every job applicant is subject to a Google search. Doing stand-up was simply a way for Garland to express his ideas.
He mentioned the idea to his idol Ralphie May after he performed a stellar set at The Englert Theatre in Iowa City – “it was so cool to see him destroy,” Garland recalled – and the comic encouraged his young fan to try it out.
“I thought, honest to God, I’d only do it once or twice,” he said. “I went down there, I got laughs, and it went well.”
That was over three years ago and since then, Garland has opened for comedians including BJ Novak and Michael Ian Black and even helped create opportunities for other Iowa City-Cedar Rapids Corridor comics to perform locally.
“Tom came to us a couple of years ago with this idea for an open mic comedy night,” recalled Scott Kading, owner and talent buyer for the Iowa City Yacht Club, via email. “They have evolved into standing-room only nights that are very successful. There was definitely a need in Iowa City for an open mic night and comedy is doing better and better in town.”
Garland now hosts the venue’s weekly comedy night, a duty he’s also filled at Iowa City’s First Avenue Club and Penguin’s.
“He is entertaining and professional and keeps the crowd engaged and the show running smoothly,” Kading wrote.
The comedian is now aiming to step away from being the master of ceremonies. He’s focused on getting TV and syndicated radio opportunities and more shots as the main attraction.
“You constantly want to keep the hype up if you want to stay in it,” Garland said. “For the most part, if I’m the headliner, I’m pretty confident about what I’m bringing to the table.”