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Stand-up comedian’s self-help spoof is New Year’s timely

Time for those dreaded New Year’s resolutions?

Don’t over-commit before seeking advice from the Tommy Lama.

The resident life coach of the L.A. Comedy Club speaks of spiritual cleansing in a paisley shirt and Andrew Dice Clay-styled aviator shades. Ads for the Tommy Lama promise, “Spiritual healing, Brooklyn style.”

“I’ve turned many people’s lives around. Especially successful ones,” he tells his followers.

So while others set the bar too high and then trip over it, the Tommy Lama says resolutions should be easy to hang onto:

■ “They say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s why I recommend you never work a day in your life.”

■ “Vow to quit smoking, even if you have to start.”

■ “Adopt a mantra: ‘I am attractive, statistically speaking.’ Or, ‘I am not handicapped, but I still deserve to park here.”

The Tommy Lama is stand-up comedian Tommy Savitt’s spoof of the self-help moment. But offstage, Savitt says even a pretend guru gets close enough to this stuff to know, “January’s a big boom for that industry. People are looking for hope in the new year, and they seek it from affirmations and resolutions, or life coaches and energy healers.”

“This is the most melancholy part of the year for many, many people, and they look outside themselves for happiness,” he adds. “They look for merchants of hope to give them strength to enter the new year.”

Savitt looked to comedians who built off-Broadway shows from a thematic premise. Connecting his stand-up material with a “long-form” theme let him market a concept, instead of his relatively obscure name.

“It allowed me to give people something different. Something they haven’t seen before,” Savitt says of the two years he spent refining the idea before setting up shop in the Tropicana’s Laugh Factory last summer. The 5 p.m. time slot was “good if you have a family magic show,” but this month’s relaunch in the Stratosphere’s club at 10 p.m. is working out better for his act.

The self-help idea came almost by accident from Les McCurdy, the Florida comedy club owner who also encouraged comedian Dan Whitney to develop the persona of Larry the Cable Guy.

Savitt was plugging his usual stand-up act on a morning radio show and somehow started dispensing relationship advice. “We started getting phone calls from corporate people: ‘We heard about this self-help guy on the radio.’ That’s when (McCurdy) said, ‘I think you got something here.’”

Now he taps into both spiritual books such as “The Secret” and get-rich-quick financial seminars to give his stand-up a running thread. He dings a chime to “cleanse the room,” and talks about root chakras while dispensing wisdom such as, “Alcohol poisoning is your body telling you to build up your tolerance.”

Though Savitt’s Brooklyn patois is not much more dialed down offstage than in his act, he likes to keep an open mind and says his act takes “a neutral stance.”

A girlfriend introduced him to an energy healer, and “it opened up this whole world, from motivational speakers to mediums to numerologists, the whole gamut.”

“Whether it’s real or not, if you believe it, a placebo can help you,” he adds. “I can honestly say I don’t know. There’s a lot of charlatans in any field. But there’s always a wise person, a person who is knowing and has abilities.”

“You know, I have people that actually ask me for advice sometimes,” he adds. “And then you get people who are thankful because even though I’m doing it through comedy, I’m laying down concepts and introducing a way of thought they never would have been exposed to. It could be deemed educational in a way.”

“Everyone sees things differently. Some look at me as just a total sendup. That’s what art is. How you see a painting depends on where you’re standing.”

You may be way ahead of the punchline if you aren’t surprised that a guy who set out to spoof self-help is now getting booked for conferences and seminars.

Professionals in the fields of recovery and personal development checked out his Tropicana show when they were in town for conventions. Now some of them are signing him on to be the comic relief at those same conferences next year.

“The life-coaching field does not take offense to me,” he says. “I’m having fun with it as opposed to making fun of it. I’m poking at it, but there’s no meanness in it.”

Read more from Mike Weatherford at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com. Follow him @Mikeweatherford.

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