Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tom Papa's "Live in New York City"

I don't know what it is about Tom Papa. I want to like him, I really do. He seems like a nice guy, he's got a bit of that Regular Joe approachableness that rubbed off on him from buddying around with Jerry Seinfeld, I even think he's good at constructing a joke.

And yet...

For some reason he's never clicked with me. I was hoping that his latest project Live In New York City would change my opinion of him but, alas, it did not.

As I listened and re-listened to this album I had a hard time putting my finger on one specific reason why I wasn't getting into it especially since it's an album I think most people will enjoy. And yes, I realize how weird that sounds. I couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was I disliked and I couldn't do the standard "those that can't, review" thing of stating what I would have done differently. As I said earlier, I think Papa is a fine writer and he does have a few bits I enjoyed, especially when he ponders the question "What if God didn't intend for us to eat animals?" and then re-enacts a conversation between The Almighty and a tattle-tale angel.

And yet, still...nada.

I looked over some of the notes I scrawled during my listens and they included some very brief phrases like "safe," "comedy without teeth," and "whiny." I came to the realization that it wasn't Papa's material per se that didn't jibe with me but his onstage persona.

On TV as host of "The Marriage Ref" he often reads as exhausted. By the time he reaches the end of a sentence he sounds like he just ran a marathon, his energy tapped. He extends his hands in front of him, palms up, and lets them fall limp as he half-heartedly introduces himself. "I'm Tom Papa." I actually refer to his as "Tom Fafa" because he often sounds too tired to go to all the work of actually pronouncing the letter "P."

It's the same thing on this album. He comes across as so utterly over everything, he's given up on trying (or thinking about trying) to do anything about it. Rather than get worked up about life's little annoyances he just sits back and approaches them with an "Oh well, what are ya gonna do, this obviously isn't gonna change on its own" tactic. It's just the way things are, so let's just accept it and wallow in self-pity. It's hard for me to empathize with someone who refuses to remove his hand from a red-hot stove burner just because that'd take too much effort and it's easier to complain about how much it hurts.

I also didn't find a lot of creative ground being broken here (even the album title sounds half-assed). Topics like trying to remember internet passwords and the whole "Didja ever notice guys and girls are different?" routine make it hard to believe this is a 2012 release and not a night at the lounge of a Toledo Holiday Inn from 1998.

But again, I freely admit, it's probably just me. Most people probably won't pick up on (or mind) the fact that Papa compares nocturnal emissions to a raccoon and then, later in the album, says of something else completely different and unrelated: It's like a raccoon. Come on, dude, at least try to come up with one more metaphor for something active at night. Owls, possums, hell, even ninjas, I don't care, but at least make it look like you're making an effort.

As I was giving this album a final listen, my wife was within earshot. When Papa told his final joke (Women can't drive and aren't good at directions...chalk up another one for creativity!) I declared aloud, "I'm bored."

"You didn't like it? I thought he was pretty good," she offered.

"I don't know," I said, gathering my thoughts for this write-up.

And then, as if she could hear my thoughts, she simply said, "You just probably didn't like his delivery."

And you know what? She's right.

But don't take my word for it. Although this one wasn't up my alley, I fully recognize that I am probably in the minority  and most people will probably enjoy it. I'm totally fine with that. I just couldn't get past Papa's delivery.

My wife was right. She's pretty clever like that. You a raccoon.


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