Today’s guest is stand-up comedian, author, and exquisite bread maker Tom Papa. With his latest book, We Are All in This Together… So Make Some Room, Tom shares his unique approach to comedy through joy and positivity and the profound hope that people don’t feel alone in the journey we call “life.”
One of the things that has always intrigued me and drawn me to Tom is that he is so kind, but if you look a little deeper, you see a true master of his craft. How does he have a non-wavering commitment to do it his way but still look like he is doing everything with ease and so little force? Tom shares what it feels like to be (almost) an empty nester and what happens when his wife does not like something in his act. With a 200-week streak on the Peloton, see which instructors motivate him to stay consistent on his fitness journey. Full of stories and laughs, Tom always makes me have renewed faith that there are smart determined people out there doing their best to contribute to the world with the gifts that they possess. Enjoy.
– Behind the Scenes of Crafting a Netflix Special
– Breaking Out of Feeling Alone and Redefining Your Life
– Embracing Male Sensitivity to Deepen Relationships
– The Reality of Parenting and Creating a Home
– Understanding the Life Long Journey of Learning
Listen to the episode here:
- Meeting Fortune and the Netflix Show [00:04:18]
- Writing Comedy and Being Yourself [00:15:23]
- Comedians Behind the Curtain [00:29:19]
- Tom’s Beginnings in Comedy [00:37:18]
- When Your Kids Leave [00:43:50]
- Writing Age-Appropriate Comedy [00:56:39]
- On Nootropics [01:01:59]
- Family Story for Comedy Material [01:04:18]
- Work-Life Balance [01:14:34]
- Deciding to be Joyful [01:19:02]
- Supporting Your Kid’s Passion [01:21:31]
- Tom’s Health [01:25:26]
- Are Cats Assholes? [01:34:28]
- Tom’s Hopes [01:36:50]
- Handling Criticisms [01:40:35]
- If Not Comedy [01:43:30]
- Tom’s Reminder [01:48:42]
#205 Embrace the Chaos: Comedian Tom Papa on Crafting a Netflix Special, Redefining Your Life to Find Fullfillment, Embracing Male Sensitivity, Practical Parenting Insights & Remembering ‘We’re All in This Together’
Welcome to the Gabby Reece Show where we break down the complex worlds of health, fitness, family, business, and relationships with the world’s leading experts. I’m here to simplify these topics and give you practical takeaways that you can start using today. We all know that living a healthy balanced life isn’t always easy. Let’s try working on managing life a little better and have some fun along the way. After all, life is one big experiment and we’re all doing our best.
“Whatever is happening in your life, whatever turbulence is happening, when it’s time to do the show, you do the show, and that’s the thing that you do and you do it. It’s a joyful place and you get something out of it. It helps you escape the turbulence, it helps you have a good time, and it’s also your duty to the people that have been waiting for six months for you to come. All that stuff and all that mess from your life don’t count. You still have to do your job and you still have to perform.”
The theme of it was that thing of we’re all living from the same brochure. I want them to feel like they’re not alone. I want to tell them how to live or my way is the way or any of that. I like to pontificate and say that my way is the right way. I’m trying to disguise it.”
My guest is standup comedian, author, and radio host, Mr. Tom Papa. Tom has been on the show before and it was because I saw his standup and I thought, “I want to talk to him.” Most of us think comedy has to come from this dark, cynical, or sad place. Tom is an incredible example of somebody who is able to observe some of the silliness of life and the things that we all share. He has a book out, this is his third book, and it’s called We’re All in This Together…: So Make Some Room. It is a lot of beautiful tidbits, not only in this conversation but in this book.
At the end of the day, what Tom is trying to remind all of us is the craziness is not just in our own heads, in our own families, and in our own lives, pretty much it’s all the same for all of us. His youngest daughter is about to graduate. He’s ready to be an empty nester. He was like, “You’ve got couples there and they’re graduating their babies.” The brochure says that some couples are going to travel and do something exciting. Some couples aren’t going to know how to talk anymore and they’re going to break up. Some couples are going to reinvent themselves or whatever.
It’s for us to be reminded that not only that we’re not alone but no matter where we are in life, even if we’re in our early 20s or teens, not only do we need to be going through this but everyone has a version of that. He shares his love with Peloton, he’s at 200 weeks in a row, why he will not give up bread. He did bring me a beautiful loaf on his way here, and how he’s got the opportunity to keep getting better and better at his craft, a craft that he does four days a week on What A Joke with Papa and Fortune. How does he prepare for that radio show? He goes out and he does his standup, cities week after week and this is his third book.
He shares his process and his hopes for the future and supports all of us not only in the laughter but that life is serious and serious things are happening. There’s so much humor and beauty in the craziness. I have a deep love for Tom Papa and what he’s doing and what he puts into the world. The other thing is how do you trust yourself that much to do it your way, no matter what you’re doing in life? I hope you enjoy.
Let’s talk about the last time. I’ve seen you since. One time I had the good fortune of seeing you. You were my last in-person before COVID.
I remember driving down here and we had a great time. We saunaed and we spoke but we knew this is probably the last time we were going to do anything for a while and it was pretty accurate, that was it.
Justin asked me, “How did you meet Tom?” I meet a lot of different people in different areas and I go, “I stalked him. I reached out.” I saw one of your specials. You’re doing great. I was like, “I want to talk to him.” Were you like, “That’s weird.”
Not at all. I was saying to my radio co-host, Fortune Feimster, I was like, “I’m going to see Gabby Reece today.” She’s like, “How are you guys friends?” I was like, “We’re longtime friends.” I couldn’t even remember. I love seeing you. When I left, I remember leaving and we were like, “Come by. Stop by any time.” I’m like, “I’m going to take you up on it. I can’t wait.” here we are, over two and a half years later. It’s bizarre.
This is your drive-by. You mentioned that you do a podcast with Fortune. Let’s talk about all your gigs. How does that work when you tape with her? How often do you tape? What’s the rhythm of that?
Fortune and I do What A Joke with Papa and Fortune and that’s on SiriusXM on the Netflix channel, Netflix Is A Joke. We do that Monday through Thursday, two hours each day. It’s great. We’re finishing our third year doing it for three years.
That’s a lot of content. You’re both creative and funny people. How’s that an expression? You’ve got this book coming out and you have standup. What skillset do you use that’s different doing that show?
There’s a little more research on it. It’s a place for comedians, for mostly comedy people to come. When they’re doing their press, this is a place where you want to be because it’s the two of us. It takes a little research. I always want to respect the comedians so I want to make sure I’ve watched their special, read their book, or whatever they’re talking about, I want to make sure I’m up on it because I know how important that is. As a comedian, if you come into a place, especially your peers, if they’re not up on your stuff, it’s disrespectful. I got to do a lot of the work before to keep going. As far as the expression, at its best, it’s an expression of us hanging out, being quick, and having fun with each other, that’s when it’s at its best.
How did you and Fortune hook up?
I got offered the show from Netflix and they asked, “Who would you want to do it with somebody different from yourself?” I thought of Fortune. I didn’t know her all that well but I was on a flight with her and then I ran into her in a club and she brightened my day. I knew I could be funny with her. I called her and said, “We have this opportunity and it might be good, it’s Netflix. It could be a fun thing to do.” She jumped on it. She’s not only super funny but she works hard. For her to fold in a radio show, a lot of people may not have the stamina to do it, but she jumped on it. We’re three years later.
It’s a different discipline.
You don’t have something to talk about every day. You’re like, “What are we going to say today?” Sometimes you’re in a mood to not talk at all. As a person, some days you wake up and you want to have your coffee and be alone. I constantly have to remind myself, “We’re funny. Don’t overthink it. Go into it.” Before you know it, something is taking us off into the weeds.
[bctt tweet=”The toughest guy is the most sensitive.”]
There are certain people that you see and you go, “I feel like I would jive with them.” How did you know that with Fortune, you’re like, “I can be funny with her.”
That’s a comedic instinct. I know I’m funny but there are certain people I get with and I’m not funny.
We have to break that down for layman. Other comedians understand probably exactly what you mean.
I know I’m funny and I can say funny things and that’s how I operate. You get around a certain person and it could be a comedian or not a comedian, all of a sudden, I don’t have it. I find myself boring. It’s an energy thing.
Is it because they’re busy? Is it because there’s no room for you to be funny and they’re bouncing all over the place?
It is purely an energy thing. All of a sudden, you’re under an X-ray blanket and you can’t explain it. There are a couple of people in my life and every time I get around them, I’m going to be a little dull.
They don’t hit the ball back.
Yeah. I don’t mean as doing bits or anything, I mean small and subtle. It’s not that you can’t even be funny, it’s that they suck the funny out of you.
Would any of those people be your daughters? I’m kidding.
No. They suck the life out of me sometimes but not the funny.
Over 30 years pretty much of performing.
June 12th, 1993.
Did you do an open mic or something?
I was living in New Jersey and I saw a thing in The Village Voice that if I brought a couple of friends, I could go do it. I went to the New York Comedy Club, which was in a different location than it is now. It was on top of a cowboy bar.
What do you mean? A straight cowboy bar?
A straight cowboy Western.
Line dancing kind of thing.
I don’t know. I didn’t spend much time on it. I scurried up the stairs. There were my four friends in the audience and maybe two other people. This guy, Gary, was on stage hosting and a young Greg Giraldo was waiting to go on. I came over and hung out with him and we hit it off and then I went up and did my first spot. That was June 12th, 1993, which means June 12th, 2023, It’ll be 30 years of being in standup. Do I look that old?
Not at all.
You could have started when you were 15.
You talk about when you were a kid you knew you were funny and it was probably a tool. People use it differently, like, “My mother smiled when I was funny,” or, “Dad was a raging alcoholic when I was funny.” You hear it all, whatever the reasons are, “It was amazing if I knew dad was laughing…” I find you so unique. There’s joy in your comedy and in you. A lot of times, people equate either a neurosis or some angst with comedy but you’ve managed to find a way to be funny. Is this an act? Are you crying inside?
No. It’s the sad clown. My nature is to be pretty positive and upbeat. As a kid, when I discovered that a guy was funny and it was being funny, which was early, I wasn’t doing that to chase demons, I was trying to make people laugh. I was trying to make them happy. I’m sure they had some stuff internally going on, whatever. It was that. This is fun. We’re making each other laugh because it’s not school or making my parents laugh. You go through these different stages.
When I was performing it, it still had this thing of trying to win people over and make them happy, that was the intent. It wasn’t my main objective, I just want to be as funny as I can and whatever. At this stage, I realized, that is the main objective still, to make people happy and be joyous and all of that. My comedy, the main thing of what you were describing, there’s not a lot of cynicism in it. There’s hope. I don’t tolerate a lack of hope in people so it was not going to be in my act.
I reached out to you after I saw one of your specials. That feels clear. There are a couple of dynamics that I find interesting in it. You’re the reminder that we can do a job and we can do it our way. You work with all different kinds of comedians, they’re race-y and harsh, it’s all different. You trust yourself. Where does that come from when you’re writing it and you go, “This is funny and I trust myself.” It is pretty different.
The hardest thing and you constantly have to re-educate yourself is who you are and what you’re doing is such a bear. You have to constantly remind yourself. In the beginning, you don’t know who you are, you’re trying to be funny, you’re throwing jokes out, and you haven’t lived a lot of life. You’re like, “Here’s my girlfriend. Here’s something about flip flops.” It takes a while.
It’s probably in a lot of different art forms, once you shut out everything else but yourself and live and do it for you and you’re not distracted by who’s on before you or other popular or successful people have going on. If you stick to your thing, you start to emerge and you start to become yourself, which is such a small little thing we tell our kids all the time, “Be yourself.” It’s difficult because you’re always changing. Even now, 30 years in, I’m still having debates, like, “This joke seems a little dirty. Is that me?” You’re still analyzing it. Truly, you start to get your voice and you start to figure out who you are. You have to have blinders on.
That’s one of the hardest things in life to do, not get pulled. I see you do it and then you’re doing it on stage. It’s not like, “Find your voice and know what you like.” You’re building jokes and contributing your art as an extension of who you are. Of course, you’re going to be inspired and influenced in different ways by things around you, it could be your life. It’s one of the hardest things to do.
It’s difficult. We’re all children, you’re still the kid at school, and you want to fit in, “Why do the people like that person? What are they going to say? Why isn’t this happening to me?” That never goes away. The beauty of the standup and the books is a constant funneling and expression of that and mining. I’m fortunate enough to have a craft that deals with that, it deals with those questions. You’re never going to achieve it. You’re never going to wrestle it down and be like, “This is me.” You get up and get a glass of water and there’s a different you at the sink.
Thank God, though. Laird and I were talking and he’s like, “Our jobs forever are to keep learning.” Hopefully, that would mean new ideas and we changed a little bit here and there. Your book, first of all, was this COVID-generated? At first, you guys were not able to do standup. Were you doing any of the digital standups?
I did do some of it.
Did you get pulled into that too?
Yeah, a little bit.
How was that?
You had to do it.
Do you mean as an exercise?
Yeah. When you’re not doing standup and you are a standup, it’s a strange territory. You start to calcify. It’s a very strange thing.
The timing, the muscle?
The expression. You hang onto this thing. You are your work in a way and now you’re not doing it, “What am I doing?” It was like, “Where can we do it?” I admired the comedy community because they were on rooftops, in graveyards, and on the back of trucks. They were online, they were Zooming, and they were doing cameos. Any way that they could do it, they were doing it in mass. They couldn’t be stopped. These little comedy show business rats are showing up and doing their thing. I did some of the Zoom stuff. It’s not satisfying but it was better than nothing at the time.
This is my third book, I’d already been writing it. I’m always writing so I always moving into the next one. COVID hit and it affected the process a little bit because the times were dark and weird and it started to affect some of the essays. It went on so long that I was able to go back and look at it and shed the COVID mood off of the book in the beginning. I see a lot of albums that have come out and stuff. Everyone was in a mood. There’s some real COVID stuff. My book, after I got through the first draft, I went back. There were some lingering days when we were in the house for a month drinking scotch.
We’re All in This Together, there was something about that title where I feel like many people in different genres of communication are all trying to keep reinforcing. There are people in the big media that are like, “You all hate each other.” I feel like everyone else is saying, “We don’t.” I thought the title was perfect.
We’re All in This Together…: So Make Some Room, that’s talking to someone reluctant about it, like, “We’re all in this together so make some room. Let your sister sit.” It’s that kind of expression. It’s not like, “Everything is great and we all love each other.” It’s, “We can all learn from each other. You’re not the first person to go through life. It’s all been done.”
As unique as we think we are and as special as we all are, one walk through CBS, and you realize, “Anything I can experience, not only have other people gone through it, they’ve also made products to deal with all of the weird things that are going to happen to you.” That’s true with everything, with dating, with marriage, with eating, with death, and with all of it, it’s all been done. Keep your eyes open and you can learn from the people that came before you, whether you like them or not.
There’s a chapter where you say, “These are the days that must happen to you.” That’s true. Sometimes I’m going through something and I always think, “I can get this one over with.” That lesson, you go, “I can get this one over with.” How do you organize the essays? They roll together but they live separately within each essay or chapter. How do you even know how to do that?
That part of organizing it is fun because it’s all been shaped in a way and then you start to see them with a little more clarity and it’s like, “What’s the funniest? What’s going to get this message across? How does that roll into it? I don’t want two with my grandmother in it next to each other so I’ll space those out.” It’s all that thing. It’s like a set list for a concert, it’s trying to see what the flow’s going to be and then you got to figure, “It’s a book so people are probably space out around here and then we’ll finish big over here.” It’s rhythm and trying not to be too repetitive in a way.
These different types of using your skill, books, stand-up, and even your radio show are three different ways of preparing like doing a standup special. I always hear stories about you guys going out and working on material for your special. What’s that like when you’re starting right from scratch and you have a few new bits that you’re going to play with? How do you have the courage in a way to go out and be like, “Starting from the bottom again,” and build that? Does it make you nervous if you think, “I’m not going to maybe be that funny today.” How do you get that?
