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Tommy Johnagin on Writing His New Sitcom, Being Evicted By a Baby

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Comedian Tommy Johnagin is taking this comedy thing seriously. "I'm getting an office," he says from his home in Los Angeles. "We had a baby. I had an office at home, and the baby evicted me. Now I have to get an office somewhere else."

The move has practical applications for Johnagin. "Some people disagree, but comedy is still a job, and I like to treat it as such. I like to go somewhere and write. I enjoy being alone -- not away from the baby. She's not going to read this, is she?"

[jump] The dedicated writing space is necessary, because Johnagin is currently fulfilling a lifelong dream of writing his own TV show. "It's just myself and two writers, Justin Halpern ($#*! My Dad Says, Cougar Town) and Patrick Schumacker. I sold a show to CBS with a pilot production commitment. We're writing it together and it's feeling good so far."

Johnagin knew he wanted to be a comedian since he was eight years old, and that he would one day like to have his own TV show. His biggest influence was David Letterman, whom he was allowed to stay up and watch... at least through the "Top 10" list."

"I felt I got a victory in that decision," he says. It was Johnagin's stepfather who pointed out that Letterman started as a standup comic, and that's when the plan was set into motion. "There was some effortlessness about it," Johnagin says of Letterman. "I started doing standup -- and the way I still do it -- because I'm very insecure and I could get embarrassed very easily. Right now my style, if there is such a thing, is I get up there and talk and tell stories, and if no one laughs then I know no one really knows that I was trying to be funny. There's never any danger of failure in my opinion. People are like, 'Oh, that guy's not funny. He didn't try very hard.'"

That rarely happens, as Johnagin is one of the country's top headlining comics. "I could never be like Sam Kinison, jumping around the stage or being loud," he adds. "When you're jumping around onstage and you're murdering, it's got to feel great. But when you're doing it and there's 40 people not enjoying it, that would be embarrassing."

Growing up in southern Illinois, about an hour or so from St. Louis, Johnagin wasn't quite sure how his plan was going to unfold. That didn't stop him from telling people about it, though. "And people were like, 'Oh, there's Tommy, he wants to be a comedian.'" Around the time he turned 18, a friend, who knew of his desire to be a comedian took him to St. Louis to watch an open mic. "The first time I was ever in a comedy club was to watch an open mic," he says. "The second time I was onstage at an open mic."

These days, he primarily talks about relationships. "I think relationships, and how people get into them, are funny." It's that mindset that will be the foundation of his new show. "For years, I thought I'd take over for David Letterman," he says. "Or create my own talk show. As I started doing more personal stories in my standup, I realized it would be fun to do a sitcom. Having my own late-night talk show is something I'll explore in 10 or 15 years."

IF YOU GO:

Tommy Johnagin

Acme Comedy Co.

708 N. First St., Minneapolis

8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; 10:30 Friday and Saturday

$18

For tickets, call 612-338-6393 or visit www.acmecomedycompany.com