Monday, July 14, 2008

Live Review: Tom Papa: Only Human

Tom Papa recently previewed his one-man show "Only Human" leading up to the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal, and an eventual DVD release. And while "Only Human" will assuage Papa fans and comedy fans in general, it plays more like a standard headliner's routine than an actual one man show.

True to the form that has made him increasing popular over the last few years (performing with Seinfeld as well as having his own short-lived sitcom "Come to Papa"- with Steve Carell & John Salley!) Papa is a warm, charming onstage presence, and his brand of observational humor married with his penchant for animated mimicry is what makes him a mainstay among stand up purists.

His transitions flow naturally and while he at times shows the weariness of a club comedian doing a joke he's done many times before (as there are some retreads from prior specials) he's always on point in hitting that right note, that right accentuation that makes what would ordinarily be a stale line still be funny.

Yet his attempts at making this perfected routine a "one-man show" built on conventional personal insights balancing humor with personal sorrow felt forced at one point, as a childhood reflection that was both moving and tragic felt misplaced within the casual joke-punchline rhythm he maintained for most of the show. What should have felt like a touching, life changing tragedy (which it definitely was) felt more like a build up to another funny crack about childhood. The appropriate silence met the solemn tribute to a lost friend, but establishing that tone throughout would have helped make the sudden tragic transition feel less awkward.

All in all, Papa's "Only Human" was funny and engaging as his fans always expect him to be, and it can only get better if Papa takes the risk of leaving the safeguard of beloved routine and pushing for the humor that rises from the sadness of everyday life.

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