Secret Pop

Apr 7, 2005

This post will be entirely about Paul F. Tompkins.
So I've missed a few opportunities to sing praises and register grievances as they pertain to the career of Paul F. Tompkins, the object of my (at times creepy) affection. And I am in the business of making good. This is for you, Paul. As promised.
The Paul F. Tompkins Show
This most recent Largo show was the three-year anniversary of The Paul F. Tompkins Show. Well-attended, as usual. Surprising and pleasing. I'm remiss in not having written about it sooner, as my ability to recount all of the glorious details seems to grow more and more brittle in direct proportion to the number of Ketel One sodas I've had. And this week, I've had a few of them. Fortunately I have a notebook. My notes included the following:
Paul -- cute. Colin Hay -- also cute, but in a different way.
Derek Hughes did a magic act with needles coming out of his mouth. And at the end of it, instead of the fourteen needles that should have come out, he counted eleven. And when Paul came back out on stage, he said, "He's got four needles in his mouth!" And someone in the audience said, "Three!" And I wanted to find them and smack them. Hard. I hate the devotion to correctness. Much as I am a slave to it myself. When it comes to comedy, I just wish people would get over the idea that paying close attention and being right about things matter when they just don't hold a candle to being smart and funny. And Paul is extraordinarily smart and funny. And that boob in the audience clearly is neither. So they should shut up. And that's my point.
The big gang's-all-here number was Donovan's Atlantis, which delighted me all to crazy. Although I have to admit that when it pops up in my iPod mix, I tend to skip through the spoken-word preamble. Beulah once played this song for her English class, but I can't remember the circumstances. Was she teaching them about preambles? I don't remember. Anyway, it's a good and groovy song. And there were humorous addenda that made it all the more enjoyable. The surprise "I am the god of hell fire!" ending wasn't included. But I'm glad. That part always scares me. And anyway I have since learned that that isn't even part of the Donovan song and is my just desserts for downloading files illegally, even though I own a best of Donovan CD and am apparently just too lazy to find it and rip its contents to my computer. But the real point is, why would they have sung that at the show, since it would have been completely misplaced and inaccurate, unless they had gotten all their rehearsal cues from listening to Atlantis on my iPod, and -- really -- how dare they.
I was talking to Wayne Federman after the show, and Ileanna Douglas came over and began talking to him, too. And I think I offended her with my snipey assertion that Quentin Tarantino is unfortunately bottom-heavy for a dude. She said that the cocktail I was holding was to be my last. But fortunately, she doesn't actually have any authority at Largo. Because it was not my last at all. I was afraid that I had offended Ileanna with my assessment of Tarantino's thickness in the thighs, but in the end, I feel protected by the truth in my opinion. I'm not saying he's not talented or anything. I'm just saying he should walk it off a little. You know?
Sam Levine was a perfect creepy nightgown girl from The Ring. And Ben Acker was wearing a very festive sweater. Paul called it "Christmas." I said "après ski." You say tomato...
This Business of Kelsey Grammer presents "The Sketch Show"
So Paul has been appearing on Fox on Sunday nights on this show. And I don't think it's a very good show, and I usually find myself laughing at the parts I feel were probably the most painful and humiliating to Paul, and that's not nice of me, and I know it. But there are also sketches that have had their moments, and I have laughed at them. So there's that. But I will say to the world what I have said more privately to others: Kelsey Grammer has no business even being on television. Unless it's in the role that America most loves him in -- that of Sideshow Bob. He is absolutely terrible. And I can't understand the marketing message in saying that ONLY Kelsey Grammer could have brought sketch comedy to America's Sunday nights like this. What is his claim on sketch comedy in the first place? What character has he ever created that wasn't Frasier? It's nearly as bad as watching Drew Carey when he actually participates in the improv games on Whose Line. He is horrible. And the most painful part of it is that he apparently has no idea about it. And I feel the same way about Kelsey Grammer, who is perhaps so cushioned in the bosom of fawning hangers-on and porn spouses that he doesn't realize how embarrassing he is. The first week the show aired, Kelsey was in a sketch where he was singing. And the fact that he didn't realize that his horrifically poor singing skills were the joke is what is saddest of all. Pee yew. His singing leaves much to be desired.
So the show is sort of like Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Just a series of very obvious punchlines, strung together with jaunty interstitials of cast members mugging on a colorful sound stage. I think that's what would prevent me from ever being on a show. I could never do those interstitials. If they said, "Okay, Mary, now just dance around a little," I would have to say, "I'm sorry but you're going to have to fuck off now," because I really can't do that. Maybe my self-consciousness is unmerited. Maybe it implies a dignity that I have not actually earned. But I just can't imagine being able to do it, and that's why I'm no actor. Even those bits in That '70s Show with the cast members bouncing on trampolines feel impossible to me, who could never ever be so free. To Paul's credit, he never seems to do anything terribly goony. Martín applauded how well Paul made the "C" look heavy when the cast members are moving the letters in the show's title around. And I'll second that. The most important thing you can take from watching the show is that Paul's gift is in maintaining so much of his dignity, even when they're making him dress like a transient. Which, for the record, was actually really enjoyable to watch.
My mother watched the show this past weekend, and she recounted to me a scene where Paul plays a director on a porno set, and Lee Mack (the British dude) is an actor who keeps harshing the vibe. She described it to me like this: "He was the director and the other one kept RUINING it. He would say, 'Action!' and the guy was so STUPID! He did it wrong every time! Why was he even in the movie?" She was clearly ruffled by it. Never really understanding that that was the idea. I think my mom is the sort of person who will watch a historical film and be angry when the protagonist dies, even if that's the way it occurred historically. She always reasons that it's someone's fault and that the ending could be prevented. But who am I kidding -- she can't stay awake for a historical film in its entirety. The fact that she was able to watch a single forty-five second sketch from end to end is an accomplishment in itself.
Paul really needs to have his own show. A real show where he gets to be in charge and stuff. Think of the joy it would bring to people's lives. Think of the number of sickly and ailing children who would suddenly find new color in their cheeks. Think of the number of televised hours we would be spared having to see Kelsey Grammer in something. Development executives of the world, get it together, will you?
Oh, and Kelsey Grammer's head is shaped like a bean.
The M Spot
Monday night, Paul did stand-up in Jason Nash's Monday night M Bar show, and it was the superlativest. First rate and all that. When he mentioned his affection for blooper shows, I fondly recalled how my family used to record Life's Most Embarrassing Moments -- the progenitor to TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes and any number of other blooper shows -- and replay the tapes for everyone who ever came over to our house for dinner. That's right. My parents would invite some couple from work or church or the principal of our school and his wife over for dinner, and my mom would cook some amazing dinner, and after the meal, everyone would retire to the living room with coffee and dessert, and someone would inevitably cue up the Betamax with Life's Most Embarrassing Moments, commercial interruptions and all. I don't remember anyone making faces that would imply they thought it was gauche of us. But who says they would have known better. We didn't really mingle with a very sophisticated set in my recollection. We recorded all of those shows when they came on the television. I think there was Life's Most Embarrassing Moments I, II, III, and IV. But the first one was the best. Just like Faces of Death.
Paul was also my hero for wanting to be played on with only the coolest of music. "Do you have any Bowie? How about Blondie? Pixies? How about some Wave of Mutilation?" What a dreamboat, huh? In a recent Largo show, he said that he does not care for Pink Floyd, and I felt a bit sad about that. But then I remembered: Who cares? It's fun to argue with people about what is and isn't good, but in the end, what difference does it make? After the show, Michelle Biloon and Wayne Federman and I were talking, and somehow Wayne tried to say that The Shawshank Redemption isn't a good film. And -- much as I adore Wayne -- this is just poppycock. But it's poppycock that in no way impacts my affection for him, so no harm done. I was very flattered when Wayne let me look through his book of notes. I would never let anyone look in my stupid notebook with its many pages of nearly illegible and always embarrassing drivel. He must be very secure. And well he should be. He has wonderful penmanship.
I guess I feel I haven't said enough about Paul, so I will refer you to a Channel 101 pilot he was in that is one of my favorite things ever. It's here.
Tomorrow night, I will be seeing Paul again in Ben Acker's program. But I will speak of that separately so that Ben can feel huge and important.

1 comment:

David Farr said...

I have to agree about what you said about the magician Derek. Great point about the needles.