Cleveland Browns: Joe Thomas aces stand-up comedy bit
By Mike Lukas
Recently retired Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas turned his retirement speech in a stand-up comedy routine and aced it
Recently retired Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas is without a doubt a Cleveland hero, a first ballot hall of fame shoe-in and a quintessential example of what it means to be a professional NFL team player and a respectable American man.
After his farewell speech at the Browns compound in Berea on Monday, add ‘stand-up comedian’ to that list.
For most of his talk, he was his normal relaxed and personable self on stage and he appeared genuinely grateful to the entire team – from owners to players to coaches – for his wonderful and impressive Cleveland Browns career, as described in greater detail by our own Thomas Moore in his Dawg Pound Daily piece. In other words, he was Joe being Joe, and the crowd, as usual, ate him up.
Then he launched into some standup, and that’s where, once again, the man impressed.
Nobody doubts he’s going to be a phenomenal broadcaster and he certainly doesn’t need anyone’s help to be any more affable or interesting. But I happen to be a retired professional standup comedian of 24-years and I have done my own share of national television and live performances, so I thought I’d give my (entirely unsolicited) play-by-play of the brilliant comedic portion of his farewell performance.
With all due respect to Mr. Thomas, of course.
The likable lumberjack-ian giant starts out with a solid premise describing how difficult it was having to decide whether to retire or continue playing. It’s a bit wordy, sure, but he ends it well by talking about how during that process,
"“some of the former front office and Browns players had an opportunity to talk to me and give their input.” — Thomas, via Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com"
Boom – right there he has perfectly introduced his upcoming series of jokes.
His comedic instincts, like his blindside blocks, are right on target. Now, thanks to that premise, his audience understands that the men he’s about to list tried to give him career input or advice. It’s a fertile gag, yes, but only if he takes full advantage of it.
It’s Joe Thomas, Browns fans, so there’s no ‘if’ about it.
His first setup/punch line is as simple and effective as an off-tackle run:
"“One of the guys who actually talked to me was Kyle Shanahan.He put together a 32 point slide presentation on Power Point telling me why I need to come back.” —Thomas, via Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com"
Apparently, his audience is well aware of Shanahan’s love of boring info-productions so right out of the gate Thomas gets a nice opening laugh. He steps on it a bit with some unnecessary end-chatter, but it really doesn’t matter because, like a no-huddle situation, he’s already on to the next joke.
"“Ray Farmer tried to text me.But it was during a game, and unfortunately he was suspended for that.” —Thomas, via Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com"
Okay, this joke about a former boss’s humiliating mistake is funny, but it didn’t get a great laugh. At first. It might have gotten a ‘post-pause’ laugh or even some applause if Thomas could have waited it out, but unfortunately, he tried to cover up the silence with an awkward “um”. That, like rotating through over twenty quarterbacks, totally kills the momentum.
"“Eric Mangini wanted to reach out to me.Unfortunately, he said I was going to have to ride eight hours with him on a bus to Connecticut if I wanted to hear all about it.” — Thomas, via Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com"
The wording could have been better, but Thomas’s delivery is as forceful as his bench press and he muscles the joke to completion and laughter.
Next, without pause, he takes a shot at one of his former quarterbacks.
"“Brandon Weeden still has my phone number somehow after all these years.He tried to call me but he ended up still stuck under that giant American flag so he couldn’t get any reception.” — Thomas, via Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com"
Watch the NFL.com video of the incident he’s referring to in case you’ve forgotten how hilariously embarrassing Weeden’s rookie on-field mistake was.
Thomas closes on a series of painful one-liners.
"“Sashi tried to trade some information about my retirement but unfortunately it didn’t get in in time.” — Thomas, via Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com"
Ouch. Laughter AND groans – an absolutely gorgeous combination.
"“Johnny tried to call me from the club but his money phone didn’t have very good service.” — Thomas, via Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com"
The crowd AND Thomas laugh at that one because comedy equals tragedy plus time.
His big closer is a hilarious callback to one of the many past Browns scapegoats.
"“In the end, we all know that I retired because of Robert Griffin III, it was definitely his fault.” — Thomas, via Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com"
Laughter, applause and out.
Joe Thomas makes getting laughs doing standup look as easy as he made suiting up for 10,363 consecutive snaps look. He’ll have no problem in the broadcast booth because he’s a natural talker who backs up his words with hard work and record-breaking results.
Whatever Thomas decides to do in retirement, here’s hoping he does it in Cleveland where he’ll always find an audience willing to watch and enjoy him doing his thing.
Next: Cleveland Browns rebuild means death to ‘The Factory of Sadness’
And grateful to laugh, amazed that he can somehow still find the comedy in all the tragedy that’s been his Browns.