If you have a blank page ahead of you for anything, it’s pretty daunting. Even if you’ve done it before, you’re like, “Are we going to have it? Are we going to be able to?” Then you do. It pretty much happens and comes to you. Especially with standup, my whole adult life has been doing this so I should be able to do it. One of the things about Covid was comedians all have this disease that they think you have to do it every night or you start to lose it.
What is the rhythm, the pacing, or the connection with the audience?
You feel like the theory was wrong.
The observation was wrong.
It was wrong. We all took a big break and all came back and it turns out still funny. It turns out, 25 years of experience means something. You can take a night off and be okay. We all had this universal panic. It’s such a rare thing. You almost question, “Why does this work? Why do people think I’m funny?” It’s unexplainable. It’s like being given this gift, “If I don’t use it, is it going to go away?” That’s the subconscious fear of it. It turned out that maybe it wasn’t so magical and maybe it was a little craft and you can put your overalls on and go back to work after a sabbatical.
[bctt tweet=”You constantly have to re-educate yourself.”]
Funny is an interesting thing because you’re somehow talking about observations that we all have but we don’t know how to articulate and there is something funny or absurd about them. You have the confidence to say, “I’m going to talk about the pen that’s connected at the bank that somehow it’s never long enough,” and do a bit on that.
Have the arrogance to think that people want to listen to that.
When is it where you’re like, “I’m going to talk about that.” How does it strike you? How does it show up and you go, “I’m going to spend seven minutes on this.”
It’s strange. Things strike you as funny. Things strike you as, “For some reason, this is making me laugh.” It hits you and you’re like, “I’m going to go with that.” Other times, you’re working on this bit and then there’s a little thing in between that seems funny and you start going down that path, and before you know it, you’re talking about jellyfish for four minutes. It’s a strange process. It has to make you laugh. If it doesn’t make you laugh, the audience has no chance. I can’t be up there thinking. It truly has to be this childlike, “That’s ridiculous,” or that it makes you angry or that makes you frustrated. It’s conjuring up something that’s making you want to talk about it.
There is something childlike or can-you-believe-it tone. You’re on the road and your girls are older now. Let’s say family stuff is happening or Uncle Joe is sick and you get the call right before you go on. Is it about compartmentalizing? When I watch comedians, they’re feeling it. I can see the ones that maybe it’s not as much. Where do you put your life when you go out there to do that act?
It is a strange thing. I remember seeing this book called Comedians and it was this coffee table book and it had Robin Williams on the cover holding a baby. Have you ever seen it?
The baby is crying and he’s making a face and he’s got a beard. It highlighted Joan Rivers, Jerry Lewis, and Stephen Wright. It was before I was a comic I got it. They would have these great black and white pictures, photographs of them, and then there would be this column of text of them answering questions, and Sam Kinison. I was devouring it. I was into it. It was mesmerizing. A lot of stuff from that book.
The one with Robin Williams, they were talking about how he was shooting his film or his TV show and he had to get to Idaho for a gig. He had been up early and had shot his show and had to get on this plane and it was the weather and it was super bumpy and it was long and arduous. They landed and the guy who was with him who was reporting was spent, like, “That’s it for my day.” Robin had to get up on stage and perform for an hour or two and him remarking, like, “How did he do that?”
This was before I was a comedian. It lingered with me. That’s your job. Whatever is happening in your life, whatever turbulence is happening, when it’s time to do the show, you do the show, and that’s the thing that you do. It’s a joyful place and you get something out of it. It helps you escape the turbulence and it helps you have a good time. You have all these people applauding and laughing and that’s a great thing. It’s also your duty to the people that have been waiting for six months for you to come.
All that stuff, all that mess from your life doesn’t count. You still have to do your job. You still have to perform. It’s true. It’s cool now. When you are missing a connecting flight and you’re not ever going to make it, I always think about that scenario with Robin Williams and it’s like, “This is cool that I’m now able to live such a shitty life like Robin did.”
You also talk about it in your book that it’s interesting how we think life is supposed to go a certain way. I don’t know where we got this from and you make this a clear point in the book, which is it’s crazy and it’s difficult and there are challenges and it’s for everyone. We come into the world thinking somehow it’s wrong when it’s not going right but that’s usually what it is.
100%. The times when you are completely at peace with nothing to do doesn’t happen. If I wake up in the morning and think, “What do I have to do today?” It’s truly a day where there’s nothing, I don’t have to do the radio show, I don’t have a show, I’m not traveling, and I don’t have to podcast. No one else is going to be in the house for part of the day. I can get away with nothing, which is rare. That could be a really good day. You hear the dog throwing up in the hallway and you’re like, “Ugh.” The fantasy that people always have in the media or in songs and stuff of being on the beach with your toes in the sand, what are you talking about? It’s an illusion.
You try and piece together these little moments and they are little moments, that’s the thing. You do get little joyful moments of course. The idea that it’s going to be trouble-free and there’s going to be nothing, no obligation, no dog throwing up, or no wife calling and saying that someone’s sick, it’s going to happen all the time. If you live a life thinking, “I’m going to try and have a life where I’m not touched by any of the chaos or any of the hardship.” If you want that, you’re going to be unhappy because you’re better off realizing, “Of course, the dog is throwing up. What’s next? The toilet will probably overflow. It’s one of these.”
Some package is going to arrive and you’re going to have to assemble it and there’s going to be something difficult about that.
Now you’re on your phone and you’re looking at a YouTube video of how to put it together and then that distracts you and then it’s 3:00 and everybody marches back into the house.
They’re like, “You had a good day off.”
You’re much better off embracing the chaos, 100%.
Doing it the way you do it, which is a sense of humor, especially it’s relationships and pursuit. There are some funny moments.
Making yourself laugh is such a key. I’ve been doing this thing where I get up in the middle of the night and have to go into the bathroom. I’m in the dark and my ankles are whatever and my knees are whatever. I feel like Redd Foxx from Sanford and Son walking across the thing. It’s 3:00 in the morning and I’m by myself. I’m not kidding, I’m laughing to myself in a small way. It’s like, “Look at this bag of bones.” I’m trying to get into the bathroom in the middle of the night and that is pretty funny. You could be, “Why is my knee not doing it? Why am I getting up?”
“I’m getting old now. This is what it’s going to be.”
“I can’t even get a good night’s sleep.” Those little moments, you won’t tell anybody about. I’m going through this and this is one of these now. I can get this over with. It’s constant chaos.
We should teach our kids it’s constant chaos and when you get these little moments of order, that’s all they are. It’s like when your flight lands early and they have a jetway for you, be like, “This is amazing. I’m going to get home six minutes early.”
If you’re six minutes late, you’re like, “Ahh.”
You do get in 30 minutes early but they don’t have a gate for you so you’re hanging on the plane and everyone’s looking at everyone and it’s all that. Maybe the overarching question is what is it in you that wants to make people laugh? What drives you for that?
I don’t know. Probably the answer is that it’s changed over time. When I was young, I’m sure some of it came from dissolving tension. My father was an intense guy and you’re a kid and it’s like, “Why is all this serious?” You’re trying to make people laugh and it seems to puncture stuff. Being at school, showing off, and knowing that other kids like me more than the other kids because I did a dance with a banana. In seventh grade, that’s when I realized I was going to be a comedian.
That summer, a lot of kids in my town went away to camp and we stayed home so I was with older kids just going to the local pool and that kind of thing.
The town pool?
Yeah. We were playing in the woods and met with all these older kids and there were some girls and some guys and the guys were mean and scary and the girls were cute. I was able to make the girls laugh. I was funny. It was the first time like using it to fit in.
What was it calculated? As a kid going into eighth grade, 13 or 14, being like, “I’m going to do this and this is a real move.”
100%. I remember, like, “This is working. I’m the funny one. I’m making her laugh. She might like me and he doesn’t want to punch me. I’m going to keep doing this.” That year was the same time I learned that comedians were a thing. When I heard of Steve Martin and George Carlin, that was the first time I realized, “You could be a grownup and do that as a job.”
You mentioned the book about Robin Williams and having that as a kid, did you do conscious things besides watch comedy to tune up? Did you mess around with it already starting early in high school?
