Tom Rhodes was born in Washington DC on January 14th, 1967.
At the age of 12 Tom’s father, David Rhodes, a decorated Vietnam war hero with a great sense of humour and a love of stand-up comedy, took Tom to see his uncle Bob perform. The entrance to the room was right next to the stage and as a joke the comedian pulled Tom up because he wearing a Washington Redskins jacket. He interviewed him as if he was the coach of the Washington Redskins. It was that moment on stage in Washington DC, seeing the happy people with their heads thrown back in laughter, that Tom Rhodes decided to be a stand up comedian.
Later that same year Tom’s family moved to Oviedo Florida just outside of Orlando where Tom became obsessed with comedy. He dreamed to become either a major league baseball player or a professional stand up comedian. Sometime during high school as the swift curve balls increased their precision, Tom knew he wasn’t born to be a baseball player and continued to fill notebooks with joke ideas and focus on following his comedy dreams.
Tom’s father David had many classic comedy albums in the house and with his guidance he studied the masters: Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby and Rodney Dangerfield.
While attending Oviedo High School, everyone knew Tom wanted to be a comedian and he was invited to host talent shows, pep rallies, and the morning & afternoon announcements.
One of Tom’s earliest supporters was his drama and speech teacher, Mr. Mintrel Martin. Where other teachers found Tom’s talkativeness to be a problem, Mr. Martin encouraged Tom to explore his natural talents. The classroom had a small elevated stage in the center and Mr. Martin would give Tom the first five minutes of class to talk about whatever he wanted, he sometimes even elaborated on prepared speeches. Tom would talk about world events, things that were happening at school, and whatever joke ideas he felt trying. The rants became so popular that children from other classes would sometimes attend.
At the age of 17 Tom took a fake ID and auditioned at the only comedy club in Orlando, The Funny Farm. Soon after passing and becoming a regular performer at The Funny Farm, Tom stopped attending football games and other school social functions and decided to fully follow his dream to be a comedian.
Throughout his junior and senior years of High school he did shows every weekend in Orlando and branched out to one nighters all over the state of Florida. After graduating in 1985 from Oviedo High School, Tom went on the road to play comedy circuits all over the Southern United states and up and down the Eastern seaboard.
At 19, Tom won “The Funniest Person in Central Florida” contest. The grand prize was the opportunity to perform at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, California. After meeting Jay Leno, who told Tom that all great comedians should be living in New York or Los Angeles, Tom decided that he was right and moved to New York City.
In what he describes as the worst year of his life, Tom was living in the Washington Heights neighbourhood “like a dog” with no money and not getting very many sets in the city. He decided that the one nighters he was doing in New Jersey and Long Island were not the pot of gold he was looking for, so he moved back to Florida with his tail between his legs. Back in Florida, Tom’s comedy became stronger than ever and he started branching out and getting into better comedy clubs across the United States.
The first quality comedy club to headline Tom was the “Atlanta Punchline”. After Atlanta other quality clubs followed.
At 22, Tom moved to San Francisco with the sole purpose of growing and strengthening his comedy in the city he refers to as “the Jerusalem of stand up comedy.” There was an exciting array of comedians living and performing at that time: Margaret Cho, Marc Maron, Patton Oswald, Greg Proops.
Tom quickly became a regular at the comedy giants of the city: The Punchline, The Improv, & Cobbs. Along with meeting many people that would become lifelong friends, Tom got to open concerts for James Brown and the Everly Brothers while in San Francisco. Tom also got the notice of comedy programs and began appearing on shows like An Evening at The Improv, Comic Strip Live, Caroline’s Comedy Hour, and MTV’s Comedy Half Hour.
It was an appearance on Comedy Central’s ‘Two Drink Minimum’ that led to Tom performing on a more regular basis on the network. Presented as interludes, Tom filmed a series of jokes in a jail cell setup like a rock video by Comedy Central. These clips helped the long haired comedian break out on the national consciousness.
Tom became the first comedian to sign a one year development deal with Comedy Central that led to his one hour special ‘Viva Vietnam’ a comedy travel log to the newly opened country Vietnam as a heartfelt tribute to his father and the other veterans who served. Tom’s friend Rich Hall worked on ‘Viva Vietnam’ as the one and only writer he was allowed to bring with him. Viva Vietnam was critically acclaimed and the Washington Post ran a feature story on Tom and his father, and how the premier in Washington DC attracted both Vietnamese diplomats and US diplomats laughing in the same room when they were once mortal enemies.
In that same year (1995) Tom performed at the first ever HBO Aspen Arts Festival and at the Montreal International Comedy festival. At the Montreal Festival, Tom was discovered by NBC talent scouts and the network offered him a development deal to create his own sitcom.
In 1996, Tom moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles to create a sitcom with his friend, comedy writer Mark Brazill. Tom’s original idea for the sitcom was to be a public defender lawyer – “the voice of the voiceless and champion of the little people.” It was NBC’s opinion that because they just had a lawyer show fail they suggested that Tom should be a schoolteacher. From 1996 to 1997, the sitcom ‘Mr. Rhodes’ aired for a full season on the NBC network. Tom played a longhaired rebel English teacher in a stuffy private school for rich kids. Although the sitcom had a short life and was prone to focussing on inane silly hair jokes, the cast included the exceptional actors Steven Tobolowski, Ron Glass, Lindsay Sloan, and Jensen Ackles.
