Tom Cotter

Tom Cotter will play the Fort Lauderdale Improv Jan. 25-27. (Tom Cotter/Courtesy / January 23, 2013)

The comedian Tom Cotter lives a double life. Half the time, he's a family man devoted to raising what he calls "three normal human beings." The other half, he's at an airport catching a redeye and arriving sleepy-eyed to his next gig.

Life on the road is something the comic knows all too well — especially when it comes to bad weather and flight delays. "At least five times during winter, I'll lose a gig because of a storm," says Cotter, who lives in Stony Point, N.Y. "Sometimes, I've traveled all day to a gig and just got there as they're letting the audience out."

Sunny weather and zero chance of snow appeals to Cotter, who will perform this weekend at the Fort Lauderdale Improv.

He visits South Florida often, and has performed here many times. "My parents and my wife's parents are retired. And you know by law if you're retired, you have to live in Florida."


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Cotter's wife is the comedian Kerri Louise. They have twin 10-year-old boys and a 5-year-old son.

At home, the couple, who frequently perform standup together, tame the funny. "We try to be normal people and not clowns, because we want to set a correct example," Cotter says. "But we're comedians. … I've told jokes at wakes just to cut tension."

Cotter has performed on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and "Last Comic Standing," and won the 2004 Boston Comedy Festival.

He says the "Everest" of his career came last year, when he was named runner-up on NBC's "America's Got Talent." The Olate Dogs, a group of canines that perform circuslike tricks, won the competition.

"That was great," Cotter recalls. "But let's not lose sight of the fact that I lost to a dog act. I lost to nonhumans, and that's very humbling."

His biggest fan took the news the hardest. "My youngest cried and said, 'Daddy, I don't want a dog anymore,' " Cotter says. "I told him, 'You can't hold the dogs responsible for Daddy not winning.' It was a good lesson for him that you can't have it all."

Cotter says to balance his career with his home life, he made a deal with his wife to work only two weekends a month. Not wanting to be an "absentee dad," he Skypes frequently with his kids when he's on the road.

"Sometimes, when I feel like I'm whining about being away from them, I think about my brother, who is serving overseas in Afghanistan," Cotter says. "He watched his kids graduate from high school on closed-circuit television."

Tom Cotter

When: Friday through Sunday (Jan. 25-27) at the Fort Lauderdale Improv, and Feb. 1 at a benefit for the Delray Beach Public Library

Where: 5700 Seminole Way, Hollywood (Improv) and 29 SE Fourth Ave., Delray Beach (library)

Cost: $20 (Improv) and $150 (library benefit)

Contact: Ftl.improv.com and Delraylibrary.org