Yeah. I was constantly doing bits at parties.
Would you say, “There’s a big party Friday night and I’m going to have three little things that I know I might do springboard off into it,” or it would just happen?
It would just happen. I was doing little silly puppet things. With my friend, we were making these weird photo albums. I was digesting everything. I was in training, I was digesting National Lampoon, SNL, and Mad Magazine, Wacky Packs, those stickers that took a comet and made it vomit. I was like, “Anybody that was taking the real world and making it twisted and funny and laughing at it, that’s it.” I was absorbing all of that stuff frantically because it was different. They weren’t taking anything serious and it was funny. This was a different way of looking at everything. I started gobbling it up and watching anything, any standups, and anything that was funny.
Your parents saw this because parents know their kids early on. What did they do that enabled you to feel like you could pursue it?
We didn’t have anyone in the arts in our family. It’s a big Italian family but nobody was in the arts at all. There’s no real roadmap for it. They did that dumb parent thing of telling you that you could be anything you wanted to be and you can do whatever you want to do. My father instilled this crazy amount of confidence. I was an athlete and he was my coach a lot of the time so he fostered that go-do-it attitude.
My mother was always doing voices and she was imitating everybody in our life and she came from my grandfather and they were all storytellers and they were funny so it mixed all of that together. It had to be very early. I remember imitating Gilda Radner at parties for them. I was probably 7 and doing Roseannadanna because that was an easy one to do. They knew they had a weirdo on their hands, I’m sure.
To me, you’re such an unusual mix because you represent, in a special way, every guy. You seem like a good guy, a nice guy, but yet with this deep creative edge. Usually, people think that’s for another group. I can see you being a parent and a husband but then you have this other side.
I like all the regular stuff.
That’s what I mean, you take this interesting spin on things that all of us can go, “Yeah.”
I like living that life. I like making dinner, being home, and getting into everybody’s stories.
You have a real life. How do you balance that? You’re on the road. Both the girls are out now, right?
How do you f how do you feel about that?
What do you mean?
The first one goes and it’s, “Wait, what?” No one prepped you for this. They’re just going to leave. This whole company that we’re running is built for them. This is little about us. This is primarily about them. This town we live in and these pets we have. I say my act now. I don’t even have my own friends. All my friends are your friend’s parents. Now you’re going to go? I should go. That first breaking of the unit was everything shook and it was sad and you’re crying and driving away from school, like, “What’s happening?”
She’s been gone for a couple of years and everything’s cool. We have this cool relationship with her and she’s not coming back but we see her a bunch. Now the second one is getting ready to go and that’s going to have its own demarcation because we only have two. That’s going to be like, “Now we’re back to the beginning, which is sad.”
This part is fun but it’s maybe time also. They have to go do stuff. They’re tired of being asked questions. I was like, “Please, take half of the shoes downstairs. Take half of them.” She drops everything off. Her room is immaculate and the hallway is filled with clothes and sneakers. I’m not her boss anymore. This is a grownup. It’s difficult to say, “Pick all your crap up and get it downstairs.”
I have the same thing. How do you deal with that?
I have given up. I’m buying time, I’ve got four more months.
You’re like, “She’ll be out of here.”
I got four more months so now I’m negotiating. I’m like, “Will you take half of it down?”
“Would you give it a chance and it’s easy for you and you don’t mind? Would you take a few?”
“I know you’ve had a rough day but could you take some of this or bring some of the dishes from your room back upstairs? Could you do that?” The housekeeper came up, she comes once a week, and she came up with arms full of glasses, bowls, and popcorn wrappers of stuff from her room. This is ridiculous. Now my daughter is playing it.
Yeah. I said I was looking on the nest camera to see if our cat was alive, if maybe he was walking up and down the street, and all I see are Postmates guys early in the morning dropping off one Starbucks at the door before she goes to school. She’s working it, she’s like, “I know you only have so much more time to watch me do that.” I’ve given up. I clean the kitchen, I clean all of it. I’m in there doing most of the stuff anyway. Before, there was crap everywhere. The life she was living, good luck to whatever roommate she runs into. She’ll make granola with milk, blueberries, toast, and butter and get up and walk out like leaving a restaurant. They have a staff that does this.
[bctt tweet=”Keep your eyes open and you can learn from the people that came before you, whether you like them or not.”]
They have people for that.
I would be so angry. I used to be so angry, like, “Clean this up.” I would take a picture of it and send it to her at school, “Come on, what are you doing?”
I do that too. I take pictures and send a text and they’re sitting in the middle of math class. I’m a crazy person.
No, you’re not.
When I’m doing it, I’m like, “I don’t even care. I’m crazy. It’s not going to do shit.”
“She’s in math but I know she’s looking on her phone.”
It’s like, “Why are you sending me this?”
“Because you’re gross.”
How many times can you talk about it? This is important because it’s everywhere and it’s all of us. My middle daughter has a friend and they’re young adults, in their young 20s, and the friend was saying how her little brother who’s 16 is so much worse and spoiled by the mother. She’s whispering this and I go, “It’s that whole group.” Did you see my Windy Road? I have a bagel show up. It’s not like I don’t have bagels in my fridge. I know you think we don’t eat bread around here, Tom Papa, but we have bread.
My thing is I’m not keeping anything off-limits. Who doesn’t love a great bagel? I went by Pop’s Bagels, there’s one in Brentwood. I was driving by and I thought, “The people at my house would enjoy Pop’s Bagels. I’ll get a couple.” We have bagels here. All you have to do is come down, you get one of those ridge-y knives, you cut them, and you throw them in the toaster. I even think I have cream cheese here. I have a guy that shows up outside.
It’s the same. When I see someone whose kids have left, I’m on them in my case study around the country and I find them on the road and I ask them questions. With slight differences, I’m about to go through exactly what they went through 100%. When I was in the chapel at school, it was the end of high school. Every one of those parents is going through the same exact thing. Guess what? They’re not the first class to graduate. That school has been there for 50 years and every year, there are parents sitting there with their seniors crying at the video of the picture of their kid in kindergarten. It’s all the same.
In the end, when they leave, some of those couples can’t talk to each other and break up and others start to travel and others rekindle what they had before. Take note of all of it. Look in the brochure and see the options you have coming up because you’re going to be one of those. It’s not going to be that different from the rest of them.
It’s an interesting thing. Does your older daughter come home for the holidays and then make a mess and do all that and you’re like, “You moved out but you’re back.” Have you gone through that one yet?
Yeah. The hardest part is you have no authority and they come home and they want to go out and not come home till 4:00. It’s like, “Technically, I shouldn’t be telling you what to do but now we’re roommates and as roommates, I have to do the show at 9:00 in the morning. I can’t be up till 4:00 in the morning worrying where you are. How about this, you come home at a reasonable hour and I won’t wake you up at 7:00?” You have to negotiate as grownups. According to the brochure, the people who seem the happiest are the parents who lay off at that stage. You’re there for advice but you also are fun to be around. We want to be with people who are fun to be around.
If you’re not, they’re not going to come around as much. You got to shift a little bit, which I’m not a fan of for the first 18 or 19 years of being their friend. My older one was studying in Paris last semester and we went to visit her. This kid that we made years ago is now leading me around this city I don’t know and speaking a language that I can’t speak and getting me onto the train as I’m fumbling and can’t see.
Isn’t that awesome?
Yeah, it’s the best.
It’s disorienting when it first starts happening because you’re like, “Wait a second.” When you can fully embrace it, you’re like, “What a special opportunity.” It’s an interesting thing to where it also makes you feel like, “Wait a second, am I becoming out of touch?” As you said, “I’m looking because I can’t see the thing.” Can you read that label for me? It’s this magic of still in pursuit of yourself. You’re traveling, you’re writing new books, and you’re doing all kinds of things but then also allowing this person in your life to teach you new things. It’s an interesting and different position because you can only be in that position once you get to this age and they get to that age.
It’s new territory.
I’m with you. It’s great and it’s fun. If you check your ego a little bit, it’s cool. They could be a little nicer about it.
Instead of, “Give me your ticket, I’ll do it for you. You can’t see that? Look how huge that letter is.”
