Comedian, host, podcaster, and dapper gentleman Paul F. Tompkins is a veritable jack of all comedic trades. After getting his start in comedy at Philadelphia’s Comedy Works in 1986, the native East Coaster moved to Los Angeles in 1994 and gained national attention via Bob Odenkirk and David Cross’ Mr. Show. Since then, Tompkins has hosted VH1’s Best Week Ever series, played minor roles in the films of Paul Thomas Anderson and Adam McKay, and became a podcasting deity.
If that sounds like a lot of work, well… it is. However, juggling these projects and more isn’t too much for Tompkins, whose new stand-up special on Comedy Central, Crying and Driving, premieres this Saturday, October 10 at 11 p.m. EST. So, while mere mortals might think that putting out a new comedy hour, preparing for a fourth season of No, You Shut Up! on Fusion, and joining Odenkirk and Cross for Netflix’s upcoming Mr. Show revival is a bit much, Tompkins disagrees. All you have to do, he says, is learn how “to be a grownup.”
Like your podcasts, you tend to do more longform work. There aren’t many short, punchy jokes in Crying and Driving.
It’s just a natural evolution of style. When I started out, there was definitely more shortform stuff, but then I really started to enjoy the storytelling aspect of it. Trusting that the audience would follow me on a little journey. It’s so much more rewarding to connect with an audience in that way. A real way. To share my emotional life with people in a way that they could relate to, not in a way that would make people uncomfortable. We all do dumb things and we all have tearful moments. That sort of thing.
But then you warn your audience before you discuss going to therapy after the crying story.
Less anyone become afraid that this is now going to be an oversharing situation. I’m just going to be sharing the exact right amount.
The crying story is funny, but it’s also really powerful. Was it ever a popular topic of post-show conversation on the tour?
No one has ever cited that story to me specifically. It’s a different kind of thing. A couple of specials ago, I talked about my mother dying. A lot of people would come up to me after the show and share their experiences with me. That really connected with a lot of people, but I don’t know that that many people have had the experience of bursting into tears in a public alley. It’s certainly a thing that people appreciated in the moment.
Maybe it’s just me, then.
Between podcasts like Spontaneanation, Fusion’s renewal of No, You Shut Up! for a fourth season, and countless other projects, you’re a very busy man. Just… how?
The thing is, in this line of work, your job is made up of many little jobs. Sometimes it’s one big job and you can concentrate on that, but then a lot of times all these other things come up that are just impossible to say no to. I started out in stand-up, and that’s always been and always will be a part of my life — even though I get a main job like No, You Shut Up! that takes up the most of my time and I’m a part of that everyday. You just kind of make time for things. What happens over the course of years is you get better at narrowing things down. Sometimes you have to make tough choices, and that’s difficult. You have to be a grownup sometimes.
I admire your ability to say no.
It’s important! Because it’s not all about, “I don’t want to do that. I’m going to say no.” Sometimes it’s about things that you do want to do, but you have to look at reality and say, “I’m just not going to be able to do that.” You still have to live your life. I’m a married man, and I love my life with my wife, but I have to make time to have that life. So that we can do… not just collapse in front of the TV at the end of the night, but we can take a vacation or go out to dinner or get together with our friends. That stuff is really important. You can’t just work all the time.
Especially when your profession uses everyday life experiences as its raw material.
Absolutely. In order to talk about life experiences, you have to have those life experiences.
You’ve crafted Crying and Driving into a finely-tuned hour for Comedy Central. Is there anything you wanted to put in, but couldn’t?
The full set is a little bit over an hour. I’ll be able to release that for sale in a couple months. In my deal with Comedy Central, there’s a little bit of a waiting period before I’m allowed to sell it. So that will have another 15 to 20 minutes of material. More about my life at home with my wife and us moving in together. There’s more stuff about learning to drive and the trauma of that. A lot of fun stuff that unfortunately couldn’t fit in there, but I feel like the broadcast version is still very representative of the journey of the set.
No, You Shut Up! premieres in February, but the press release said there would be two “special reports” in November.
We’re going to hype the new season and introduce some new segments and talent to the show. Just letting everyone know what they’re in store for next year.
The new season is going to focus on the 2016 election cycle. Are there any particular candidates you look forward to discussing, or is everyone fair game?
It’s too early to tell. Even though Donald Trump is all anyone is talking about now, by the time we’re on the air full-time in February, he might be gone. I’m very interested to see what takes shape between now and then, and I’m looking forward to it no matter what. Whether Trump’s in or out, there will be plenty to talk about.
Crying and Driving premieres Saturday, October 10 at 11 p.m. EST on Comedy Central. Here’s a preview: