Paul F. Tompkins is the gentleman’s comedian. He speaks with a kind of eloquence that lends itself to a degree of class not present in most of stand-up comedy, almost as though every joke is offered up with Tompkins sporting a top hat, cane, and monocle. I think I just described an early 20th century eccentric millionaire (and maybe the cover of this album — at least the top hat part), but it is just where my mind wanders when I listen to his latest album, Laboring Under Delusions: Live in Brooklyn.
Tompkins’ special is crafted under the theme of the many occupations he has held throughout his life. It is evidence of fantastic writing when nearly every bit avoids digressions that do not support or add on to the working narrative of Laboring Under Delusions. The end result is a cohesive and hilarious story about every job, from movie clerk to acting alongside the incredibly intense Daniel Day-Lewis (currently making another bid for Oscar as Lincoln), that Tompkins has held, all told through the one profession he has managed to keep all the while — stand-up comedian.
What makes every one of these stories about his various jobs work so well is the hint of self-loathing and regret with which each one is delivered. None of these stories brag about anything. Working with Paul Thomas Anderson gets the same angle of embarrassing humility cast upon it as working in a hat store, where customers think a crown is called a “King Hat.” It’s indicative of a person who learns to grow from past experiences, reflecting on mistakes and mishaps to shape a better, new personality. Much like that time I decided not to brag about when I accidentally sat on a baby and, instead, learned from the experience to avoid its re-occurrence (that might seem irrelevant to you, but being able to make personal connections to media is a crucial part of being an amateur critic, or so I’m told by me when I just made that up right now).
You might have seen Tompkins’ latest special on Comedy Central a while ago. Even if that is the case, this album is still worth picking up. With a few extra bits not shown on the televised rendition and Tompkins’ opening riffs (a comedy style of which he is a master as exhibited by his live shows and his podcast, The Pod F. Tompkast), there is enough extra content available to merit a purchase.
Laboring Under Delusions is one of the best comedy albums to come out this year. Consistently humorous and entertaining, Tompkins shows off just how great of a storyteller he is with Laboring Under Delusions. Also, “King Hat” is probably the best phrase anyone has ever used to describe a hat. Ever.
Final Rating: All of the King Hats saturated throughout the land (at least half a dozen maybe) out of the number of Oscars Daniel Day-Lewis stares at to prepare for a role (2).
You can purchase Laboring Under Delusions: Live in Brooklyn on iTunes here:
Or from ASpecialThing Records here.