Funnyman Pat Tomasulo deals with a daily situation that is no laughing matter.
His wife, Amy, suffers from trigeminal neuralgia, a nerve disorder that doctors classify as one of the worst pains known to mankind. The shooting pains can drive victims to their knees. The rare nerve disorder can last a lifetime and there is no cure.
Tomasulo said he has never touched his wife’s face, and they have to plan outings based on wind strength and direction.
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get frustrating,” the sports anchor and reporter on the WGN Morning News said of the impact the disorder has on their lives.
Tomasulo said they spend a lot of time indoors because even a simple cool breeze across the face can trigger shooting pain for his wife.
“It’s normal for us,” Tomasulo, who also is host of WGN’s weekly late-night show “Man of the People,” said of the couple’s lifestyle. “I’ve never gone to the beach with her, but it’s our normal. We’ve never known anything different.”
Tomasulo, a stand-up comedian as well, will headline the April 6 fifth annual “Laugh Your Face Off,” a comedy fundraiser at Park West Chicago to benefit The Facial Pain Research Foundation.
The event has raised more than $1.2 million for the foundation in its first four years.
Saturday’s event is sold out, but the foundation’s silent auction is online and open to anyone. More than 80 items ranging from sporting experiences and entertainment to pet photography, clothes and recording time in Nashville with six-time Grammy-winning record producer/songwriter Brent Maher can be viewed and bid on at https://one.bidpal.net/lyfo2019/browse/all. The auction will close at around 8 p.m. Saturday.
Donations can also be made to the foundation at https://one.bidpal.net/lyfo2019/browse/donation.
While he loves his work with the WGN Morning News and doing stand-up comedy, Tomasulo readily admits that his passion is the “Man of the People” show, now in its second season. The show takes a sarcastic look at the week’s news and includes Tomasulo going to locations in the city and suburbs, such as Harlem Irving Plaza, Chicago Ridge Mall, Highwood Bocce Club and Madison Street Barbers on Chicago’s West Side. The remote shoots show Tomasulo as, well, a man of the people.
The show is recorded on Friday afternoons and airs at 10 p.m. Saturdays (with a replay at 11 p.m. Sundays) on WGN.
“This season has been strong,” Tomasulo said. “I think the show has gotten better and better. You can always be better. You always want to improve on things.”
When told he is a “poor man’s John Oliver” (award-winning host of comedic news show on HBO), Tomasulo chuckles.
“We both do news programs, but there are no other similarities. None,” he laughed. “We put our show together with three full-time people and two part-time people and we did 38 episodes last year. John Oliver did 30 episodes with a staff of 70.”
Tomasulo got into television in 2001 as a sportscaster in Rhinelander, Wis.
He spent three years in Rhinelander and 1½ years in Buffalo before landing a position with WGN in 2005.
Seeing ESPN sports guys Craig Kilborn become the first host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and Keith Olbermann get his own show on MSNBC, Tomasulo saw a path for himself to go beyond the world of sports.
Regularly infusing comedy into his sports reporting, Tomasulo started doing stand-up comedy 10 years ago.
The resident of Chicago’s Roscoe Village neighborhood said he found himself in a “burnout situation” doing stand-up shows late into the night and then at the WGN studios by 4:30 a.m. to prep for sports reports starting at 5:15 a.m.
Because of his TV duties, Tomasulo said he limits the amount of weeknight stand-up work he now does. That is not to say Tomasulo doesn’t put long days in now, having added “Man of the People” to his plate. Thursdays — the day before the show airs — can keep Tomasulo at the studio until 7:30 or 8 p.m. Fridays are normally equally as long, recording the show and then editing it for time and content.
Tomasulo made multiple appearances when a permanent replacement for Regis Philbin was being sought for “Live! With Regis and Kelly.”
Tomasulo said he appreciated the national exposure, but doesn’t think that is the right venue for his talents and personality, noting he would rather eviscerate people in the news than talk to celebrities about their dog.
He said he and his wife are happy in Chicago and that he has no ambitions to take his talents to a national level.
“Now, if someone wants to give me $3 million …” he laughed.