“How could you not see that? I told you that a thousand times.” We had a thing where we were getting the house all ready for this graduation and we have a lot of family coming into town. All the stuff we’ve let go, we’re doing, like fixing the deck and getting the painting done. We’re on it, we’re changing everything. We’re watching TV and the Yankees are on or something and there was that noise, I’m like, “It’s a game.” She goes, “You don’t hear that high-pitched sound coming from the speakers?” I’m like, “No. What are you talking about?” My eyesight’s not great but my hearing is on point and they’re both saying I am not hearing this dog whistle. Everyone can’t stand this noise and I’m watching the game.
Turning it off. Women hear more octas than men. It’s like a baby thing.
Why don’t you hear your husband that well?
That’s my favorite. You’re at a gathering, I’m in a conversation, and I do hear your conversation too. Laird always laughs because he’ll say, “Gabby is listening to this conversation right now.” It’s to see if I react and I always play like I’m not right but I totally hear it, I’m like, “Oh.” He’s like, “Did you hear that?” He’ll be like, “We did that like six years ago,” and I’m like, “Eight years ago.” He’s like, “Get her away.”
That’s such a funny thing from the brochure side to interrupt but that’s a funny thing from the brochure too that every married couple, the wife is specific, “It wasn’t six years, it was eight years.” I’m telling a story. I’m trying to get through the next hour.
“You brought me. I don’t even want to be here.” I wonder, were there boundaries, especially once the kids were older than 10, about what you could do in your act or not regarding the girls or the family?
There’s a little bit. A lot of it is self-editing. I didn’t want to talk about making light of drugs. It’s not that I do drugs. I used to smoke pot. I always want to, I always feel like it’s like this hot Renaissance I’m missing out on.
Why don’t you? It doesn’t agree with you? You had a lot of work to do, Tom Papa.
I’m putting your Superfood in my coffee. I’m no sharper.
Are you sure? You’re pretty sharp. Was THC dulling you a little bit?
Yeah. I loved weed for a long time.
Did you smoke it?
I smoked it.
The burning isn’t good for the lungs, I don’t think.
I didn’t care about my lungs so much, it’s the brain. There was a mental note when I was in college, I came back home, and one of the high school kids that I used to riff with at parties was running circles around me. This was early. I didn’t smoke weed until college, senior year once football was over. That was the beginning. This was still early on where weed was still fun. In the beginning, it ws so fun.
None of it added to your act too. Did you have an idea?
It added to my perspective on seeing the world, for sure. Mushrooms, all that kind of stuff, kicked the doors open and gave me perspective. Some silly stuff came out of it, for sure. As far as being present and being in the moment and being able to be funny, I came back and this guy, Chris, was older than me, but he was the funniest guy, this Irish bullfrog-looking guy, and he was the funniest thing. I would try and keep up with him even when I was young and straight. I came back during college when weed was the thing. I came into a party high and he demolished me. This wasn’t a roast battle, it was keeping up with each other, and he was spitting them out. I was like, “Yeah, that’s funny too.”
I made a quick mental note that weed is not good for everything. Fast forward, I know that my brain is not as elastic as it was. It can do some things better. I’m missing out on all the fun. With my kids leaving, I do have this feeling. I keep having this fantasy of lighting up in the living room. I’m careful not to be a drug influence on my children. It’s just the idea. Even now, at this point, it probably wouldn’t mean anything. It’s legal but I came from a different time when you’re hiding it. I buy it once in a while and put it on a shelf and I never touch it. I have this fantasy of once the kids are gone, lighting a joint on my couch, like, “We did it.”
What about any Nootropics or micro-dosing or anything for your brain? Do you ever try any of that stuff? Do you ever take any supplements for that?
This micro-dosing thing, I don’t know.
Have you tried it?
No. I’m macro-dosed.
They’re miles away.
The idea that my daughter’s friend’s mom is on a trace of acid, a carpool is weird.
We can do mushrooms. I grew up in the Caribbean and everyone around me did a lot of drugs and alcohol. I tried a little bit of weed, it wasn’t for me. I got drunk 3 times in college with my team. I lived in New York City, I never partied and didn’t drink, drugs, no. I haven’t tried acid, coke, or any of that stuff.
This is why you still look like a bright human being.
I’m going to share this with you. When I turned in my 50s, I read Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind and I heard other measured approaches to mushroom micro dosing. I thought, “I’m going to have an open mind.” Simultaneously, I wasn’t remembering things. As you are at a certain time in your life, there are so many details, stress, kids, schedules, and work and whatever. I measured. A couple of times a week and a couple of times a month, I did it as a cycle. It worked well. I felt like my brain got soft instead of hard. I could recall words and things like that.
Were you high?
Not at all.
You don’t feel it?
No. You don’t go like, “The clouds are so puffy.” I’m sure there are people who want to be like that. It’s a tool and I want to use it to perform better. I got the other way. It’s a whole thing. You can tell me, like, “You should do this because it’ll make you perform better.” Great, let’s do it. “You should do this because it’ll make you feel good,” it doesn’t interest me as much. Not stony at all. They have companies that are highly measured.
I’m interested in all that stuff.
Even some Noorotropic to support cognitive function for what you do would be interesting.
What’s a Nootropic?
There are certain compounds that you can take that are for brain function and that category is Noorotropics. They have some good companies that I don’t work with like Qualia Mind. We can talk about it. That’s a good one though. I like them.
I’m up for that. I have a bag of mushrooms hidden in the house.
Do those ever go bad?
They’re probably bad. They probably could be revived but they’ve been in there for years.
Once you put them in your mouth, “I’m alive.”
With the kids leaving, the idea of the day is over and even taking a hit sounds like a nice thing. I’m still in the mode of I could get a call saying, “Come pick me up.” It’s off the table.
Did the family have a pact? Let’s say one of the girls is going through a breakup. As we do, when we’re in marriages or long relationships, we go through things. As a comedian, was that fodder that you were allowed? There’s an interesting. Let’s say you and I are in the same family and we go through things. I have my truth and story. Simultaneously, if I’m choosing to share it, I have to protect your truth and story. How do you do that dance?
[bctt tweet=”You’re much better off embracing the chaos, 100%.”]
I talk a lot about family so there are definitely times when I’m coming into territory that other people don’t want me to talk about but nothing heavy, any real deep stuff. Maybe more of that gets punched out in the books.
How do you deal with that? Do you go and show it to whoever it’s pertinent to?
I never ask for permission.
You ask for forgiveness.
I deal with it at the end. I’m pretty conscious of it. My wife didn’t like a couple of things. We’ve been together for over 25 years. She was a comedian as well. There was never a problem about the material. It was always seen as funny. At this stage of life, there were things that were more upsetting to her and 90% of it is made up anyway. I have a lot of married couples in the audience and I know we’re all going from the same brochure so I’ll exaggerate whatever this thing is. For the first time, she didn’t like a certain thing, which seemed to me so silly and trivial. It went on for a long time.
Do you mean she kept bringing it up?
Yeah. It was this lesson for me because I have nothing but love for this woman. This is deep. There’s no part of me that thinks that we’re ever in jeopardy.
You can have more fun.
We all go through moments in the relationship. I could be feeling that. I could be feeling like, “We’re solid.” She could be feeling, “I feel like we’re on shaky ground right now.” If everything in your real life is buttoned up and okay and she feels loved and as beautiful as the day I met her, if all of that is purely taken care of, the jokes won’t mean anything. It’s easy to laugh at a joke about yourself when you’re 30 because you know you’re still smoking hot and you’re feeling great and you can still see. When people take shots at you, you feel vulnerable. That was a shift. I was a little slow getting up to it.
I can understand that in a certain way because as a mom and your wife experienced this with daughters, one of my daughters will say to me, “You were so pretty when you were young.” The first time something like that was said, I thought to myself, “From her point of view, that makes perfect sense.” I’m going to decide right now that none of those comments uhhuh are going to ever bother me because I have to decide.
Let’s say I’m on my heels that day and I’m a little tired, maybe I looked in the mirror, I turned my phone on the other way and I got a glimpse from below or something. All of a sudden, I would be hurt. There is something interesting when you’re going along and we are changing and you’re constantly making peace with it and having your sense of humor about it and also realizing that little shit is going to be 50, 60, and 70 and they’re going to get it too. “I may be dead but you’re going to get it.”
