It’s been six years since the comedy world has had access to a new, proper Tom Papa album. And even then, although it was excellent, his album Calm, Cool & Collected was only 35 minutes! Boo! Also, hiss.
Luckily, it’s not like Papa has been gone from our sights; far from it. He was featured in his second half-hour Comedy Central special in 2007, he’s been headlining nationwide and he broke out into the mainstream the last few years as the host of NBC’s celebrity panel show The Marriage Ref, produced by Jerry Seinfeld. He’s even landed his own interview show on SiriusXM called Come to Papa. Oh, and did you see him in that Matt Damon flick, The Informant! in 2009? Hilarious.
It’s just that I’m a huge fan of the concept of the comedy album, like Papa’s newest Live in New York City, (even if it is only available for download, starting Jan. 10). And DVDs are OK, I guess, and Comedy Central specials (Papa’s televised version of the album premieres Sunday, Jan. 8 on the network at 10 pm ET; see clips here!) are slightly less fine – since an hour performance is chopped up to 40-something minutes and interrupted by commercials and edited for language, though, that’s less of a problem for the mostly-clean Papa. But a comedy album, you can really embrace. You can take it with you in your car and drop that sucker on your iPod, which can go anywhere. You can cue a track up all quick-like to let your friends listen. You can really get to know an album.
|Tom Papa – MyFace|
Throughout the last week, I’ve been getting to know Live in New York City. To be honest, it didn’t take long for me to “know” it— especially the large chunk of Papa’s pristinely-written material about marriage, raising kids and getting older. I know, I know. We’ve heard it all before. But in comedy, we’ve pretty much heard EVERYTHING before. And let’s face it: there’s an incredibly small percentage of young, downtown comics who are completely original AND funny. The art of excellent stand-up largely comes down to how the comedian handles well-worn concepts. And on Live in New York City, Papa handles all the aforementioned topics (and more) with class and with a level of honesty that would make most “happily married” (read: non-self-aware) parents cringe.
We learn from the album that Papa’s been married for more than a decade and has two young daughters– and two female cats, one of which is diabetic. As a young-ish husband of six years and a parent of two boys, myself – 3-years-old and nearly five months – sometimes I need to hear that it’s ok to feel hatred toward your kids (“They’re the worst roommates on the planet; they’re horrible people to live with… they’re animals,” Papa says about his) and that it’s ok that I just started drinking, literally, weeks ago to help wind down from dealing with my own kids (but, really, mostly because of the 3-year-old). “And not like that fun Happy Hour drinking, either,” Papa explains on the new album. “Ever since I had kids, it’s more like sad, standing alone at the kitchen sink kind of drinking.”
I also know it’s a normal challenge to still find your wife awesomely attractive even after she transforms into the “Wash Your Hands Lady” and watching her run around all day wiping snot off your offspring’s faces. It’s all ok. I’m going to be ok. I guess what I’m saying is sometimes I need a hug. And I know you do, too— even if you don’t admit to it. And this album hugged me nice and good.
|Tom Papa – Fitting In|
But let me clear; from a critical standpoint, Live in New York City is one of the strongest, funniest, deftly-delivered hours of comedy I’ve heard in a long time. And you need not be a parent or married or an asshole like me for the material to resonate with you. If you’re human (or mostly human) you’ll find plenty of laughs.