While a Wapakoneta man was working on his doctorate in psychology, he never expected to find himself on the road as a professional comic.
Tom Imondi toured as a comedian throughout the 1990s, appearing many times on Comedy Central, but through the years his career continued to evolve.
Imondi said it was his older brother, Rudy, who he originally had hoped to get interested in comedy and describes him to this day as the funniest person he’s ever known.
“I wrote a set of material in the hope that he’d start dabbling in comedy on stage, but unlike me, he had more adult priorities — wife, job, kids,” Imondi said. “So I gave it a go. It didn’t matter whether or not I bombed because I was then planning to begin work on my doctorate in psychology.”
Two years shy of finishing his doctorate, Imondi took an indefinite hiatus. Imondi said he had never wanted to become a touring comedian but he decided to give it a try.
“Being able to walk into any comedy club in the country and make any audience laugh consistently irrespective of region, town, time of year, mood, didn’t seem like a fair enough boon to gain at the expense of my psycho-emotional stability, orientation toward morality or liver,” Imondi said.
Marketed as the “smartest funny guy or funniest smart guy you’ll ever meet,” Imondi was soon chosen as one of 40 comics to perform in the San Francisco International Comedy Competition.
His first time on the bill with a known act was Drew Carey. From there he’s gone on to work with a majority of the professional comedians most people nowadays have heard of including Bill Maher, Ray Romano, Jamie Kennedy, Cedric the Entertainer and Joy Behar.
“I am inarguably built to be a writer more so than a performer,” Imondi said. “Probably somewhere about the midway point of living on the road full-time, I became equally both. Writing is my second nature, but performing is my skill.
“I love to perform, but I can go an indefinite expanse of time without performing and feel quite normal,” he said. “On the other hand, I’ve never gone long enough without writing that I can even assess the effects of having not written. I theorize they would be ugly.”
After moving to Los Angeles to pursue broader aspects of writing, Imondi, who now lives in Wapakoneta, began developing sketches and characters for a comedian friend working on Saturday Night Live.
Imondi then found himself ghostwriting scripts for one of the main writers of a television sitcom who was experiencing writer’s block. Over time, he ended up ghostwriting in almost every type of genre — sitcom scripts, scripts for television, dramedies, plays for stage at the Actors Studio, one man/woman shows, and autobiographies.
As a ghost writer, Imondi generates work in a variety of different ways, some pieces he writes based on his own inclinations regarding current events as they emerge and some he writes based on topics chosen for him. Some he cobbles together as an amalgam of the putative author’s notes and his own thoughts. Others he more or less edits, making them funnier or edgier.
“In L.A., I spent a lot of time developing projects of my own, including four pilots for original television shows,” said Imondi, who also was hired for a variety of assignments, including work as a videographer for Cindy Crawford.
He has worked with actresses such as Laura Dern and Diane Ladd through assistant directing and script assistance provided to the Actors Studio, but beyond that he maintains the code advertised on his business card — “12 years, 100 percent confidentiality.”
In the wake of Sept. 11, Imondi spoke at a couple of rallies in the Los Angeles area, which started him down a path that led to how he spends a great deal of time now, ghost writing political columns for newspapers. Inbetween, he spent time writing for one of the presidential candidates during the campaign cycle of 2008.
A moderate and registered independent, Imondi, 47, said its odd given where he started out but he has covered both ends of the spectrum.
“I came home three Christmases ago intending to return to L.A. at the end of two weeks,” said Imondi, who has yet to return to California.
While here, his mother, Martha, was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.
“Being a writer was never as wonderful as when I realized that I could just stay here and write from wherever,” Imondi said. “I told mom I’d stick around as long as she could.”
Within three months of her death, Imondi’s older brother was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer, so he extended his stay.
“Though harrowing, it was indeed an enviable position to be able to see the two closest people in the world to me right up to their final day,” Imondi said. “My brother passed away last January and whereas just two years prior I lived 2,400 miles away, when he died I lived two blocks away.”
Since his transition from writing primarily entertainment to politics coincided with his move from Los Angeles back to Ohio, Imondi said all things considered, it’s been very fruitful to now write mostly from here in Wapakoneta.
With a vast liberal background, Imondi credits moving back to a largely Republican region as having solidified his process of being able, willing and equipped to relate to a broad spectrum of views.
“My writing reflects this, has matured, and is better,” Imondi said.
While he didn’t grow up in Wapakoneta, he spent a lot of time here during the holidays with his brother, sister-in-law and their children.
A big fan of the rock garden, Imondi said it’s a dream to produce an in-depth documentary about it.
“Though I have never regretted the decision to suspend my doctoral studies, the life of the mind still holds a special place for me,” Imondi said. “Interacting with people for whom this is also the case helps to keep me on my toes (on the toes of my brain).”
Recently he went to Bowling Green State University’s Department of Psychological Services to have an extensive test battery administered. A member of Mensa, Imondi maxed out the intelligence test.
“My intelligence is only important to me in that it is a tool of my heart, but to the small extent that my mind is a playground unto itself, correspondences with members of these groups is always very interesting,” said Imondi, who also belongs to the International Society of Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE), which only admits people with certified IQs at or in the 99.9 percentile, and the Epimetheus Society, which only accepts people whose intelligence has been clinically tested at or able the 99.997 percentile.
“My comedy, my politics and my writing overall (including my songs) clearly bespeak the extent to which I was steeped in academia,” Imondi said. “My writing is very analytic — even my humor — very meticulous, very painstaking, and even if you disagree with my point, you will very rarely miss it.”