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Grand Delusion

Alternative style stand-up Paul F. Tompkins shines in extended new special


By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief


Paul F. Tompkins has a unique stand-up voice on display in a new 90-minute special, “Laboring Under Delusions,” available April 24 as an album, download and DVD from Comedy Central. Previously known for the “Best Week Ever” pop culture commentary show, as well as being well-dressed with a somewhat retro flair, Tompkins puts showmanship into his stand-up storytelling.


A hallmark example of this in Tompkins’ special is his tale about having a part in the movie “Magnolia” that eventually got cut, and being at a table reading of the script, where his misreading of his lines was called attention to by none other than the most famous person in the world – Tom Cruise, who had a small part in the movie that definitely didn’t get cut. Tompkins telling of this story finds him taking that incredulous amazed tone deployed so well in his extended set on the Comedy Death-Ray compilation album.


Tompkins can marvel at little occurrences and build them up with that escalating tone of his – it might be annoying to some but amusing to others, and definitely effective. As alluded to by the title of the special, a large amount of the theme of this performance is about Tompkins’ past retail jobs and endeavors in the lower levels of show business, like being pelted with ice in an early unsuccessful stand-up gig. And there’s whole portions of the set devoted to working in video stores – one that only rented Betamax tapes (for the uninitiated, an unsuccessful early 1980s video format) and another where Tompkins regularly stole titles from the library until the owner finally caught on.


On being fired from that gig, Tompkins had to sign a confession and was told he was no longer welcome in the store. “Really?” he says, in that trademark tone, “You don’t want me as a customer anymore either? Because I thought that went without saying.”


“Laboring Under Delusions” definitely finds Tompkins at his best, and the 90 minutes or so goes by all too fast.















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