Paul F. Tompkins: Crying and Driving Review

Chad White
Loves: PFT
Likes: PFT. Like so much.
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This is what being a late bloomer is all about.

The only reason you’d watch his specials is if you knew who he was. And if you’re a real fan of comedy, then you already know who I’m talking about. Paul F. Tompkins: Crying and Dying is one of the better comedic performances of the year. The titular comedian, clad in his signature formal style – complete with purple bowtie and a velvet-like suit, -- takes the stage in this made for TV special. He tells jokes like no other; they take the shape of long form stories in which Tompkins hold the hands of the audience, guiding us on a journey through laughter.

His animated demeanor is welcome too as he introduces himself to those who don’t know him. Cheerful and delightfully peppy, Tompkins is eager to share his life experiences with the crowd. Listening to him is a pleasure as well. In an age where shock jokes full of vulgar curses and disturbing images plague the industry, Tompkins is able to deliver a set almost void of unnecessary language. He’s good at storytelling as well throughout only faltering once or twice. His long, complex stories are engaging too. Not only is his craft beautiful so is his ability to digress into other side stories. One can tell the crowd is really into the comedian. They’re reacting appropriately – as hoped – but they’re also hanging on Tompkins’ every word. When he speaks of a doctor that is in possession of a child’s amputated foot, the crowd moans and groans with disgust and slight passages of laughter. Equally they’re uproarious when it comes to punchlines and the like.

Really, Tompkins may not do this often but his presence and storytelling ability more than make up for any negative aspects of the special. He delves deep into his life, offering up stories of how he got his heart broken for the first time, meeting his wife, and how his parents never supported his comedy career. His wonderfully constructed asides make up the support beams of the stories and feel almost as sporadic as they come about. One of the best jokes takes place as he describes his experience in getting a driver’s license. And even snippets of his podcasting characters can be heard (his Reverend Robert Parsimony dialect is prevalent during the final story).

Should you watch Paul F. Tompkins: Crying and Driving?

There are comedy specials that take advantage of the bigger settings and run times. There are those that feel too open in the middle, as if the comedian had trouble coming up with a proper middle section. Some are even dull throughout as the comedian simply rides the coattails of previous jokes and overused premises. Paul F. Tompkins is hands down one of the best performers. Like Mike Birbiglia, Tompkins is able to craft a superb story. Like Tig Notaro, Tompkins has a massive set of devoted fans. And like Aziz Ansari, he’s just a wonderful person to listen to. But Tompkins is and will always be a uniquely whimsical person to enjoy. So give this one a go.