At the age of 17 Tom took a fake ID and auditioned at the only comedy club in Orlando, The Funny Farm. Soon after passing and becoming a regular performer at The Funny Farm, Tom decided to fully follow his dream to be a comedian.
Throughout his junior and senior years of High school he did shows every weekend in Orlando and branched out to one nighters all over the state of Florida. After graduating in 1985 from Oviedo High School, Tom went on the road to play comedy circuits all over the Southern United states and up and down the Eastern seaboard.
At 19, Tom won “The Funniest Person in Central Florida” contest. The grand prize was the opportunity to perform at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, California.
The first quality comedy club to headline Tom was the “Atlanta Punchline”. After Atlanta other quality clubs followed.
At 22, Tom quickly became a regular at the comedy giants of the city: The Punchline, The Improv, & Cobbs. Along with meeting many people that would become lifelong friends, Tom got to open concerts for James Brown and the Everly Brothers while in San Francisco. Tom also got the notice of comedy programs and began appearing on shows like An Evening at The Improv, Comic Strip Live, Caroline’s Comedy Hour, and MTV’s Comedy Half Hour.
It was an appearance on Comedy Central’s ‘Two Drink Minimum’ that led to Tom performing on a more regular basis on the network. Presented as interludes, Tom filmed a series of jokes in a jail cell setup like a rock video by Comedy Central. These clips helped the long haired comedian break out on the national consciousness.
Tom became the first comedian to sign a one year development deal with Comedy Central that led to his one hour special ‘Viva Vietnam’ a comedy travel log to the newly opened country Vietnam as a heartfelt tribute to his father and the other veterans who served. Tom’s friend Rich Hall worked on ‘Viva Vietnam’ as the one and only writer he was allowed to bring with him.
In that same year (1995) Tom performed at the first ever HBO Aspen Arts Festival and at the Montreal International Comedy festival. At the Montreal Festival, Tom was discovered by NBC talent scouts and the network offered him a development deal to create his own sitcom.
In 1996, Tom moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles to create a sitcom with his friend, comedy writer Mark Brazill. Tom’s original idea for the sitcom was to be a public defender lawyer – “the voice of the voiceless and champion of the little people.” It was NBC’s opinion that because they just had a lawyer show fail they suggested that Tom should be a schoolteacher. From 1996 to 1997, the sitcom ‘Mr. Rhodes’ aired for a full season on the NBC network. Tom played a longhaired rebel English teacher in a stuffy private school for rich kids. Although the sitcom had a short life and was prone to focussing on inane silly hair jokes, the cast included the exceptional actors Steven Tobolowski, Ron Glass, Lindsay Sloan, and Jensen Ackles.
For two years Tom performed multiple sets nightly across the city at Gotham Comedy Club, The Comic Strip, Caroline’s, The Comedy Cellar, and Stand Up New York, and opened for Ray Charles at the famed jazz club Tramps. Tom also performed for the second time in Montreal International Comedy Festival and Just for Laughs.
During this period, Tom began to take trips to London. Through the help of his friend, comedian Rich Hall, he began to break into the London comedy scene at the Comedy Store. Success at The Comedy Store led to Tom getting more work in the United Kingdom and all around Europe.
In 2000, Tom appeared in Australia for the first time in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. This inspired Tom to start expanding his reach to more international circuits in Paris, Dublin, Berlin, Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok, Jakarta.
In July 2001 Tom filmed his first ‘Comedy Central presents…’ half hour stand-up comedy special at the Hudson Theatre in New York City.