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Timing is everything: Tom Cotter on 'America's Got Talent' and awkward moments

"America's Got Talent" runner-up Tom Cotter performs at the Suncoast Jan. 18-19
"America's Got Talent" runner-up Tom Cotter performs at the Suncoast Jan. 18-19
Virginia Sherwood - NBC

Comedian Tom Cotter may have lost the seventh season of “America’s Got Talent” to a bunch of dogs, but he isn’t bitter about it.

“I still love dogs,” the funnyman, who placed behind Season 7 winners Olate Dogs, said. “And I still think Michael Vick is a prick. Really, there are plenty of people who’ve come in second place who’ve done better than those who came in first—look at Clay Aiken. It’s a nice feather in my cap. Honestly, I never thought I’d even be standing there at the end. I always thought the Earth harpist (William Close) or the sand artist (Joe Castillo) was going to win. I was truly befuddled.”

The first comedian to ever be a finalist on NBC’s hit talent competition, Cotter admitted that timing played a crucial role in his success. The season he appeared on was Howard Stern’s first as a judge, replacing Piers Morgan who, Cotter noted, “hated American comics.”

“It was a perfect storm,” he said. “It was a judging panel that I could relate to. Howard’s always been a closet comic, Howie (Mandel) is a comedian and Sharon (Osbourne) is always up for a good time. My friends would always tell me that I was perfect for the show, as I cram a lot of jokes into 90 seconds and don’t spend two minutes setting something up, but Pierce was known for sh$%ting on comics and I didn’t want him to hurt my career.”

Cotter’s patience paid off. Returning to Las Vegas Jan. 18-19, Cotter will be headlining his own show at the Suncoast Hotel and Casino.

“I’m going solo, so I can let my hair down,” Cotter stated. “When I was on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ I could only do 90-second bits. When I hosted ‘America’s Got Talent Live’ at The Palazzo (in late 2012/early 2013), I got to do 20 minutes of material, which was orgasmic, but now, I can do triple that. I can cover so many more topics. My style is very rapid fire, so I can do two hours of material in an hour-long show. People better pay attention, as there will be a quiz afterward that counts as 90 percent of their grade.”

Having performed in Las Vegas for weeks at a time, it was only natural to ask the New Yorker what some of his favorite restaurants were.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but I really like Smith & Wollensky,” Cotter stated. “When I used to work at the Comedy Stop at the Tropicana as an opener, it was tradition for the headliner to take the opening act out for a nice meal once since they made more money; Don Gavin took me out for steak there. When ‘AGT’ performed at The Palazzo, almost every night the cast would go to Grand Lux Cafe since it was so close to the theater. We loved it. I also love The Cheesecake Factory. The Thai Lettuce Wraps there are delicious. Really, there are no other wraps like them.”

Given Cotter’s recent success, the comedian admitted that he sometimes gets stopped out in public now for a photo or autograph. While that doesn’t bother him, there are some situations where fans go a little too far for his comfort.

“I’ve waited 25 years for this, so I’m not that concerned with if someone wants a photo—I’ll get up off my ass and take a photo,” Cotter said. “I’m lucky to have fans. It’s when I’m in the bathroom and someone is standing outside my stall trying to have a conversation with me while I’m moving my bowels that it becomes uncomfortable. ‘Hey, you’re that guy who lost to those dogs. Were they hard to work with?’ Or when you’re at the urinal—that’s just guy code: you don’t talk to each other, you just look ahead, zip and walk away. We can chat in the hallway. It’s hard to carry on a conversation when you have your junk in your hands.”

Surprisingly, though, that’s not the most awkward moment Cotter’s ever faced while dining out.

“I remember when we were kids, my dad stopped at this diner and my sister was sitting at the end of this bench trying to get some ketchup out of a bottle,” Cotter recalled. “She thrust it, and the lid wasn’t on, so the ketchup just went flying. It ended up on the shoulders of everyone down our row—it looked like a crime scene. My mom was running up and down with club soda trying to get the ketchup stains off everyone while my dad got people’s addresses so he could pay for their dry cleaning.”

Given how often Cotter’s already been performing in Las Vegas, one has to wonder if he ever plans on following in fellow “America’s Got Talent” alumnus Terry Fator’s footsteps by headlining a show of his own show here permanently.

“I’m open to anything,” Cotter stated. “I’ll wear women’s clothing if the price is right. I actually think my kids would dig it. I remember when my twin boys left last time, they were bawling their eyes out. I told my wife, ‘They don’t miss me, they miss Vegas.’ It would have to be the right offer/situation, though. I don’t want to be an absentee father; I wouldn’t want it to be all ‘Cat’s in the Cradle.’ But seriously, I remember when the ‘America’s Got Talent’ cast first came to The Palazzo, they took us outside and made us all stare at Terry’s marquee across the street. They told us, ‘That could be you,’ and we were just in awe.”

For now, Cotter is busy working on a new children’s show with NBC and FremantleMedia as he continues to juggle touring with being a devoted dad. For while the up-and-coming comedian may have been influenced by such big names as Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Buddy Hackett and Eddie Murphy growing up, today he finds the biggest laughs come from his kids.

“My children make me laugh harder than any comedian,” he said. “They just say things that bust me and my wife up—they have no filter. You wonder where they learn this stuff. My youngest is actually a clone of me. Two weeks ago, he came up to us and told us that everything was blurry. He had just had an eye exam and everything was fine, so we took him to the emergency room for a CAT scan. We made this special appointment with a doctor and had him blow off school only to be told he was faking it. Turns out he just wanted a pair of glasses because he thought they were cool. Here we thought it was a brain tumor!”

And just like his kids always know how to make him laugh, Cotter guarantees he will make ticket holders laugh during his show.

“I don’t care if I have to follow someone back to their hotel room and tickle them, people will laugh,” he concluded. “I throw a lot of material at the audience in a short amount of time, so it’s a laugh riot. I’m the best medicine available without a prescription.”

Tom Cotter performs inside the Suncoast Showroom Jan. 18-19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at just $15.95, plus tax and convenience fees. For tickets, call 702-636-7075 or simply click here.

For more on Tom Cotter, visit the comedian’s official website.

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