“You’ll be a bag of bones one day.”
“Wait till you see.” There is something to be said for recognizing what’s happening. Maybe for a female, we’re a little more sensitive about certain things.
There’s a real disconnect. There was a line or two that bothered her, which I didn’t even think was even part of the problem that she was talking about, and it ended up being this line, I’m like, “That line.” It’s purely just rhythm.
“That’s just a filler, honey.”
It’s just a filler but it hit her. These are heady days. These are times that the kids are leaving and there’s lots of stuff and we’re getting older. It was difficult. It was not easy to be like, “I have to change this.” My thing was that’s not what it means so I’m going to keep doing it. It’s not the way to go through it. That’s the way that it went for years and she would see it or whatever but that’s not what it means, insert, “It does mean this to me.” “Are you a good enough writer that you can get around that? How great is this thing?” I left one in the special and I paid for it but we’re good now.
How many days did you pay for it?
Probably five but simmering probably for a year.
You felt a vibration.
I felt the vibration. She was right, I should be more sensitive about it. In my defense, it was a change. I didn’t realize what she was saying because she expressed those things before but they didn’t have the impact that it has now. One who’s more sensitive of everything is my father. It’s hilarious. If you’ve met him, he’s this guy from Jersey who’s built like a brick house. He’s got tattoos and he rides motorcycles.
Was he in the Navy or something?
No, but he could’ve beaten up everyone in the Navy. He rode motorcycles. He’s a great guy. Anything you throw out this guy is bouncing off. He’s got a belly and bald head.
He gets his feelings hurt?
He’s like, “What did you say about me with the food on my shirt?” Everyone is laughing. We were at the Getty, they came to visit, and someone recognized me, “I love your comedy.” We’d get on the tram to go up the thing and he’s still lingering and he keeps taking shots at his parents. He keeps talking about how old we are. Isn’t it funny? The toughest guy is the most sensitive.
In our house, too. Laird is the heart of the family. They maybe go part and parcel.
I saw an interesting thing that may resonate with you for that. On Instagram, you always get a gem once in a while. A guy said that, in a marriage, you don’t realize how men are incredibly sensitive. They’re sensitive and their main objective is to provide for you and make sure that they’re protecting you and they’re providing for you.
When you criticize that and you say that they did this wrong, if you were to say, “You bought the wrong thing at the store when you went to go do it,” or, “You picked the wrong paint for the deck.” He did this thing but then you criticize what he did, you’re hurting his feelings because that is his main objective and you’re saying that he wasn’t good enough. That was clear to me why my father will get sensitive while I’ll get sensitive.
Do you find that you’ll get that sometimes with your girls?
You’re surrounded by women. We have three daughters so Lair is surrounded by women. What I see too is when a guy will say, “I’m dedicated to my family.” They don’t have that for so many people. When that group criticizes him, he gets his feelings hurt.
It’s surprising. It surprises you. You don’t think that would bother you, “Why’d you put this here?” “Why not?”
Why would that bother you? It does.
It’s not a new concept, male fragility, and all that stuff. It didn’t make sense until I saw it. The whole objective is to do for you and that’s where I show up, that’s who I am, and that’s what I do. “What do you mean I’m not doing it in a great way?” Those little critiques.
It is a dance of learning. I’m still curious. Your wife is an understanding person. It’s a huge opportunity to be able to do this job and you’re successful at it and it’s unique but still trying to balance it. What were the ways or techniques or do you have secrets? You have balanced your life pretty well. How did you do that?
We did it. Now they’re 18 and older. We did that successfully. Everyone’s happy. I was on the road but I always came home. I wasn’t gone for weeks at a time.
Was it a Thursday through Sunday kind of thing?
At its most.
Special shoots maybe were those extended periods like a movie or a show.
You had longer periods. I would look around at these dads at our school and they were all traveling and they were traveling and then when they came home, they were going into the office till 8:00 at night. I was home and laying around.
I was there. The travel part of it, I’m sure my wife would dispute this, was probably our biggest obstacle but it wasn’t fatal compared to what I saw these other people doing. It seemed manageable. We got these tapes back. I’ve always been searching for these little mini cassette tapes from Sony one hand thing from the beginning of the whole project of our family and I got them back. I got them digitized. They’re on a thumb drive. I’m terrified I’m going to lose it but I still have the tapes.
We got those back and it is from day one, she’s pregnant with the first kid, the first kid’s steps, the second, giant belly, and it’s all of that stuff up until the kids are probably 5 and the other one is 3 or maybe 6 and 4, something like that. I bring it up because the coolest part and to answer your question, how’d you get through it, we’re sweet. We’re laughing and we didn’t lose that. We still to this day are like, “Nothing is going to be that serious.” It’s like, “My mom’s got to go to the hospital.” “All right.” We’re always subtly joking and enjoying. There are moments of heaviness, of course. You could see our rhythm back then is the same as it is now and it’s this gentleness. It worked.
I feel like you come into relationships we don’t know. We have instincts about why we’re drawn to this person. Sometimes the reasons why reveal themselves over long periods of time that you couldn’t have possibly known when you were however old. All of a sudden, you know them so much deeper and you think, “I didn’t even know this trait about you but it’s something I admire or I appreciate deeply.”
It’s interesting. Seeing it in these tapes, it’s like, “She’s still doing that now.” It’s given you perspective. It’s like, “That’s what she does. She’s the one with the cat taking care of everybody else.” If I hadn’t seen these videos of it, I don’t think I would’ve been able to track it. We’re still funny with each other and we don’t fight that much but then to see documentation of the stuff that you hardly remember, they’re like, “Look at us, we’re in this apartment in New York filled with garbage and it’s this big and everything and a baby and there’s a cat running through.” We’re joyful. It’s pretty good.
It’s funny, when you hear a word like joyful, you think, are people born joyful? Do you work at joyful? Maybe you have a tendency to see the funny of things. Is there something you do where you have moments where you’re going, “No, I’m going to decide.” Do you decide?
I do decide. I also think that there’s a genetic proclivity toward joy. Me being able to turn it on, for a while, I had to get in my head, “Not everyone can do that.” When you tell people, “Suck it up and do it. Turn it around.” Some people don’t have that. I luckily do have that. I remember being young. There was nature and nurture.
I came from these positive grandmothers who were all about, “You don’t get to complain. There’s no complaining. Get on it. How blessed are you? You are so lucky. How lucky are we that we are here right now in this moment, on this day? Look at this, this is incredible. What a gift.” That was hammered in all the time. I remember in high school waking up and feeling shitty, like, “I don’t want to go to school.” Being like, “We’re going to go. Let’s go. Let’s turn it around.” It doesn’t work all the time but it helps.
Sometimes it’s that inertia, that forward motion. There’s some great science around your brain and the brain receptors where if you do that or you think, “I’m fortunate and it’s so pretty out,” or, “Look at that girl in my class,” or whatever. The neuroreceptors looking for good information become longer and stronger.
When you move into a situation, it’s looking for good news. Conversely, we all know people, you go to a beautiful restaurant, and they’re like, “The meat was cold.” Those neuroreceptors are looking, “Is there a draft?” It’s like that. It’s a weird practice. There was a gentleman who studied happiness and who talks about it. Shawn is his first name. To your point, if one of your girls came to you and said, “I want to do this job in the arts,” or something that isn’t conventional, when would you be surprised? How would you support them on the quest of doing something not middle of the road?
I always have my eyes open for that. First of all, I would say do it but there are some parameters. It’s like, “Are you passionate about this? Do you have some ability at this? Is this something in the realm of what you think you’ll be good at? Is there potential for you to be great at that thing?” It’s one thing to be passionate about something but if you have no skills towards it, there’s a little bit of that.
You have to have some aptitude or there’s going to be some reason why we’re now going to be doing whatever. As far as unconventional or what have you, the world has shown us that there’s no safe route, zero. I know so many people, “You’re crazy. You’re going to go be a comedian. You’re not going to have a job and every week is different. I’m going to go to this corporation and they’re going to pay me. I’m going to rise up and I’m going to get my retirement.” They’re all laid off or the offices aren’t open anymore or that industry imploded.
