Mike Toomey’s life feeds his stand-up comedy material
Stand-up comedian Mike Toomey has always been fascinated with funny people.
"Whatever it was, it got me early," Toomey said during a phone call to The Park Record from Chicago. "I remember being four or five and used to be fascinated watching people do funny things on TV."
The real clincher was a Stan Freberg album that his parents owned.
"He did a lot of funny songs and sketches on it," Toomey said. "I played the hell out of that thing to the point where my mom would hide it, hoping I would forget about it, but I would always ask her where the record went and then she would go get it and play it for me."
His one-man show features a lot of impersonations.
"Impersonations became something I love and I would park myself in front of the TV and just watch every show I could," he said. "Whenever there was a comedian on any show, I’d have to watch it, particularly if it was a guy who did impersonations."
While some of those impersonations will be part of Toomey’s concert when he performs at the Egyptian Theatre this weekend with Tim Walkoe, most of the show will consist of stand-up material.
"Over the years I have come up with two shows, a one-man show and a stand-up show," Toomey said.
When Toomey began his career as a stand-up comic, he was 18 and didn’t have a lot in common with his older audiences.
"The thing we connected with was television, but as I got older, I had more life experiences that were similar to the audience and started sharing those things," he said.
After three decades, Toomey was able to fill his stand-up show with more than enough material.
"Most everything is derived from something that has happened to me or something that occurs to me, like an observation," he said. "I mean, 30 years is more than half of my life, and in that time I got married, had kids and did all sorts of things. So, my act now generally reflects my life, where I’ve been and what I’m doing."
However, selecting which experience to talk about is difficult for Toomey, especially when he is constantly trying to freshen up his act.
"You always want to come up with new material, but it gets harder because you have already established your point of view early on, and there aren’t always new things that present themselves to you," he said. "Consequently, you have to hunt a little harder to find things that fit your style and personality. It’s a little easier when you’re new because your locker isn’t full."
Then there are topics he doesn’t want to get into.
"There are guys who will disagree with me on this, but I think there are some things that shouldn’t be in comedy, because I don’t think they can be funny," Toomey said. "However, there are many guys who say that nothing is off limits and it’s their job to deem what’s funny and what isn’t. My thoughts on that are if they can do it, then hats off to them."
Throughout his career, Toomey has appeared in concert with Wayne Newton, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Reba McIntyre.
He has also performed at HBO’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado, MTV’s "Half Hour Comedy Hour" and A&E’s "Comedy on the Road."
He also brings his comedy to a newscast at WGN Chicago.
"My current job at WGN opened up because I went on that show as a guest one day," he said. "I struck up a rapport with one of the producers and ended up giving him some ideas.
"We found out a way to have a comedian fit in with a news program," Toomey said. "I know that sounds weird, but I couldn’t be happier with making those two worlds mesh."
Although he’s grateful for those opportunities, his biggest career highlight was meeting George Carlin.
"That was also the highlight of my life," Toomey said. "He was my stand-up comedy idol."
Toomey’s older brother introduced him to Carlin’s comedy.
"He had one of his albums that I listened to a lot," Toomey said. "I had to put headphones on and be really careful that my parents didn’t catch me listening to it because of all the swear words, but when I got older, I bought a lot of his albums myself."
Standing in Carlin’s presence was an "out-of-body experience," Toomey said.
"It was incredible to be three feet away from him and hearing that voice from those records," he said. "I mean, it sounds weird to say, but I found myself thinking that he sounds just like those records."
Another comedian Toomey respects is Tim Walkoe, the grand prize winner on ABC TV’s "America’s Funniest People," who will also perform at the Egyptian Theatre this weekend.
"He’s one of the comedians that I have the most respect for in the business," Toomey said. "He’s a great act and what I really like about him is that he is very versatile. He can work in front of any audience and is really funny."
While things are going smoothly for Toomey, he’s always ready to take the next step.
"I don’t want it all to end here, and I always want to move forward and not feel like I’m in a gerbil wheel or treadmill," he said. "I mean, that looks like fun, don’t get me wrong, but I hope I’m expanding and making things bigger.
"I don’t know what the next project is going to be, but I hope there is a next one and I want to be ready for it when it comes," he said.
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present stand-up comics Mike Toomey and Tim Walkoe Friday, March 4, and Saturday, March 5. The concerts will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $19 to $29. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com .
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This year’s Eccles Main Stage lineup includes comedy from The Second City, music from Danny Seraphine of Chicago and more.