Interview: The Return of Tom Rhodes

Tom Rhodes is a singular figure in the world of comedy. The guy’s a legend, a globetrotting master of the microphone. He’s worked everywhere and with everyone. Listening to him recount stories of the gigs he’s done and the comedic gods that he calls friends makes this standup fan swoon. Rhodes is a heavyweight, slaying crowds everywhere he goes and oozing comedic gravitas.

Oh, and did I mention that he’s a really nice guy?

Over the last twenty-plus years he’s had a career that has taken him to amazing heights: He’s had his very own NBC sitcom; he’s recorded two Comedy Central specials and one more for Swedish TV; he’s appeared all over the late-night TV map, including the Tonight Show; his DVD Rhodes Scholar was voted the Number One Comedy DVD of 2009 by, and for a couple of years he even had his own late night talk show in the Netherlands (The Kevin Masters Show). It’s rare to find a comic with such depth and international appeal. It’s even rarer to have him perform in Busan.

Tom describes himself as a world traveler comedian. He’s constantly on the move, beating up mikes and having adventures that many folks can only dream of. Most of us in Korea are world travelers as well, so we can identify with Rhodes’s take on the world. Sometimes you have to leave the confines of your homeland to really get a sense of the bigger picture. His material is infused with this expat angle, slightly jaundiced, often dark, but with a warm, human heart beating behind it all.

This is Tom’s second visit to Busan. Looking forward to having him back, I recently chatted with him about his life as a comedian and his return to Korea’s Second City.

CT: You’ve had such a cool, crazy career. Twenty years ago, would you have guessed that you’d be cruising the globe doing comedy?

TR: Twenty years ago I was caught up in the whirlwind of trying to leave my mark on American television. I knew I wanted to perform in Europe but I never suspected that it would lead to me doing shows all over the world. I never thought I would know Asia as well as I do now. Making people laugh is a thrill in itself, but to be able to do it consistently in every corner of the globe most certainly makes someone a comedy badass.

CT: What have been some of the highlights of your international travel?

TR: Living in Amsterdam and hosting my own talk show on Dutch television. Being maced in Paris. Almost drowning in Thailand. Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I am addicted to adventure, just for the stories it brings.

CT: I’m not sure if you know, but your last visit to Korea was legendary. People are still talking about it. What struck you about Busan in particular?

TR: I love Korea! My last visit to Busan was insane, because I was there for Halloween, and the epic street party blew my mind. People had the most hilarious and inventive costumes and I cried with laughter until the sun rose the next day. That night can never be topped! Best Halloween street party on the planet! I made a lot of great friends and laughed a lot of the time—that’s why I jumped at the chance to come back. More good times, please! Hope to see the beach this time. Hope my joy barometer hits maximum again there next week.

Tom Rhodes performs one night only: Saturday, May 17th,at Ol’55. Tickets are 20,000 won at the door. Doors open at 8. Show starts at 10.

‘A mostly natural intellect with a knack for reporting the harsh realities of life with a dark and absurdly optimistic cynicism.’ – The New York Times

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