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Tom Garland headlines ‘Bill’s Comedy Bash’ Fundraiser


Tom Garland
Tom Garland headlines “Bill’s Comedy Bash” this Tuesday. — photo via Tom Garland

On Tuesday, May 6 at 8 p.m. Uptown Bill’s will be hosting Bill’s Comedy Bash, a night of family-friendly stand-up comedy featuring Cedar Rapids natives Tom Garland and Bruce Jay.

Little Village had a chance to speak with Garland, 25, about the event, his recent experience on Bam Margera’s brusque comedy tour and his roots in Iowa stand-up. Garland produces and hosts the Yacht Club’s weekly Catacombs of Comedy stand-up series, and says he spends most of his weekends driving to comedy clubs around the Midwest, performing with comics from all over the comedy landscape.

“I joke and say I play everything from churches to strip clubs and back, but I really do,” Garland said. “I’m influenced by all kinds of comics. I think in the end it makes my act very middle-of-the-road.”

He recently acted as the MC for Bam Margera’s FF Unstoppable tour. Getting asked to join Margera and Steve-O on tour was a big break for Garland’s career, and he says it holds a lot of personal significance for him because he grew up watching them on MTV. At 14, he says he was making his own Jackass-style videos with his friends.

“Since I’ve gotten into stand-up it’s been weird how everything’s come full-circle,” Garland said. “I’ve ended up working with guys from that series [Jackass], and also Tom Green, too, who’s from that era. It’s been a surreal experience. So many times as a comic I play rooms where the crowd is sitting down. [FF Unstoppable] was just a wild environment. It’s a rock show, people are there for a metal show and I’m there doing stand-up comedy while everybody is walking around with drinks in their hands, or they’re screaming and moshing and doing all this crazy stuff. To play a room like that, and all of the sudden you look out and you’ve got the whole room quiet and looking at you, and then you get some applause coming in, it’s just a really good feeling as a comic.”

Garland says he owes a lot of his success to the comics he performed with when he was first starting out. He lists Waterloo’s “Donzilla” Don Tjernagel, a man known for his incredibly dirty live performances, as well as Eric O’Shea, who’s known for his clean, PG-rated material as major mentors. At the top of his list of influences, though, is Cedar Rapids’ own Bruce Jay, who he’ll be performing alongside at Bill’s Comedy Bash.

Throughout the early 2000s, Jay lived in Los Angeles where he worked as a full-time actor and comedian. He made appearances on The Man Show, The Gong Show with Dave Attell, and had a major role in 2007’s Sundance Film Festival favorite, In Search of a Midnight Kiss. In 2007 though, after stepping on a nail while on a set and losing his leg to diabetes-related complications, Jay decided it was time to move back to Iowa. Garland credits a lot of his success to the things he’s learned about the often-fickle nationwide comedy circuit to his friendship with Jay.

“It’s a crazy struggle for him and it kind of landed him back here in his hometown Cedar Rapids,” Garland said. “Around the same time, I was just kind of getting started, and Bruce, when he started to get around on his own again, just started going to open mics out of boredom. He noticed me, and noticed that I was ambitious at least. I don’t know if he thought I was actually funny or talented, or if he does now, but he admires that I’m ambitious. He’s helped me out tremendously. To have him around is an incredible resource because there aren’t a lot of people in Iowa that have been in the industry as far deep as he was. He’s funny, too! He comes to my Catacombs of Comedy every Monday and he’s just lights-out funny on a whole different level.”

Bill’s Comedy Bash is free and open to the public, though they’ll be accepting donations for Uptown Bill’s “Extend the Dream Foundation,” which primarily benefits the elderly and those struggling with disabilities. Garland says Uptown Bill’s is an important place in Iowa City because it provides an escape from day-to-day difficulties for people from all backgrounds.

“There’s just such a wide spectrum that goes in there,” Garland said. “Everything from recovering drug addicts to college kids that may be feeling troubled and just want to get away for a while. People go down there because they want to read their poetry or sing a song. It’s really low-stress for me. It’s good to be able to get away from the other stuff that I’m doing right now.”


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