Comedian Tom Arnold takes jabs at self for material

Patrick Dunn
Special to The Detroit News

For some stand-up comics, having three ex-wives might be a gold mine of professional material. But Tom Arnold says it “wouldn’t be authentic” for him to slam his former partners.

Arnold, who plays Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle on Thursday through Saturday, says he’d rather focus on his exes’ positive attributes and otherwise make himself the butt of his own jokes.

“These MCs say all these nice things about me and then I spend 75 minutes destroying it, every thing,” he says. “That’s what comedy is about.”

At age 57, with 34 years in show business behind him, Arnold looks back on his life with a sense of relatively newfound grace. After three divorces, including his high-profile relationship with Roseanne Barr in the early ’90s, he’s been married to Ashley Groussman since 2009. And after 20 rounds of in vitro fertilization across the four marriages, he and Groussman welcomed their first child, Jax, in 2013 and their second, Quinn, in December.

Arnold says he’s gotten “everything I ever dreamed of,” but that’s also allowed him to better work some of the more frustrating chapters of his life into his stand-up routine.

“If (audiences) know at the end that things work out OK, you can go pretty dark,” he says. “You can be pretty honest about your mistakes if they know at the end that this guy’s married and he’s got two kids. Somehow things worked out, but it’s a long journey.”

Arnold has had numerous film and TV gigs over the years, including a stint writing and acting on “Roseanne” and a lead role opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1994’s “True Lies,” but he’s remained passionate about stand-up throughout his career. He says he’s “never felt bad” after a stand-up gig.

“It allows me to get out of my head for a little bit and hyper-focus on entertaining these folks,” Arnold says. “No matter what’s going on, if my wife and I just had an argument or I didn’t get a movie or a pilot I wanted, it doesn’t matter. For 75 minutes, I’ve got to entertain these people.”

Arnold is still staying busy in the worlds of film and TV. He makes a three-episode guest appearance as himself in the newly released tenth season of Canadian mockumentary series “Trailer Park Boys,” on Netflix. Arnold, a longtime fan of the show, describes the experience as “one of those bucket-list things.”

“Sometimes it’s weird when you have celebrities come into a show,” he says. “People start doing that at a certain point when a show’s been on … I was nervous that I would screw up the show, but it worked.”

Arnold also has three new movies on the way, including a horror-comedy entitled “Dead Ant,” and he recently sold pilots to TV Land and DirecTV. Now that he’s got the family he always wanted, Arnold says he’s working harder than ever to support them. And that prompts the kind of joke he does like to make about his divorces, referencing the rumor that he received a $50 million settlement in his 1994 divorce from Barr.

“In fact there was no alimony because I said, ‘Oh, I’m going to be fine ... I don’t want people dogging on me for taking money from my wife,’ ” he says. “Now that I look back I’m like, ‘Oh, maybe I should have taken the $50 million.’ ”

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.

Tom Arnold

8 p.m. Thur.-Sat.; 10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle

310 S. Troy, Royal Oak

Tickets: $20

(248) 542-9900