Paul F. Tompkins: Punk rock comic

Not in appearance, tastes or content, but rather, ethically.

Jay Boller

Paul F. Tompkins When: Saturday, June 21, Where: The Triple Rock lLast Saturday a comic by the name of Paul F. Tompkins arrived via airplane in Minneapolis. If that name strikes you as familiar but you can’t put a face to it, rest assured – you know Paul F. Tompkins. His face, by the way, is of the kind variety and sits beneath impeccably well-coifed hair. Tompkins’ career has included writing for “Mr. Show” and “The Daily Show,” and frequently contributing to all things Tenacious D as well as “Real Time with Bill Maher” and VH1’s “Best Week Ever.” Yeah, that guy.

Tompkins took the Triple Rock stage wearing his trademark suit and overtly informed the audience that he was going to “bullsh-t stall” for as long as he could. This led to more than ten minutes (there was a digital timer involved) of hilarious audience interactions followed by his dually entertaining set. Despite the title of his stand-up album (“Impersonal”), Tompkins’ material never really shied away from his life. Topics that ranged from domestic situations (his girlfriend’s desire to visit a wizardry guild based solely on the fact it’s “exclusive”), his mother’s death (and the booze-fueled wake that ended in his friends falling over with laughter), religion (where he recounts the fiery passion with which he formally declared his belief in “nothing”) and of course his career (which started in a kooky Philadelphia hat store named “Hats in the Belfry” – a name he analyzes for its triple meaning and overall crappiness).

Tompkins’ niche in Hollywood may be forever relegated to the spot roles he’s become reasonably famous for, but perhaps that’s exactly where he excels. His fringe fame suits his everyman appeal to a tee. And the fact he was seen laughing with the audience and relieving himself in the suspect Triple Rock bathroom prior to the show makes it even more impressive that he’s also one of contemporary stand-up’s finest.

And now, an interview.

Have you played Minneapolis before?

Yes, a number of times. Last October I was there. I love it. The people are great. It’s a pretty town. I really enjoy it and everybody’s just really cool. I’ve never been there in the winter, so I’ve only experienced the best of Minneapolis.

The Triple Rock is pretty much known as a punk rock club; why are you playing your show at that location?

My audience, I think, would rather see me at a place like that than a straight-up comedy club. And I’d rather play a place like that than a comedy club. That way, people can buy drinks when they want and don’t have someone trying to make them buy appetizers. At comedy clubs, the tickets are expensive and there’s a bunch of stuff you have to buy when you get there. A lot of times they can feel really corporate. But I think that at a place like the Triple Rock it’s more relaxed.

This department loves “Anchorman.” Can you tell me a little bit about the making of it?

It was a blast to do. Adam McKay (the director) is an old friend of mine from Philadelphia, and he just stuck me in there. Obviously it was a very small part, but he had me do the lines once as written but then they told me just to go off and improvise. I was happy that the stuff I came up with was what made it into the film. I was not aware of an “Anchorman” sequel, so I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be a part of it.

What is the culture of the stand-up circuit right now, from your perspective? Are there a lot of good comics coming up?

There’s a lot of good comedy out there now. I’m based out of L.A. and there’s a great scene with a lot of good people. But it’s not just New York and L.A.; there are a lot of great scenes across the country. Austin, Texas has a fantastic scene, a lot of really talented people. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of places to play. There’s a lot of great comics, but only a couple rooms to support them. Everyone has to fight for stage time. But I think it’s a really good time for comedy. It’s never been more diverse. There’s something for everyone.

Can you offer a review of your show that has yet to take place?

I think it went great. I think people enjoyed it exactly half as much as I did. Which is a lot.

Are you and The D (Tenacious D) going to be doing anything together anytime soon?

I just e-mailed Jack (Black) to see if he wanted do a spot on a variety show I do. I know they’re getting ready to do a European tour, so I said, “If you wanna do any unpublicized warm-up things, just drop on by.” They’re not quite ready yet, but hopefully soon.

Being a pop culture analyst (VH1’s “Best Week Ever”), what is your favorite movie of the moment?

Last night my girlfriend and I saw “The Strangers,” that horror movie Ö

Isn’t that supposed to be terrible? Oh wait, I’m thinking of “The Happening.”

Oh yeah. Oh my God no. I’m done with that guy (M. Night Shyamalan) forever. I’d hate to see another one of his movies. Anyway, the thing about “The Strangers” is, it never lets up. You know most horror movies give you a chance to catch your breath? This one is just all tension. You’re just tense the whole (expletive) time. Afterwards I was like, well, I don’t know if that was a good movie, but it really affected me.

Since this is a college newspaper, let’s say you’re giving the commencement address to the University’s graduating class. What life lesson do you want to send them off with?

If you are considering a career in the arts, you should have dropped out three years ago.