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'America's Got Talent' : Rockland's Tom Cotter advances to finals
Rockland County stand-up comedian Tom Cotter advanced to the finals of hit NBC reality show "America's Got Talent" on Wednesday night.
Cotter, a Stony Point resident, was voted into the finals after he raised his game on Tuesday night's live episode, essentially leaving the content of his act up to judge Howie Mandel, who selected "college" from one of eight topics projected on the backdrop of the stage. Cotter proceeded to deliver a two-minute performance that kept the audience laughing and left the judges raving.
"College was the best 28 semesters of my entire life," he joked. "I don't want to brag: I went to Colombia [sic]; I worked for a drug cartel, then I went to community college. I was a political science major. I had a minor; her name was Debbie and I got in some trouble for that. I had a 3.0 — that was my blood-alcohol level." And so on.
"I can't say anything but 'OMG,' " Mandel said after Cotter's semifinal performance. "That's amazing, because ... it's all about material. I chose your material; you didn't know what was coming. You had to be on, deliver it. It was like you'd been rehearsing that bit for years. You also deserve [audience] votes."
To ensure that the "college" topic wasn't a setup, judge Howard Stern picked another subject — "politically incorrect" — from the list of eight topics. Cotter went on to riff about how people once known as "bums" and "hobos" are now referred to as "homeless," because the previous terms weren't sensitive. "Next year, 'outdoorsmen.' I think we should try that. [Or] 'field collection agents.' " The crowd roared, and host Nick Cannon later confirmed that Cotter performed a completely different set during the dress rehearsal.
"If you don't get the votes [to advance to the finals], then something's really off with the show," said Stern, who began his professional career at a radio station in Briarcliff Manor. "You're terrific. You're professional. You're funny. You're sensational. I love you."
Judge Sharon Osborne agreed. "Not only are you a really good guy, you are an amazing comic. You are absolutely amazing. I loved your material tonight," she said.
Cotter continued to get laughs, even as Cannon explained to the audience how to vote for him. As last night's 11th contestant to perform, Cotter's corresponding phone number had a suffix of 11, so he removed a novelty knife with the number 11 on it and affixed it to his head, then lifted his button-down shirt to reveal an 11 on his stomach, which undulated, and later grinded up against Cannon as he tried to read the TelePrompTer. Funny all the way to the end.
But in the video package that aired immediately before Wednesday night's performance, Cotter showed a more down-to-earth side, crediting the support of his family, especially his father, a World War II veteran.
"When his youngest [child] decided to tell jokes in bars, he was not happy about that, but he never gave me grief about it," said Cotter, a Rhode Island native who has been in stand-up for more than 20 years. "My dad hired me for my first paid gig: It was the New England Neurosurgery Convention, and I bombed horribly. And he still paid me at the end, and was really supportive from that moment on. And the fact that he's going to see me at the semifinals of 'America's Got Talent,' I can't put that into words."
The winner of "America's Got Talent" claims a top prize of $1 million and a chance to perform in Las Vegas.