Globe-trotting comic Tom Rhodes arrives in Venice — his favorite place in the world — for another one-night stand
By Tyler Davidson
Over his 30 years in comedy, Tom Rhodes has seen more of this planet than most could ever dream of. Between being pepper-sprayed in Paris and nearly drowning in Thailand, Rhodes gave up on keeping a home base between travels, putting what possessions he had into storage nine years ago.
But for all the world he’s seen, Rhodes maintains a love affair with Venice — the one in America.
“Venice, I think, is the last refuge of individuality and weirdos, you know?” he tells The Argonaut just days after spending his 48th birthday in San Francisco, a place that was once his “nirvana,” but no longer.
“The San Francisco I fell in love with doesn’t exist anymore. This is an elitist society of computer nerds and people with no style and individuality. What I loved about San Francisco no longer exists here. It can only be found in Venice Beach, in my opinion,” he says. “New York is the same as San Francisco: all the cool people were priced out.”
Rhodes even says he plans on eventually settling with wife Ashna Rodjan in Venice, where on Monday he’ll be performing a special one-night engagement for Venice Underground Comedy at Townhouse Venice.
“Tom is constantly circling the globe for stand up,” says Bronston Jones, producer and resident host of Venice Underground Comedy. “When I mentioned Venice, he lit up, saying this is one of his favorite towns on the entire planet.”
Jones first met Rhodes in London, where the comic’s jet-setting lifestyle began nearly 20 years ago. Fresh off the cancellation of his short-lived NBC sitcom, “Mr. Rhodes,” in 1997, the Washington D.C. native found himself disenfranchised with American showbiz and headed to the United Kingdom for a change of pace.
“I got in with London, started playing London really hard a couple months a year, and that led to gigs all over Europe and Australia and Asia and New Zealand,” he says.
Rhodes fell in love with a Dutch girl in 1999 and moved to Amsterdam the following year. While that relationship would eventually come to an end, Rhodes’ television career would thrive there: 2002 saw the premiere of “The Kevin Masters Show, starring Tom Rhodes” on the Yorin network, making Rhodes the “David Letterman of Amsterdam” for three seasons.
He later became a presenter for “Yorin Travel,” which would take him everywhere from Wales to Curacao, cementing his nomadic lifestyle.
“Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ changed my life,” Rhodes says of his sense of wanderlust, before turning characteristically wry with a chuckle. “But, I mean, he’s kind of a sissy compared to everything I’ve done.”
There’s something to be said for a man who can’t even remember offhand how many countries he’s visited, but he’d rather talk about Venice. Asked which international donations stack up, “Buenos Aires? Spain? Amsterdam?” Rhodes muses before giving up.
“You always hear comedians who have done the Townhouse say the same thing: It’s not your typical Los Angeles audience. Really, you’re a million miles removed,” he says before waxing on his hatred for the ubiquity of beards and flannel shirts in today’s comedic landscape. “People seem intelligent. They’re not afflicted by the hipster virus.”
Tom Rhodes performs at 8 p.m. Monday at Townhouse Venice, 52 Windward Ave., Venice. Tickets are $15 and available through laughstub.com. Visit facebook.com/VeniceUground to learn more about Venice Underground Comedy.