By Daniel Lippman '08
Tom Allen '09 only focuses on the important things in life: asking the San Clemente City Council to put up a Paul Walker statue, spreading “stoke,” and demanding a second July 4th holiday, just because. (Allen defines stroke as a feeling of ultimate excitement.)
Allen first became famous after he posted an online video in which he and his comedian partner in crime, JT Parr, asked during an otherwise routine Los Angeles local government meeting for the right to party, since “we heard it was under attack.”
In the 2017 video, which got more than a million views, he tells the government officials with a straight face: “According to our sources, an attempt has been made to suppress the right to party. Not to get too lawyer-y on you, but this is in direct violation of the Constitush.”
Allen has become a fairly active member of participatory democracy, regularly attending government meetings where he and his friend float ridiculous motions to get a reaction from the bemused politicians. People are mostly excited when he shows up, he said, “because I think the rest of the meeting is so boring. We just bring some levity. And I think they love our causes as well.”
Because local governments film their meetings for public-access TV, Allen clips the parts that he stars in and releases them on his YouTube page. Some of his most popular videos get around five million views across YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.
Such viral attention landed Allen and Parr a booking on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2019, where DeGeneres introduced them by telling the audience that her guests “make me laugh so much.” In the interview, Allen and Parr talked about their next big cause: to make scooter-riding an official Olympic event, leading DeGeneres to present them with monogrammed scooters with the Team USA insignia. (Unfortunately, their campaign was not successful.)
Beyond their viral videos, Allen also does stand-up comedy and produces a podcast called “Going Deep with Chad and JT,” in which he and Parr conduct interviews and give advice to young people who write in with questions about relationships and life goals. “How do I increase stoke while I’m at college?” is one of the typical questions.
The podcast, which reaches roughly 50,000 people per episode and has a variety of sponsors trying to reach its predominantly young male audience, is “sort of like Love Line for bros.”
Allen is on a nationwide tour this year, with stops scheduled so far in Texas, Michigan, Washington, D.C., and Arizona. The hardest part of being a comedian, he said, is maintaining momentum. “It requires self-motivation to just keep pushing forward and progressing. I think it’s easy to sort of become complacent and not write new material. But you have to keep developing new stuff and keep evolving.”
Allen, who credits his Hotchkiss English classes with making him a good writer, has been a comedian his whole adult life. After attending Santa Clara University, he moved to Los Angeles to teach surfing during the day and do comedy at night.
Telling jokes in front of people was anxiety-inducing at first. “I was really nervous, but when you walk out on stage like that, the energy there is so positive and just sort of in your face that you can’t help but smile,” he says.
Follow Tom on Twitter @chadgoesdeep, and view our other alumni comics profiles for Chloe LaBranche and Alexis Gay.