A few months ago, Tom Simmons was performing in Cincinnati. He got into town a day early, so he wound up closing the club's open-mic show. He told the audience he was going to run through some jokes he was thinking about putting in his act, and then promptly destroyed the room. "Some nights it works," he says of that experience. "It feels like I go months without writing anything. I did a set in North Carolina and I left thinking, 'Man, I have nothing new.'" After driving for several hours to the next gig, though, he had at least four fresh things to talk about onstage. "It seems to come in waves." After so many years in the business, some processes have established themselves. "Some of it seems to be a reaction to things I see or hear," he explains. "Or sometimes it's sitting down and trying to hammer out a subject that I want to talk about, and then it's old-school comedy writing." Musicians sometimes say that they are never happy with the final mix of a song, and there's a similar sentiment among comedians. "Normally, I want the jokes to work better," Simmons says, "and every joke I have I would like to turn into a five-minute chunk." These days, he has bits about what he calls pseudo-topical subjects. "I have stuff about the Boston bombings, the plane crash, the Cleveland hostage situation, and the Zimmerman trial." He didn't follow the last item until the verdict was announced, and only then after he heard and saw people's reactions. "I waver back and forth between not paying attention to current events and being discouraged by the world. I don't think that's pessimism, I think that's realism." 18+; 21+ later shows.
Aug. 14-16, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 16-17, 9:45 p.m.; Aug. 17-18, 7 p.m., 2013
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