Originally, Paul F. Tompkins’ upcoming appearance at Theatre 99 was supposed to represent the opening performance in a five-city summer stand-up tour. Then Comedy Central called and asked if he’d like to film a pilot for a television show with his name on it.
Now the other dates are on hold, and if Comedy Central decides to pick up Nightcap with Paul F. Tompkins, the Charleston performance of his new one-hour show Driving and Crying could be the tour’s only appearance. Which would be sweet irony for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that after several years of what might best be described as multi-media multitasking, Tompkins recently concluded that what he really needs at this point in his career is a regular job on a TV show.
The second is Tompkins’ wife Janie Haddid, an actor and USC alumna who grew up on Sullivan’s Island. She’s the reason Tompkins chose Charleston for the first date on his summer tour, but she’s also the central inspiration for the stories he tells in his new Driving and Crying show.
If there’s an emerging trend in Tompkins’ hard-to-pigeonhole career, it’s storytelling. His last two one-hour stand-up shows have been collections of stories based on themes. You Should Have Told Me (2010) was about his maturation as an adult. Laboring Under Delusions (2012) was about his experiences working various jobs. The more loosely themed Driving and Crying is “a bunch of stories that were all related to my wife.”
Talking about one’s spouse is a risky proposition under any circumstance, but fans of Tompkins’ work won’t be surprised to hear that he’s often the butt of the joke in his stories. “Trust me,” he says in a telephone interview from the couple’s home in Los Angeles. “My wife is presented in the most positive light. And I think secretly she likes being a part of it more than she lets on.”
Married life seems to agree with both performers. Haddid has worked regularly in multiple television series since the couple’s marriage on Sullivan’s Island in 2010, while Tompkins’ career seems to be everywhere at once: appearances on everything from Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Conan to Bob’s Burgers and Key & Peele, two HBO stand-up specials, plus producing his own highly regarded weekly podcast, The Pod F. Tompkast.
It’s been a creative and enjoyable period in his life, but Tompkins is ready for a change. “The problem with doing a lot of stuff is just a matter of focus. I really do enjoy all the things I do, but fatigue does set in. It matters to me to keep up the quality of the things that I do.” In a sense, the Nightcap pilot represents an evolution of his popular 2004-’09 run on the VH1 pop-culture wrap-up series Best Week Ever.
The couple has spent the Fourth of July here several times, but this is only Tompkins’ second performance in the city. “The first time in any new place is always awkward for me because I’m literally getting used to the stage,” he says. “But the audience was great … I’m looking forward to coming back with different material.”
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