The Paul F. Tompkins Show, Largo at the Coronet, September 9, 2008: Generally, I'm not big on sentimentality; I try to live by the idea that no matter what grand times have transpired, there's so much good stuff waiting to be discovered or cultivated that you're doing yourself a disservice when you chain yourself to the past. But that tenet is severely tested by events such as this one, when it seems all but impossible to not grow wistful over shared memories.
Of course, Largo has undergone one rather major change this year, and it was in those last days on Fairfax that I saw my one other official Paul F. Tompkins Show, though he's been a welcome presence on several occasions at gigs by other artists. In fact, he may have even stolen the spotlight from Aimee Mann earlier this summer...
Aimee couldn't make it for this show (something about a tour), but a host of other Largo-centric musical talent dropped in for Paul's farewell party. Sara Watkins joined Paul's usual backing band, headed by Eban Schletter, for the opening number, the Arcade Fire song "Keep the Car Running," crooned by Paul himself. Later in the show, Grant-Lee Phillips tested out two new tracks, and at the end, they all reconvened for a couple of travel-related songs to send Paul on his way: a mashup of "Convoy" and "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." In addition to handling most of the vocal duties, Paul and Grant treated us to a dash of do-si-do till they went dizzy (to understandably comical effect). Unfortunately, they didn't reprise their ode to Shark Week, one of the more recent Largo memories that I'm forever chasing, so I'm left nursing that recollection in my mind instead.
As the capper, Paul stuck to his trademark tune, "Danny Boy," though with a nod to Billy Joel thrown in at the end. Tonight, it was easy to discern the palpable pathos in his voice and delivery--no joke.
Though the Greg Proops Chat Show is still fresh in my memory, I know it would be dumb to compare the two comics. Instead, I prefer to share the opinion of another funny guy in regard to tonight's headliner. Take it away, John Hodgman, as quoted in GQ:
Paul F. Tompkins, by contrast, owns his own comedy tuxedo. He tells the kind of well-tailored luxuriously subtle jokes that I wish my brain could produce. (He also speaks with perfect diction, which we all know is hilarious.)
Tonight's comedy couture covered such topics as his landlord, sweatshops, bikers, and the New York housing market, to name a few. That's sort of all I can tell you because the beauty of Paul F. Tompkins's comedy is that there's never really a punchline; you just get swept up in the absurdity of his stories, and you love it. And his diction, it goes without saying.
Perhaps the biggest irony of Paul's move is that he was one of the biggest boosters of Largo at the Coronet, back when doubts and predictions of doom reigned. Largo's loss is Best Week Ever's gain, and Paul halfway shot down any ideas about L.A. shows for the foreseeable future. Then again, he didn't rule them out completely either. Like many others, I hope that this won't be the last we'll see of him on the West Coast, but I also realize he left us with words to live by:
So keep the bugs off yer glass
An' the bears off yer tail
We gonna catch ya on the flip-flop
Over and out, good buddy.
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» probably more like hanging around
» hidden hand
» part of everyone's rite of passage