Comedian Tom Arnold has been a presence in TV and film since the late 1980s. He’s hosted sports talk shows and redneck reality series besides memorable roles in “True Lies,” “Nine Months,” and “Sons of Anarchy,” but in April he tackled his biggest role yet. He became a father. His two-night engagement at The Comedy Zone Friday and Saturday marks his first stand-up appearance since 15-week-old son Jax was born. So you can bet you’ll hear some baby stories.
Arnold recently spoke to from his office in Beverly Hills about becoming a dad, his part in the upcoming season of “Psych.”
Q. What’s it been like becoming a dad for the first time at 54?
I’m tired. The first time I thought I was becoming a dad I was 18 and I worked at a meat packing plant in Iowa. I said that’s it. I’m getting married. I’ll be at the meat packing plant for the rest of my life like my grandpa. It turned out she wasn’t totally honest with me. Since I turned 30 I’ve been trying to do this. I’ve tried with various wives. I realized in April when he was born that this was the time it was supposed to happen. This was the right time and the right people.
I’m older, but you can’t act older when you have a baby. You have to be springing around. I’ll be grateful when I get to Charlotte. I’ll be able to sleep one of the nights all the way through.
Q. Where did you get the name?
My dad’s name is Jack and I wanted to honor him. My best friend is (actor) Dax Shepherd. I was on “Sons of Anarchy.” The main character on that is Jax. I want everyone to think the name is after them. So if I need their help.
Q. Shepherd and Kristen Bell had baby girl right before you.
It was nice to go through that with a friend. We used the same doctor, same hospital. They were 10 days before us. Before we had the baby I went over to see what Dax does.
Q. You play a psychic on “Psych.” Do you believe in the supernatural?
I don’t believe in any of that. My wife completely does. You can’t believe how many psychics and energy people she saw before the baby came. We had a dresser that was full of candles and statues and the big pink Buddha that was supposedly good luck for babies. We had four babies (through in vitro fertilization). It took us a while. I’d find myself lighting the candles too. I think we all relax a little bit and meditate. There’s a certain consciousness we get about ourselves and the people around us. You tap into that. That’s why I like to get outdoors. I think back to things I felt connected to in this world and it would be fishing with my grandfather.
Q. Why do you always return to standup?
Right before the show starts – it doesn’t matter what’s going on in my personal or professional life – (I think) this is the most important thing I’ve ever done. I have to make this good for them. You forget about the b.s., the little movie roles you didn’t get, an argument with your wife. You have to hyper focus. And you get isolated in Beverly Hills. Getting out there is important. It’s how I started 30 years ago. Everything I have in my career was because of standup. My writing jobs were through standup. I also sweat. I’ve always felt since I worked at the meat packing plant if you don’t sweat at some point in your job then it’s not a real job.
Q. You’ve been outspoken on Twitter about topics like Trayvon Martin. Have your views changed since becoming a parent?
This is how I grew up. If some dude was following me at that age I would’ve had a confrontation. We thought we were badasses. I don’t want my son to have to feel that. I want him to get the hell out of there. I got arrested seven times with fighting and drinking. I don’t want my son to feel he has to be that guy that has to make it square. Be smarter than me and get the hell out of there. I wish that’s what Trayvon had done. You don’t have to man up all the time. Just walk away. There’s no shame in running away. You never know what the other person is up to.
I hope Jax is nothing like me. I was crazy. There was a water tower across from our house. I imagined it was 120 feet tall. I got drunk when I was 17 and wrote my name on it in spray paint. I got woke up the next morning at home by a cop who was also my cousin. He showed me the water tower. To get up there was so hard. At some point you have to let go and push yourself up on this ridge around the tower. I wondered then why my dad was so upset.