The irony of Tom Papa’s tour tag, “The Family Reunion,” is that the veteran comic, who will perform Friday at the Bing Crosby Theater, has been sequestered with his wife and two daughters for more than a year-and-a-half. “The material I get from them is endless and hilarious,” Papa said while calling from his New York City apartment.
Papa’s tour moniker is inspired by his extended family, his fans. “Why I call it the family reunion is because those who support me are like family, and I’m so grateful to finally be back on the road after being at home for the last 18 months,” Papa said. “I miss the road, and I miss the crowds. After doing this for more than 20 years, when I go out, it’s like performing in front of family.”
Papa’s daughters, who are 16 and 19, are a handful, but they inspire a number of his bits. “My daughters are into their body positivity,” Papa said. “It’s a lot to deal with. I just can’t believe what my wife and I have to deal with. I also can’t believe we’ve been married for 21 years. It’s so good to have someone with you since I can’t imagine dealing with this by myself. Being a parent is so challenging. I think the key is not taking this all that seriously. For us, we get to the point of laughing about what we have to deal with, and we realize how dumb we both are.”
The anecdotes Papa, 52, delivers are relatable and amusing whether he is riffing about his brood or everyday life. “It’s funny with the pandemic how I thought when we would come back into the world, things would change,” Papa said. “I was optimistic that people would be nicer and realize that we need to be good to each other. But what do I see, men spitting on the sidewalk and not washing their hands just like before the pandemic happened. It’s unfortunate that more people aren’t compliant. Also, I don’t understand why so many Americans are on opposing sides.”
While vacationing over the summer in his native New Jersey, Papa was taken aback by how many beachgoers were flying political flags on the beach. “That is something I’ve never seen before,” Papa said. “Political parties now have merch. They wave flags like they’re part of a football team. There was that and the usual Jersey stuff. I grew up in New Jersey, and now I see why people make fun of us. Hearing those people under their umbrellas with that accent and those flags. Kill the flags.”
Papa’s observations are at times reminiscent of his mentor, Jerry Seinfeld. The iconic observational comic counts Papa among his few friends. Seinfeld also produced NBC’s “The Marriage Ref,” an entertaining reality-TV game show hosted by Papa a decade ago. “It’s remarkable being in this business and the friends I’ve made,” Papa said. “I have learned so much from Jerry Seinfeld.
“But it’s not just him. I’ve become friends with some of the most funny and creative people in the business like Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon (who Papa worked with in the 2009 film “The Informant!”). I’ve experienced so much due to being a husband and father, a comedian and having these friends.” Papa’s experiences have yielded two books, “Your Dad Stole My Rake” and “You’re Doing Great! And Other Reasons to Stay Alive,” with a third on the horizon.
Papa also hosts the podcast “Breaking Bread With Tom Papa” and is the host of the daily Netflix show “What a Joke With Papa and Fortune.” “I’m so happy to have so much going on,” Papa said. “I have my personal projects, and then I get to go back to Spokane. I was at the Bing a few years ago, and the audience was just so enthusiastic. That enthusiasm was in the lobby, as well. Everybody had a story to tell after the show. I was blown away! I’m sure it’ll feel like family when I return to Spokane.”
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