On stage, Tommy Savitt is simple. His delivery is slow and measured and his character is the id run amuck.
“You know how many marriages I’ve saved?” Savitt asks on stage. “Once you cheat on him with me, you’ll never do it again.” Savitt finishes the bit with his trademark question, “Who wants me now?”
Savitt’s career has mimicked his act; it’s been a relatively straightforward progression marked by a few sudden and unexpected twists.
Savitt first took the stage in February of 1994 to an easy crowd – he had 75 of his fellow Brooklyn Law students cheering him on. He dabbled for the next eight years in front of less friendly audiences before a move to Los Angeles forced him to pursue road work. It was either that or survive on LA club spot pay – “a whopping $11.50 a set.”
Savitt had his share (and perhaps a few other’s shares as well) of knocks coming up – including one night in Pennsylvania being chased through the audience by a man threatening to throw a pitcher of beer at him.
“Ironically, this guy was enjoying my set,” Savitt said of the man trying to douse him. “I guess they have strange customs in those yonder parts.”
That description reminds me of something out of Savitt’s set. An accessible explanation mixed with a twinge of education and sarcasm. But it’s that accessibility that has allowed Savitt to become one of the more popular acts on satellite radio.
“They recognize me once they hear my voice,” Savitt says of the multitudes who listen to his clips several times each week on Sirius/XM’s “Blue Collar Radio.” “Some people are flying or driving from other states to catch my show. I am truly blessed.”
Strange to think of a lawyer from Brooklyn as “blue collar,” but Savitt is a perfect fit. While the word has been misused in the last decade as a synonym for “white trash,” the actual meaning is a working class American. And a comic that has been chased by a pitcher of beer in the woods of Pennsylvania certainly passes that test.
Blue Collar is perfect to describe a city like Boston. Though also teeming with college students and the finance industry, there is a large contingent of people who could have (and might have) been extras in Good Will Hunting.
“I was low on money and had no expectations of winning,” Savitt said of the Boston Comedy Festival, which he almost pulled out of, but later won. “For whatever reason I trudged on because that’s just what I do.”
It’s also what he did that same year in Seattle, winning the Seattle International Comedy Competition as well. And it’s also what he did with his wildly successful album, Who Wants Me Now?,” which, unlike most albums on the market, actually sells more copies each month it’s out.
Earlier this year, Savitt released a uniquely updated version of the album, with new takes on the jokes that originally made him a cult hero for the proletariat. And as Savitt gains in popularity, his new album is increasing in sales as well. Not bad for someone who has never done a spot on network television.
“I truly believe the universe is allowing me to hone my act without major scrutiny,” Savitt said.
Hone quickly, Tommy – while your delivery might be slow, your rise is not.
|Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian that has been on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, E! True Hollywood Story, and more. You can read past columns at OnComedians.com, follow him on Twitter and learn more at www.stevehofstetter.com|