Tone Bell may not be a well-known name as of now, but he is quickly rising up in the world of comedy. He started his comedy career a bit later than most, but has since taken off. He appeared in shows like Whitney, Jerks with Cameras, and now will star in NBC’s Bad Judge opposite Kate Walsh. The new offbeat comedy series shows the funnier side of the courtroom and proves that justice can be well-deserved while still being outrageously funny.
Cliché: How did you find your way to being a stand-up comedian?
Tone Bell: I think that my parents were very instrumental in it. I think that just growing up watching a lot of Cosby, The Fresh Prince, and TGIF (That God It’s Funny, the 1990’s ABC comedy lineup) helped too, but mainly it was my parents. I was an only child. I would bunce stuff of myself and to my parents about how not to get into trouble when I was in school. Being a bit of a smartass kind of helps, too.
But I guess the real turning point for me was when I moved to Dallas in 2007. I didn’t know anybody and thought, “How do dudes meet other dudes without looking creepy?” I went to a comedy club to try open mic, thinking that it would be creative and that I would have to meet people. So, I went to a bar and said, “Yeah, I could do stand-up.”
What’s your favorite form of humor, and who is your favorite comedian?
I am a huge fan of Bill Cosby and I think, now, Bill Burr. I think he’s one of the funniest dudes in the world. I also have a lot of friends that I’m fans of. There are a lot of people that I work with that I feel are on the same level. I enjoy watching their progression and I know that they enjoy mine. We all keep each other motivated.
As for my favorite form of humor, I’m a big observationalist and how things make me feel. I love being frustrated. I think it’s the point of view of my comedy. I love being frustrated by very simple things. Kevin James, of King Of Queens, is a big influence of mine. He takes something that is very, very small and blows it out of proportion. I think that all comedy is funny, but everybody can relate to minute details. It may go over your head one day, but if you’re already irritated by one of those small things, like you’re having a bad day and your server forgets your ranch dressing and you act like it’s the end of the world. “That’s it. I just—I just can’t take it anymore. I just can’t.” You just blow it way out of proportion. I just love that type of humor. It sets me off to be frustrated.
How do you deal with getting up in front of so many people? Aren’t you scared of being rejected?
To be honest, I love when people don’t like something. I love digging myself out of a hole, so to speak. I like someone saying, “I don’t get that,” and then I have to work out of it to get that person to say, “Oh, I got you. I get it.” To me, them agreeing is their laughter. Just even dropping a premises that you didn’t think people would get and seeing that they got it is enough for me. I would make fun of my parents a lot now that they are getting older. Like, my dad can’t dress and my mom can’t hear. It seems a bit harsh up front, but you get old and you just have to deal with it. People start to see that, “Oh, that situation would be funny.” If you saw your dad at the mailbox in his underwear, that would be funny. That’s really happened.
How has the move from MTV’s Jerks with Cameras to NBC’s Bad Judge been? Is it a very different experience?It is. I actually get to do my [own] delivery, as far as jokes are concerned. With Jerks with Cameras, I was just hosting the show, which was really nice. I didn’t have to pull any of the pranks. So, I didn’t have to be one of the jerks. But with Bad Judge, I could do my comedy instead of reading it off of a teleprompter. I get to spend time with other comedic actors and hang out in our trailers together. I think that our chemistry comes out well on screen because we do hang out with each other, whereas at MTV, all the jerks hung out together and they had a really great time with one another, while I was a bit cut off from them. I was just the host. So, it’s a big difference.
Can you tell us a little about Bad Judge?
Bad Judge is starring Kate Walsh, Ryan Hansen, John Ducey, and myself. The cool thing with Bad Judge is that she’s really not a “bad judge.” I think that it’s a nice play on words. Really, she’s a good judge, and that’s what I like about the show. Our previous showrunner, Liz Brixius, who has since been replaced by Besty Thomas (who is awesome), said it should really be called Bad Ass Judge. Kate takes an unorthodox way of sentencing our special guest stars. It’s more about embarrassing and teaching you a lesson than what the system would normally do.
I play Tedward. I’m the bailiff and best friend to Kate’s character. It’s a cool dynamic because it’s like the odd couple. You see a forty-something-year-old woman and a twenty-something-year-old. You don’t normally see something like that and our chemistry is like ridiculous. I think it comes across really well. We have a lot of fun.
So, you’ll be more than just the straight man in it?
I am way outside of being a straight man. It’s kind of like Scooby-Doo, where there’s five main members in the cast, but everyone takes on a different role every week. Like, one week being the straight guy and the next being the zany one. In episode five, my character goes completely into the deep end and is silly, whereas in the week before, Kate’s character is the one that was like that. It’s vice versa. [It’s different] every week, which is very cool.
What’s been one of your favorite episodes to film so far?
There’s an episode in which someone that Rebecca, Kate’s character, had put away is released. My character believes that this person is out to harm Rebecca and I set out to protect her. It’s hilarious. It was directed by Reggie Hudlin, a pretty well-known director.But you know, I think that all the episodes are funny. Every episode is better than the next. We can’t even get through a first read through with the whole cast without breaking out laughing over each other’s lines. I think viewers will have a real treat.
For more news on Bell, follow him on Twitter @ToneBell.
Photographed by Paul Abrahams. The Tone Bell Interview original appear as “Tone of Laughter” in Cliché’s Oct/Nov 2014 issue. Unfortunately since the publication of this interview, Bad Judge has been canceled.