Armed with a stoner-meets-intellectual vibe, Tom Rhodes is an enigmatic character for sure. On one hand, he maintains an alluring contempo-hippie mystique. From his stand-up material, you can tell he goes with the flow; you can tell he’s in love with life and with people and with experiencing things for the sake of, well, experiencing them. He talks about the joys of smoking pot and of drinking lots; on why he became a comedian, he muses, “How can I feed my drinking problem and yet still remain the center of attention?”
On the other hand, by no means is Rhodes your typically baked-out comic. Sure, he has a laid-back delivery (actually, it’s much more laid- back than what’s heard on his previous album, Hot Sweet Ass), but his otherwise rich voice — there’s a barely audible Southern drawl in there — doesn’t concede to your typical stoner stammer.
He’s articulate and charming. His material is thoughtful and many times, especially on Live in Paris, revolves around culture and the funny things that crop up when you travel the world as Rhodes has.
Recorded at the Hotel du Nord, Live in Paris finds Rhodes reflecting a lot on those travels as he tells a very vocal audience about the misadventures he’s had, in, among other places, England (getting mugged and Maced), Peru (forced to eat a hamster), Holland (where he dated a Moroccan Muslim), China (where he saw a 70-year-old man in Beijing “pulling a cart full of scrap metal like a donkey” and in Australia, where he caught some local sports: “I think I would rather take speed and watch piranha eat my dick than to ever watch another cricket match again.”
Although his jokes often have settings in foreign lands, Rhodes never takes the easy road — highlighting a stereotype and then dissing the entire country’s population. Rather, when he does establish stereotypes, it’s usually to point out his own shortcomings in a humble and hilarious way.
But the Florida native also finds time to rail against his own kind: “If Wal-Mart just had a prison and a baby day care center, no one in America would have to go anywhere else,” he says. “You can visit your fucking loser family in prison, visit the kids and pick up some laundry detergent.”
By the end of the hour-long performance, it’s easy to like Tom Rhodes: He’s the type of guy you want around to calm your nerves, show you the good things in life and make you laugh.