Posts Tagged ‘Back to the Future’

Viva Tom Wilson!

May 12, 2013

Saturday May 11th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Sometimes the briefest words of encouragement can really make a difference. Today I received an email from Tom Wilson, and it really cheered me up. Tom is a hilarious comedian and also an outstanding actor. Unfortunately, most people only know him as ‘Biff Tannen’ of the Back to the Future movies. While that was a tremendous career break, it is by far not all of what Tom does.

   I had a chance to work with him several years ago at Zanies in Chicago, and he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He wasn’t pretentious or aloof or anything other than a fellow comic out there trying to make a living. He was very approachable, and we enjoyed our week together.

   Whenever I’ve been around ‘celebrity types’, I have always gone out of my way to not jump in their face and try to buddy up to them and be their false friend. I’m sure they get that to the point of nausea, so I try to keep my distance and if they want to talk I let them take the lead. I’m sure it isn’t the smartest business move, but to me they’re people first. That’s how I’d like to be treated.

   As the week with Tom went on, I felt we were hitting it off pretty well so I decided to bring up the whole Back to the Future experience. I imagined (correctly as it turns out) that he’s as sick as sick can be of talking about it, so I brought it up very delicately. I politely asked if he would care to talk about it, and if he didn’t want to I would totally understand. He graciously said he would.

   His is a situation that’s very unique. He was a comedian in the ‘80s during the boom years, and landed a hefty role in a movie. Not only that, it was one of the biggest movies not of the year but the decade. Not only that, there were not one but two successful sequels. On paper, it would be a dream come true for any comedian of that era – of which I was one too. In reality, not so much.

   The first thing everyone assumes dead wrongly is that because a person is in a film he or she is automatically rich forever. Not true. Yes, Tom was paid for his role but that money is long gone and there isn’t an endless supply of royalty checks that show up in his mailbox. He was an actor.

   He didn’t write or direct any of the films, and was basically an employee like a ball player is an employee of the team he plays for. They get paid too, but it’s the same thing. When the money is gone – it’s gone. Baseball players from 1985 are not still getting paid for games they played then.

   The other thing Tom has had to deal with is the uniqueness of the iconic character he played. It was a fantastic role and he totally nailed it, but he said every day of his life no matter where he is he has to hear “Hellooo, McFLY” from 99.9% of everyone he meets. After a while it gets to be a pain in the Flux Capacitor, and I totally understand. I can see where it would be a hideous curse.

   To his credit, Tom is such a class guy he says he feels he owes fans of the movie their moment with him so he plays along whenever he can. I consider myself very accommodating to fans that approach me, but Tom is at a whole other level. He gets it every single day of his life and has for decades. No matter how nice anyone is, I can see it becoming pure torture. Tom handles it well.

   If you’ve never seen Tom’s comedy act, I urge you to do so. He has an outstanding way to deal with the whole Biff thing by doing a funny song about it right up front. It explains everything to the audience, and then he’s free to just be funny – which he totally is. is his website and you can follow him on Twitter @TomWilsonUSA. He’s much more than his role as Biff Tannen- even though it was a stellar one. People like Tom make me proud to be a comic.