AMERICAN storyteller Paul F Tompkins is a notch above your typical stand-up in the sartorial department, sporting a bespoke suit set off by a silver chain dangling from his waistcoat. Imagine Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy with added Southern Gent panache.
Paul F Tompkins - Soho Theatre, London
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In terms of comedy inspiration, however, Tompkins, whose podcast topped Rolling Stone’s Best Podcast list, is more off-the-peg. His UK debut, Crying and Driving, deals largely with the familiar terrain of marriage and children. Plus amputated body parts, magicians’ clubs and, as the title suggests, cars.
Yet while Tompkins might be treading well-trodden ground, he does approach it with an engagingly offbeat sensibility. Bitching about one’s friends is called “lighting the gossip lamp”, while he explains his lack of motoring skills by saying: “I like being dependent on other people just for motion.”
His tales are a nice hybrid of Bob Newhart’s Everyman neurosis combined with Seinfeldesque observations. Highlights include nervously proposing to his girlfriend and the aforementioned yarn about a Carolina doctor’s encounter with a frozen limb, a brilliant introductory footnote to Tompkins’ quirky view.
He certainly gets mileage out of belatedly taking his driving test at 41, recalling how the examiner asked if a parent had brought him. Tompkins has no problems with his comedic licence, though. This is efficient entertainment as clean-cut as his appearance. No swearing, no smut, just smart humour to accompany that smart suit.