Going Hollywood: Meet Tommy Johnagin

People were going Hollywood long before Bing Crosby starred in the 1933 film musical Going Hollywood. Certainly, though, countless unknowns have packed their bags and moved to Los Angeles in the years and decades since then, hoping for show business to discover them and make them a star! New York City may be the city everyone goes to make it there before making it everywhere, but Hollywood remains the place where stars are born and made. It’s Show Business, USA. This is a recurring feature, a complementary West Coast version of Meet Me In New York, The Comic’s Comic’s mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of the Southland surrounding Los Angeles. It’s called Going Hollywood.

The first time I met Tommy Johnagin, he lived in St. Louis. Then again, seeing him on tour fresh off his runner-up finish in season 7 of Last Comic Standing in 2010 — while he toured North America with the other finalists — he still lived in St. Louis. Even after doing Letterman. Still, the young man who reminds me of a young Johnny Carson made his living and lived his off-hours in the middle of America. Right by the Gateway to the West. It wouldn’t be until the following year that Johnagin went west and went all Hollywood on us. Well, not all Hollywood yet. Although he has had development deals with NBC and USA to turn his life into a sitcom.

He was just on @midnight last night. Or today. Depending upon how you tell time.

And this weekend, Johnagin’s second half-hour stand-up comedy special debuts on Comedy Central as part of the third season of The Half Hour. His third stand-up comedy album, “Stand-Up Comedy 3,” will come out next Tuesday. You can start looking for Tommy Johnagin’s records on iTunes now if you’d like.

Is that why he chose Los Angeles over New York City? Let’s find out!

But first, this video chat with Johnagin with a few jokes, plus tales of his early salad days in Chicago and St. Louis.

Name: Tommy Johnagin
Arrival date: March 2011
Arrived from: St. Louis, Mo.
When and where did you start performing comedy? Nov. 6, 2001 — Fairview Heights Illinois(outside of St. Louis
What was your best credit before moving here? I had been on Letterman 4 times and had a Half Hour Comedy Central Special and placed 2nd in LCS before I moved. My favorite is Letterman but LCS was probably the biggest.

Why did you pick LA over NYC or anywhere else?

My goal is to have my own TV show and this seemed like the place to go for that.

How long did it take to get your first paid gig in LA after moving here?

I was touring for 10 years before I moved here, so I was able to get paid spots as soon as I got here.

How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you started in?

I’m on the road a lot so I’m not out every night doing spots but I think it’s a great scene for me. I am fortunate enough that I can get spots at really great places when I’m home.

If you lived and performed in NYC, how would you compare working as a comedian in Hollywood to that previous experience?

The amount of spots. If I lived in New York I would feel like the scene would pass me by if I was on the road for a couple of weeks. People are doing 3 or 4 spots a night there. It’s not magic a lot of NYC comics just work so hard.

Was there a moment when you felt your life and career really had “gone Hollywood,” and how do you explain it to friends or family back home?

I buy pants and boots that cost too much and I hired a trainer. Both of those embarrass me a little. I lie about how much my boots cost to my mom and I told my friend the trainer was free.

What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here?

The only advice I ever give no matter what city you’re in is the only good advice that I was given. Write and get on stage.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Having my own TV show either sitcom or hosting. Selling out clubs/theaters. Hopefully a better stand-up. Spending more time at home with my daughter. Making enough money to afford my daughter and pants.

Here is a clip from Tommy Johnagin’s second half-hour stand-up special on Comedy Central. Roll it!

And if you want the rest of that iTunes bit you’ve seen teased earlier, try this clip on for size:

Is there a comedian in Los Angeles that you’d like to see me style and profile for another installment of Going Hollywood? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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One thought on “Going Hollywood: Meet Tommy Johnagin

  1. His cd’s are great and he is a compelling live performer. He is clearly very driven to succeed and his comedy has an edge to it, while being very funny, not just dark and nasty.

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