What could have been safer back in the day? Go to work for Kodak, the biggest Behemoth. “He got a job there? His life is set. No worries.” The world changed. I’ve seen that happen in so many regards and in many different ways. Unconventional is fine. If they stay poor for a long time, they’ll come around for longer.
It’s for dinners especially.
How are they going to go on vacation on their own?
They’re going to have to be forced to hang out with you. I read something interesting that we hang out with our kids for eighteen. Do you know how long we hang out with them after that for the rest of our lives on average? Nineteen, one year. If you take all the days, on average, of what people spend with their kids after, one year.
Part of my philosophy of life though is don’t do the math. Don’t add up how many times you’re going to visit your parents before they die. Don’t add up how many times your kids are going to come around. Don’t add up how many years you have on this planet. Don’t do the math. We’re doing that now because we’re at this milestone. We see these videos, “That was so long ago. That was twenty years. That went so fast.” Now we’re at this age, we have twenty to that, and we’re going to be dead soon? They say, “This goes faster.” Don’t do the math. Make some toast and hang out. This is a weird trip we’re on. Except when you get on the scale and maybe your blood pressure.
You joke. You bring me the beautiful bread, which I thoroughly will enjoy. You’re like, “I don’t know how much bread they eat around here.” I do love the bit about, “You’re going to be half a pound lighter. No one’s going to notice.” You’re not eating bread. Is there a practice in place? You look healthy.
I work at it. I have a 201-week streak on my Peloton.
Are you competitive?
I am with myself.
Are you trying to be like Jane Chicago 74?
No. I get up late compared to the East Coast so I’m never in classes with other people. I do try and finish in the top one-third. There are 21,000 people, I got to be below seven. I am competitive that way. I want to be in the top third at least.
Do you have instructors that you like?
I’ve got a couple that I love. Emma Lovewell was on my podcast. Matt Wilpers is my main guy, he’s a gym guy and he’s not hot. Sometimes it’s too much to be trying to work out and there’s this hot woman.
[bctt tweet=”Making yourself laugh is such a key.”]
She’s bent over her bike and her boobs are in your face and she’s like, “Go harder and faster.”
Maybe later, not now. Matt Wilpers is a bald white guy. He’s a gym coach. He’s my guy. 200 weeks on that.
Do you lift any weights?
Yeah. I just got back into it. I used to like that so much. My whole driving force is I look how I look. I could drop ten pounds and look slightly different. My family had bad hearts, not massively bad. It’s hard to suss it out. The people that had bad hearts were living on bacon and scrapes and smoking cigarettes. I don’t know.
High stress. Yelling across the table.
I don’t know if we are built for our hearts to explode or they were living like animals in New Jersey.
You’re taking care of the heart.
I have a heart thing. I go for my physicals, which I have coming up. I’m trying to get in shape for my physical.
What about food? What about when you’re on the road? That’s pretty tough to deal with the food and then you work late and then you’re up because you’re jazzed because you got adrenaline. Do you have sort of rules for home and rules for the road and are they different?
I can dial it in. I am pretty strict about it. I do keep an eye on what I eat. My decadence, my going nuts on the road is I got a bag of Cheez-its at the Hudson News. That’s my going nuts. At this age, it’s disheartening. I lost eight pounds dialing it in and working out more.
Mostly the food. Exercise has always been around how much you put in. One cheat day, it all comes back. You’re not allowed to eat.
You don’t arrive there either. For me and Laird, you don’t arrive. It’s a constant practice. You’re tighter and looser at certain times.
You can’t get away with diet and fast and eat sauerkraut raw and doing all the things and then you eat one cookie and you’re on that scale and it’s like, “Come on.”
You try to eat real food.
My thing is to try and keep the processed out as much as possible. Eat real food. Other than the bread, trying to not eat a ton of carbs. I cook Italian food. We’re trying not to do that as often. Trying to keep that metric. The only way to lose is to not eat anything. I saw someone attacking Gwyneth on this.
For the juicing thing?
Did you see that with the bone broth?
You’re starving yourself but I get it. How can you stay thin unless you are eating bone broth and maybe soup and then trying to go to sleep hungry? She’s not wrong.
Don’t eat eight hours before you go to sleep or twelve maybe. I don’t know. Also, what are your priorities in life? If it’s about energy and feeling good, then eat accordingly. If being a size two is the thing, that’s always going to be a hard thing to juggle. You were an athlete in high school so the training. Do you ever try anything new? It’s like, “I’m going to go to a kickboxing class.” Do you have anything new?
I don’t like classes. I don’t like being around a lot of people. I liked yoga class. I did yoga for a long time. I had more free time. Maybe I’ll be able to do an hour and a half. I don’t know where I had that time.
You have two shows, you do stand-up, and you finished a book, your third book.
There’s a lot. I’m busier now than I was then. Yoga was great.
Would you ever go with your wife?
Yeah. She gets very competitive. I’d have to be on the other side of the room.
She’d be like, “My chest is closer to the floor than yours.”
She’s competitive. She likes to beat everybody. She’s been kicking ass. She’s been getting up at 5:00. She’s teaching right now. Se and this other teacher get up at 5:00 and go to Pilates before school. I thought that would burn out. The whole year she’s been doing it. Someone put this gym thing that folds up in my garage. It has a pullup bar. I can’t do one pullup. A pul-lup bar and weights. I couldn’t get their app to work so I put the Peloton app, a 30-minute strength workout. I’m like, “This’ll be cute.”
Are you sore today?
So sore. I couldn’t get through. I’m resting. They’re doing squats and then doing the next thing and the next thing and I’m like, “I’m out.” I’m laying on my back, like, “I’m coming.” It checks yourself. I’m walking around, I’m on a 200-week streak on the Peloton. I’m in good shape. You have to do ten burpees.
Take me to a yoga class, I’m sore for three days, and I work out pretty hard. I do a lot of weird stuff. Anything different but you should start hanging on your bar. Even if you can’t do pull-ups, hang for 30 seconds or a minute, add that. Once in a while, when you walk by, hang there. Grip strength is important.
I have this funny thing going on my radio show, it’s between me and my producer who’s going to be able to do one pullup by the end of the summer.
You’re getting all the reconnaissance. Hang for a while.
Hang and then lower the bar and do pull-ups.
When you do a chess one too, you can hang from there and pull yourself up from the floor too.
That’s a good one. If I was fifteen pounds lighter, that pull-up would be fifteen times easier. I’m pulling this fat 50-year-old guy up on the thing.
It’s hard too. I have long arms. There are all kinds of excuses.
There’s a ton. It’s nothing more depressing than when you’re like, “Today’s the day.” You can’t do one.
Why don’t you do this grip first?
That’s the point.
I was able to do three of those. I want to do the real one.
Are cats assholes? This whole part of your book. There’s Frank, who’s great. Your wife is the cat lady.
My wife is an animal. She’s Snow White. When I’m home, the radio show’s done and I’m writing and around the house. The pug is laying underneath my desk asleep and the other one is in the sun by the window and we’re like that for five hours and the cat rolls through. As soon as my wife comes home, it’s animal time. They all jump on our shoulders and they want to play. It’s chaos. The dogs are barking in the house and they’re guarding it for her. It’s a whole different experience. My wife is the animal, she’s Snow White.
Are cats assholes? No. I’m a little concerned because there was a scare, there was a coyote, and he goes out and didn’t come back for two days and had a cut on his belly. He had to get stitched up. He went over a fence or something. He’s an outdoor cat, you can’t stop him. Even in New York, he was climbing on the side of buildings. He has a little cone on. Before I came to see you, I couldn’t find him. I’m hoping he didn’t sneak out with his cone.
I’d love to see animals try to go out of a narrow doorway with a cone on. It’s mean but it is funny.
It’s hilarious. It’s sad. I hope he’s around when I get home.
Your motivation when you do your standup is to make people laugh and it’s like, “I feel like I could bring a little levity and joy to the world.” To me, with a book, it’s a little different. It is the laughter but I also feel like you have a theme and a reason. What is it that you want people or you’re hoping people will walk away with?
