Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Comedian Paul F. Tompkins at the 1884 Lounge

Posted By on Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 12:16 PM


This Saturday night, March 20th, Minglewood Hall brings well-known comedian/writer/actor Paul F. Tompkins back to town for two shows in the intimate 1884 Lounge.

Tompkins is perhaps best known as the former host of VH1's Best Week Ever (canceled by the network in late 2009), but his list of credits includes Mr. Show with Bob and David, where he served as a writer and performer, multiple HBO and Comedy Central stand-up specials, and most recently, MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olberman, where he is an occasional correspondent/contributor. His second stand-up comedy album, Freak Wharf, was also released in late 2009. Tompkins spoke to the Memphis Flyer last week via email.

The Memphis Flyer: Your new album features a lot of improvisation. Is that a regular part of your live show now?

Paul F. Tompkins: Yeah, I definitely improvise a lot more now. It's not so much that the prepared material isn't still fun to do, it's just that I've heard it before! There really is nothing like the tightrope feeling that stream-of-consciousness comedy provides. And when the audience realizes that's what's going on, when they're on the same page, it's just exhilarating.

Flyer: You'd been a comedian for over twenty years before releasing your debut album, Impersonal — why wait so long?

Tompkins: I resisted recording something for posterity because I feared imperfections being preserved FOR ALL TIME. Finally, I realized not only would it never be "perfect," it's not really supposed to be. It's an ongoing journey, and the recordings are snapshots along the way. Maybe the wind is mussing your hair a little, but that only adds to the whole picture.

Flyer: What was your first defining “I've made it!” moment in comedy?

: Without a doubt, when I got hired to write and perform on Mr. Show. Not only was this my first big showbiz job, I would also be working on this show that I loved and with people I greatly admired.

Flyer: Memphis' comedy scene is growing, but the community hasn't been able to sustain a “comedy club” in decades . . . do you think having a dedicated venue is necessary for a local comedy scene to thrive?

Tompkins: Hm. That's a tough question for me, because I started standup a million years ago. I wouldn't even know what to do these days. I don't know of there needs to be a "full-blown" comedy club for new comics to hone their craft, but it's certainly comforting to have a place where you can work your way up the ranks in front of paying crowds, and getting to watch headliners and learn how they headline. And getting paid is a bonus. In the absence of a full-time club, I think comics need multiple places to play in the area so they can get up as much as possible.

Flyer: Finally - if you don't mind my asking - what happened with Best Week Ever?

Tompkins: The economy killed us. A big change was made to the show, so we lost a lot of people who liked the show the old way. At the same time, the economy was in free-fall, and the network didn't spend any money on advertising to get us new viewers. It's just that simple and sad. I am nothing but proud of the comedy we did with me as the host.

For advance tickets, visit: www.bigfunnyproductions.com.


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