The alternative comedy scene in L.A., centered around the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, is rich with creative people trying new things. I’ve noticed the amazing amount of podcasts that seem to come from people associated with UCB and/or the invaluable website aspecialthing.com. Instead of just cataloging a series of shows for you I decided to weave them together with a common thread. You might know Paul F. Tompkins (the F. stands for “hilarious”) from his appearances on VH1’s Best Week Ever or his recent appearance on The Sound of Young America to promote his excellent stand-up album Impersonal (available here). The man has the wonderful ability to enter into any situation and make it funny. He can get people laughing with a pop culture reference, observation or just a silly tone of voice. It’s the reason why he’s so great on podcasts and probably the reason why he’s been on so many of them. Let’s follow Tompkins’s various appearances to discover so many of the shows recording from L.A.
A lot of Tompkins’s appearance date back to 2006 and actually can’t be found anymore. He appeared a few times on Guys With Feelings (iTunes Link), where hosts Jason Nash and Jeff Bumgarner share personal stories and get as personal with their guests. This can cause some friction with the guests and I remember Nash talking about a falling out with Tompkins, although I believe their relationship has repaired a bit. I looked around the archives on the GWF page and their iTunes page but the best I found was the Jan. 2nd, 2007 show where during the award show “The Feelies” (co-hosted by Jen Kirkman and Tami Sagher) the interview that caused all the drama is discussed.
One of Tompkins podcast appearances of 2006 that is readily available is his interview of AST Radio (iTunes Link), which as you probably guessed is the podcast spin-off of aspecialthing.com. The interview is from May 22nd, 2006 and it’s a great career spanning interview from Matt Belknap a.k.a. In Search of Sasquatch a.k.a. Isos. It’s over an hour and a half and features Tompkins explaining his approach to comedy as well his growth as a comedian. Tompkins has another great appearance on AST Radio. Doug Benson usually hosts a show called The Doug Benson Interruption where he interacts with comics while they perform their acts. The August 8th, 2006 show features Tompkins taking over the Benson role, working with Kirkman, Chris Hardwick, Eugene Mirman and Graham Elwood. Belknap and Tompkins play clips from that show and offer lots of commentaries. That’s another mammoth show but it’s funny as Hell.
Tompkins has lent his presence to two spin-offs of AST Radio. Michelle Biloon’s Walking With Michelle (iTunes Link only) started as a segment on AST Radio but has since posted three shows of its own for October 2007. Biloon visits a different Southern California tourist attraction and bring her funny friends with her. Belknap and Tompkins join her on a trip to Disneyland (apparently Tompkins has connections, being friends with the Mayor of Disneyland). Not unlike the Tompkins Interruption episode of AST Radio this show featured clips of the three walking around the amusement park cut with after-the-fact commentary. The best bit has Biloon and Tompkins discussing the situation in Darfur while riding on Splash Mountain. It’s absolutely brilliant.
Tompkins has been a guest three times on the other AST Radio spin-off. Never Not Funny (iTunes Link). As I’m writing this I’ve found NNF has been chosen by iTunes as one of the best podcasts of 2007. I know I consider it the greatest podcast being produced. Belknap and comedian Jimmy Pardo, along with Michael Schmidt for the first season, create these sprawling conversations that feel like verbal pinball. Stories of life on the stand-up circuit rub up against references to ‘80s hair metal, reality TV and anything else Pardo’s hair trigger mind can come up with. Tompkins appeared on the twenty-eighth episode of the first season, all of which is now available for purchase (that’s $19.99 for over sixty hours of entertainment). He fits right in with the rhythm of the show. Tompkins’s work on the short-lived sitcom DAG is discussed as well as his love of all things Hollywood. Tompkins has appeared twice on the second season of the show, 202 and 214. Both episodes are great. I especially love the conversation in 214 about viewing “Faces of Death.” To learn from Pardo that Gary Coleman has a collection of gruesome videos astounded me.
Tompkins has appeared with his girlfriend Janine on The Shit Parade Show (iTunes Link), hosted by Joel Church-Cooper, Erin Gibson and Blake Walker. It’s not too different from the conversational shows like Never Not Funny or Guys With Feelings but this one concentrates on discussions of music. The two episodes Tompkins did, Sept. 26th and Oct. 3rd of 2007, only deal with music for a little bit. There’s plenty of talk of The Wire, which is of course the best show on TV, as well as the eccentrics found in drama school. Janine actually steals the show with a story about a “bird-man.”
For more Tompkins goodness I recommend the Comedy Death Ray CD from Comedy Central Records and his HBO Workshop special Driven to Drink which I believe can be found with HBO On Demand. Keep your eyes on his MySpace page and his own thread on aspecialthing.com to see when Tompkins is coming to your town.