When the sitcom ended Tom looked at the money he made as his “NBC artist’s grant” and moved back to New York City to focus on his first true love of stand up comedy. Living in New York City 1998-1999, Tom got to fulfill the promise that he made to himself that he would one day live in New York City with style. For two years Tom performed multiple sets nightly across the city at Gotham Comedy Club, The Comic Strip, Caroline’s, The Comedy Cellar, and Stand Up New York, and opened for Ray Charles at the famed jazz club Tramps. Tom also performed for the second time in Montreal International Comedy Festival and Just for Laughs. Having too much money in the city that never sleeps and living the comedy rock star life, Tom found himself to be partying at an alarming intensity.
Breaking into Europe
During this period, Tom began to take trips to London. Through the help of his friend, comedian Rich Hall, he began to brake into the London comedy scene at the Comedy Store. Success at The Comedy Store led to Tom getting more work in the United Kingdom and all around Europe.
While performing in Toomler, Amsterdam in 1999, Tom fell in love with a Dutch girl and in the year 2000 he moved to Amsterdam. Tom says he was partying so much while he lived in New York City that he actually moved to Amsterdam to “bring it down a notch.”
Also in 2000, Tom appeared in Australia for the first time in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. This inspired Tom to start expanding his reach to more international circuits in Paris, Dublin, Berlin, Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok, Jakarta. All the while performing half the year in the US so as not to let his American comedy muscle go soft.
In July 2001 Tom filmed his first ‘Comedy Central presents…’ half hour stand-up comedy special at the Hudson Theatre in New York City.
At the end of 2001 Tom’s relationship was coming to an end and he was about to go back to the USA when producers from the Yorin television network saw his show at Toomlers in Amsterdam.
In January 2002, the ‘Kevin Masters Show starring Tom Rhodes’ premiered. The show was a charming mix between Tom’s American perspective on Dutch culture and interviews with the biggest actors and artists in the region. The show ran for three full seasons.
In 2004 when the show came to an end the network asked Tom to be a presenter on one of the country’s most popular travel programs – ‘Yorin Travel’.
For one full season Tom got to film travel segments all over South America & Europe, including Peru, the Champagne region of France, Saint Petersburg Russia, Wales, the Dutch Caribbean, Aruba, Curacao, and a very special highlight on the Beatles in Liverpool.
At the end of 2004, Tom decided to go back to the United States and continue to travel the world.
In 2005, he performed at the Vancouver Comedy Festival and started to appear in Australia regularly.
In December 2005, Tom released his first live CD “How Sweet Ass” on Stand Up Records, recorded in Houston.
In June 2006, Tom released his second CD “Live in Paris” recorded in Paris, France at the famed Hotel du Nord.
Also in 2006, Tom appeared on the Australian Rove’s Live, and in 2007, The Side Show.
In 2007 Tom released his first self-produced DVD ‘Holy Temple of the HA HA’ recorded live at the Sydney Comedy Store in Sydney Australia. The bonus feature is a short documentary of Tom’s life over a ten year period as a stand up comedian entitled ‘There and Back Again’. It includes appearances and kind words from Dave Chappelle, Janeane Garofalo, Bobby Slayton.
Tom’s travels and passion for filming his travels culminated in 2008 with his obsession for making YouTube clips. Watch them at www.youtube.com/kingofhaha.
In August 2008, Tom filmed his second “Comedy Central Presents…” at the Hudson Theatre in New York City. It aired March 2009.
In April 2009, Tom preformed at the Altitude Comedy Festival in Meribel, France. In July 2009 Tom did his third Montreal International Comedy Festival, Just for Laughs with Whoopi Goldberg as the host.
2009 was a busy year for Tom, playing internationally in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Belfast, Dublin, Galway, Rome, London, Geneva, Zurich, Munich, and Stockholm. In Stockholm on November 28, Tom recorded a half hour stand up performance for Swedish television on the television program ‘Raw’.
In 2010 Tom performed at the Galway Comedy Festival with Jim Jeffries, Phil Nichol, Phil Jupitus, Jimeoin, and Rich Hall. Also in 2010, Tom returned to Asia doing shows in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur.
As a special honor in 2010 Tom was highlighted in the book ‘Satiristas’ – A book of photographs and interviews with the leading comedians in the worldwide business of stand up comedy today.
Early 2011, Tom appeared on the podcast “WTF with Marc Maron”.
In April 2011, Tom married photographer Ashna Rodjan and went on an epic Honeymoon World Tour performing in Cork, Galway, Dublin, Bali, Bangkok, Jakarta, Perth, Sydney, Singapore. While in Perth he performed at the Wild West Comedy Festival headlining the Astor Theatre.
On September 23rd 2011, Tom filmed his first hour-long stand up special in Boulder, Colorado.
Tom Rhodes Productions
Also in 2009, Tom started his own podcast called “Tom Rhodes Radio” The podcasts are conversations recorded with comedians and other interesting people that he meets or has known for many years in his travels worldwide. The program is edited by comedian Rob F. Martinez with excellent clips of stand up comedey and inventive music choices. The show can be heard on his website tomrhodes.net and on iTunes.
In 2009, Tom released his self produced DVD “Rhode Scholar.” The two DVD set includes ‘Rhode Scholar’ – which contains two and a half hours of live performances filmed all over the world plus strange absurdities that he recorded on his travels. The second DVD – ‘Built for Joy’ – is Tom’s one hour one man show filmed at the Comedy Central Theatre in Los Angeles. It was a personal telling of stories about his life travelling the world as a stand up comedian. In December 2009, PunchlineMagazine.Com/LaughSpin.com named “Rhode Scholar” the Number One Comedy DVD Release of 2009.
In recent years, Tom has been pursuing his dream of making his own comedy travel television program where he can document his personal travels and highlight comedy scenes around the world. Tom produced the pilot episodes himself in 2010, filming in Montana and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tom continues to travel the world and perform stand-up comedy and is actively pursuing his dream of landing his dream television show.