It’s a good question. The theme of it was that thing of we’re all living from the same brochure. That was like the original idea. It held as a collection of essays that falls on that. The thing with the books is I want them to feel like they’re not alone.
I want to tell them how to live or my way is the way or any of that. I like to pontificate and say that my way is the right way but I’m trying to disguise it.
They’ll have to figure that out.
That thing that they’re not alone. like I’ve had people come up and said, “We were on a cruise and we had your book.” I’ve been signing books at the end of my shows, which has been such a cool thing. I would never see the crowd but now that I’m signing and seeing these people come up, nothing’s better than someone coming up with a copy of the book that they’ve had.
You can see it’s read.
It’s been abused because they’ve been reading it and it means something to them. It’s a pretty cool thing that I could write this and now without my real involvement, I’m connecting with this person at night or wherever they’re reading it for over a period of time for them to then seek me out and be like, “We connected.” It’s a strange thing. It’s cool. It’s a cool thing. That’s what I try and get out of books. What I always try to push on my kids is you do feel less alone. Other people have gone through so much.
Even going to the other little worlds like when you’re talking about your grandma or sharing little parts of different worlds. As a standup comedian, it’s different than an athlete, you can keep getting better and better and better. That must be motivating.
It feels very fortunate. You can keep getting better at this. That’s great. What a lucky thing that my craft, the thing that I love is something that I can ride all my years if I pay attention to it and keep working at it. I should be better than the last time you saw me.
When you live in a time and age, people see you and think, “Everybody loves Tom.” No one ever comes for you or criticizes your work or any of that. You have a public job so there are times that people might be frustrated that you get to do something and they’re sitting on their couch in their t-shirt and they’re frustrated. For people to understand, to do anything, you have to be able to have people criticize you or say, “That’s not my thing.” Is that easier now? Do you roll through that?
It’s not that much easier because I don’t get a lot of it.
When you get one, it barbs you?
Yeah. When my specials come out on Netflix, I don’t read the comments unless I sense that they’re positive. I’ll spend some time but not too deep but I see the little crying and laughing emojis and thank you. That’s usually the way it goes. It’s very rare when somebody comes for me. In this last special, it wasn’t even a good website, a friend of mine had a review from somebody on this thing.
Did they told you about it?
I didn’t know what it was. It’s for her. I was like, “I never heard of this guy, he was an obscure little sight. Did he ever write about me?” He wrote something about how I would be good for older people. I was like, “Huh?” I hadn’t gotten anything but love for it. I don’t seek it out so I’m sure there is more stuff that no people are saying, like, “He’s not funny,” or whatever. That’s fine. I don’t seek it out so it has to find its way to me. Because that was the only negative thing I saw from the special, from the last one, the What A Day! special, it lingered with me. I went on the road and I was like, “Look at these old people in my audience.”
Are there more? Is there an unusually large amount of old people in the audience?
I was like, “Wow. Are they old? Am I old? There are some young people.”
They brought their kids.
Especially when your kids are taking your phone and being like, “Dad…” I’m not younger than I was last year. It was like, “Wait a minute.” It lingered with me, for sure. I haven’t seen a Twitter feed in eight years.
There’s nothing on there.
I have my guy post dates on it. As we said in the beginning, you have to have your blinders on and do you and that’s it.
Justin, you get one question.
June 12th, ‘93, if you missed the train and didn’t make your set, what would you be doing today?
The same. It was happening. I knew I wanted to be a comedian and then I acted in college and then I got out. I was like, “This acting thing, I got so many other people involved. I can have my friends come and be on stage in New York City tonight. That’s going to happen.” Equally as important as being on that night was making the phone call to get on that night. When I walked into my bedroom away from my girlfriend and made the call and got the date and hung up the phone, that was such, “Woo.” If I hadn’t, I would’ve gone the next possible time.
When you’re done pretty much prepared for a special, do you have a particular person that you trust enough that you run stuff by?
I don’t explicitly ask. The act has been working. The act has been getting a standing ovation every night that I’m out on the road and I now they’ve told me that it’s good enough. You start getting into the micro of it. Infrequently, will I ask, “What about this?” I did on this one with my wife about some parts of it. I keep my eyes and ears open, like, “Do you think this one is okay? Is that one whatever?” “A little bit.” With my wife or my director or my opening acts when I’m getting close.
You’re on the road because they’re on it and they see it from night to night.
“Is this okay to do this?” I had one, I forget what it was, something that was a little more blue. I remember having a discussion. I don’t know if I kept it in or pulled it out. I remember asking my opening act to Erica, which she thought of it, “Is this in line with that kind of thing?”
That’ll be the second part of your career. Now the kids are out, you can get all racy.
I always think about that.
Be funny like the other Tom Papa. You’d smoke a cigarette and wear a black suit.
Start getting crude. The audience wouldn’t let it happen. I tried to be that when I first started a comedy seller. I’d be going up after David Tell and be like, “I gotta be edgy too.” The audience was like, “What are you doing?” They could just feel it. They knew this wasn’t true.
Did you read this book? Please tell me you did. Is there an audio version?
Yes, there is. I never read a book in two days.
That’s a lot.
If I have a book, I’m carrying it around for a month. You have to sit in there and go through it. There is an audiobook.
Get to where the books are found and then all your shows.
The books, the shows, the tour, and tour dates, TomPapa.com, all that stuff is in there.
What days does your podcast come out?
The podcast comes out every Tuesday, the Breaking Bread podcast, which you were supposed to be on. The summer is going to be fun. I’m going to the Montreal Comedy Festival, which I haven’t done in a while, and doing the Hamptons, Anaheim, and Delaware, all these fun outdoor. It feels like a sporadic summer thing, and New Hampshire. It’s going to be fun. Everything goes through that and all the social media is @TomPapa.
If we were going to end on one thing, if you wanted to invite people or remind them of something that feels important to you, I wanted to open that up to you.
What do you mean?
I feel like you’re a person who wants to invite people towards feeling better or joyous. This book is that reminder of you’re not alone. I feel like you have dedicated a lot of time. If there was something else I was missing that you wanted to drop off to people before we close the show.
What more could I do? I wrote a whole book. Now I got to do more.
I’m going to end it with when you said not to look at the clock and count the ears and do the math.
Soon, it’s going to be don’t look in the mirror. Soon, it’s going to be don’t look at your kids’ achievements. Soon, it’s going to be don’t go to the doctor.
You’re only one of the only few people I’ve ever reached out to that I didn’t know.
I’m glad you did.
I don’t think this is unique to me. I feel like we all feel like we know you a little bit and I appreciate what you do and what you’re doing. I’m so glad to know you.
Likewise. Podcast aside, I hate to say it because it’ll jinx it but I felt this the first time, I feel like we’re friends. I had all these plans to come by and bring my wife by and we were going to do all this stuff and then the global pandemic happened. I’m not going to say no that I’m going to do it but I do think about doing it. If everything goes okay, maybe we will.
You can say to it Fortune, why wouldn’t we be friends? It’s obvious.
She has her own friend. Get your own friends.
How does she know?
You’re the best.
Thank you so much for reading this episode. If you have any questions for my guest or even myself, please send them to @GabbyReece on Instagram. If you feel inspired, please hit the follow button, and leave a rating and a comment. It not only helps me, it helps the show grow and reach new readers.
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- Tom Papa
- We’re All in This Together…: So Make Some Room
- What A Joke with Papa and Fortune
- How to Change Your Mind
- Breaking Bread
About Tom Papa
With more than 20 years as a stand-up comedian, Tom Papa is one of the top comedic voices in the country finding success in film, TV, radio and podcasts as well as on the live stage. He is a regular guest on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast and the late night TV shows. On May 12, Tom released his second book, You’re Doing Great!: And Other Reasons To Stay Alive, a collection of essays on how people really live in modern America and what’s truly good and wonderful about our lives. Tom’s first book, Your Dad Stole My Rake: And Other Family Dilemmas, was released on June 5, 2018 from St Martin’s Press, making “Summer Must Read” lists from Parade Magazine to The New York Post. The comedic book takes a hilarious look at the host of characters in our families with bizarre, inescapable behavior.