With drug abuse behind him, Plainfield actor’s career takes off
By Jeanne Millsap For The Herald-News July 19, 2012 3:44PM
Plainfield actor/comedian Tommy Connolly.
At A Glance
What: Tommy Connolly will host “Soul Parole Book Release and Party.”
When: 6-9:30 p.m. July 28
Where: American Legion Harwood Post, 705 S. Larkin Ave. in Joliet.
Cost: $19.95, proceeds go to two Joliet alcohol and drug recovery programs and to Urban Youth Outreach.
Information: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.tommyconnolly.
Updated: August 21, 2012 6:01AM
PLAINFIELD — Tommy Connolly didn’t start his comedy career until the age of 40 and didn’t begin acting in movies and television until he was 45, but he is more than making up for lost time now.
In the last three years, the Plainfield resident has played several comedy clubs and has appeared in “Contagion,” “Shameless,” “Boss” and “Altered,” a suspense film not yet released. He has been featured in “The Chicago Code,” “Chasing Hollywood,” “Just Kneel” and “Family.”
He’s the author of a book and a popular blog and is a family man with four children. But his late-coming success in life and career is not due to him being a late bloomer.
Connolly was an alcoholic and drug abuser for 28 years of his life, at one time homeless and living in his car, tidying up at a gas station in the mornings before putting on his shirt and tie and going to his job in the corporate world.
His life as a functioning alcoholic would end up coming close to killing him.
Committed to his faith
He writes about his experiences and lessons in his new book, “Soul Parole, Making Peace with my Mind, God and Myself.” He’s throwing a book signing/dinner/comedy evening July 28, and proceeds will go toward to Joliet alcohol and drug recovery centers and Urban Youth Outreach, a program for unchurched youths and families of the Englewood community on Chicago’s South Side.
“My life is good now,” Connolly said. “I found a new belief in God, and when I did, I felt like my soul had been paroled. The book is about being set free from the obstacles in your heart and soul. About how I made peace with myself and how anybody can do that.”
Growing up in Mokena, Connolly said he was named “class clown” in eighth grade. He loved making people laugh. But anger issues and the effects bipolar disease were unknowingly having on him led him to alcohol and drugs.
“I was a full-blown alcoholic by the time I was 17,” he said. “I felt like I never fit in, and I had a grudge against the world and God. Drugs and alcohol were an immediate escape.”
His abuses spiraled through his early adulthood, and he found himself out of a home, living with prostitutes or in his car, coming home from his job and drinking a whole case of beer a night.
“I was drinking myself out of my mind every night,” he said. “It was always, ‘What can we get and how fast can we get it?’”
It was three years ago when something snapped in him, and be became sober overnight. He had gotten married, and his wife bluntly told him he was pathetic and she didn’t care what he did anymore.
“That was the last time I drank,” Connolly said. “I’ve been sober ever since.”
He immediately sought spiritual and physical recovery and began re-shaping his way of thinking.
“I wiped the slate clean that day,” he said, “and turned my life over to the Great Creator. It wasn’t easy. That year, I read the Bible cover to cover, and that helped.”
A path to success
From there, Connolly began playing at area comedy clubs — his dream — including Zanies on Wells Street in Chicago.
“I had been by there a hundred times drunk and always said someday …” he said.
His sister, a Chicago and Los Angeles actor, put him in contact with a couple of casting directors, and a few days later, he found himself on the set of the television series, “The Chicago Code,” on which he had a recurring role as a personal aide to the character played by Jennifer Beals.
His favorite “gig,” though, was a stand-up routine at his father’s eulogy. Always his biggest supporter and a man who also loved to make people laugh, Connolly said it was a natural to honor his father in that way.
Connolly encourages people to come to the book signing, where they will also hear his story in a stand-up routine that he describes as clean.
“It will be an enjoyable night of clean comedy and to see that you can do anything with hope, faith, and the hand of a friend,” he said.
Connolly’s book can be purchased at www.amazon.com or through www.tommyconnolly.com.