Feb. 15, 2016

Know Your Comedy: Paul F. Tompkins

Cf Comedy

Everything you need to know about the vocal all-star’s smart alt-comedy.

Where You Might Know Him From: BoJack Horseman (TV Show).

Paul F. Tompkins’ first break into more mainstream stardom – despite appearances on numerous comedy shows throughout the ‘90s and early ‘00s – came with his performance as Mr. Peanutbutter, the self-centered Labrador Retriever on Netflix’s BoJack Horseman. As the fame-seeking foil to the eponymous BoJack, Tompkins is able to showcase his ability to play dumb while still firmly being in on the joke.

Tompkins’ Mr. Peanutbutter acts as a hilarious parody of the Hollywoo(d) pseudo-celebrities who have invaded reality television in the past decade. While the character’s actions and attitude are often ridiculous, Tompkins’ earnest performance succeeds in making the character both loveable and relatable.  After all, who doesn’t at least occasionally think of him- or herself as the most important and charismatic person in the world? The absurd sincerity in Mr. Peanutbutter’s voice highlights Tompkins’ ability and self-awareness as a vocal performer.

BoJack also allows Tompkins to utilize one of his strongest comedic abilities, thriving as part of a duo. Mr. Peanutbutter’s most hilarious scenes are when his absurdity is juxtaposed against the oft-depressing seriousness of characters like BoJack and Diane. Thankfully, BoJack is just one of many times that Tompkins has paired up to bring comedy gold.

Where You Should Know Him From: Comedy Bang! Bang! (Podcast).

Comedy Bang! Bang! has been the go-to place for some of Tompkins’ funniest moments in another of his great comedy pairings. His rapport with host Scott Aukerman makes their episodes some of the best of the show, often featuring just Tompkins and one real celebrity guest.

The deep stable of characters from which Tompkins draws is what makes his appearances consistently outstanding. Podcast favorites include broadway composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, television producer Garry Marshall, and holiday celebrity Santa Claus. These individuals each have their own history with Aukerman, but the duo’s dedication to characterization and bits makes the through-lines a favorite topic of discussion for fans.

Tompkins also acts as a go-to guest when Aukerman needs some assistance driving the show. Auckerman hasn’t hesitated to pair Tompkins with some of the more famous celebrity guests in Comedy Bang! Bang! history, an example of the comedic trust between the two. There are some especially-great episodes featuring “Weird Al” Yankovic that hopefully offer exciting previews of things to come on the upcoming season of the Comedy Bang! Bang! television show. With Yankovic taking over as bandleader, look for hilarious episodes reuniting the trio of Yankovic, Tompkins and Aukerman.

Where He Really Shines: Spontaneanation with Paul F. Tompkins (Podcast).

To really experience Tompkins at his finest, you’ve got to listen to Spontaneation. The show features one or more guests answering a random question posed by a previous guest, with Tompkins and a rotating crew of improvisors creating long-form improv based on the guests’ response. The show illustrates Tompkin’s uncanny ability as an improvisor as he quickly transitions between scenes and premises while acting as the emcee of the whole thing. The show uses sound effects to dictate the changes in time and space, often with hilarious results.

Episodes can also feature teams of improvisors or people outside of the typical improv scene. One episode features New Zealand comics Guy Montgomery and Tim Batt, hosts of The Worst Idea of All Time podcast, improvising after the main guests, showing theirs and Tompkins’ ability to improvise with a non-traditional group.

Underscoring the whole show is the piano accompaniment of Eban Schletter. The interplay between he and Tompkins adds an endearing charm to the show. When this is combined with Tompkins’ uncanny ability to charm his guests and cultivate wit, great podcast episodes are turned out on a weekly basis.

Know This:

Quick and charming, Tompkins is laughing because he knows you are too.


Jake Anderson (@Grandpa_Jake) is kinda scared of the tough questions.