Published Sep 26, 2014Paul F. Tompkins really loves his wife. It's an endearing thing to listen to him talk about, and he's unapologetic about it. You realize, by the end of his slightly more than 60 minutes on stage at Toronto's Randolph Theatre for which he receives a standing ovation, that his entire performance is basically about the woman he loves.
There is nothing ground-breaking going on here; no Kaufman-esque weirdness or topical jabs. Tompkins is simply telling the story of his adult life, and it's marvellously bridged with relatable and intelligent tales in between.
He hits the stage like a Gen X Theodore Roosevelt, sporting a tailored three-piece suit with a pocket watch chain hanging from his vest, and is immediately likeable. His look contributes greatly to the effectiveness of his delivery, which is warm and thoughtful and void of a single f-bomb. There is tradition in what he does. He speaks as a classic storyteller, and one can imagine him telling fireside yarns. And this, somehow, is refreshing.
Those in attendance appear to be fans of his, so there is much respect for his art. Only once, some audience members applaud an L.A. drinking hole he mentions, to which he responds, "Please don't applaud buildings." This goes over well, and it never happens again.
And so, the journey is what you might expect. He refers to his generation's lack of maturity, citing his World War II era dad, who insisted Tompkins should "get a job you hate, and have kids to perpetuate the misery." He speaks then of his experience with therapy, which is "uncomfortable for me to talk about, and you to listen to," and when asked if those sessions could be blamed on his parents, he answers "Enough that you feel like you're getting your money's worth." He notes the joyful mundanity of washing dishes by hand, because he is an "old world craftsman." These are all things that, quite cleverly, lead to a marriage proposal. We see his set end very much the way it began. Paul F. Tompkins, you see, really loves his wife, and he succeeds in making that funny.