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Bumbershoot Review Day 1: Paul F. Tompkins and Friends (Real and Fake)

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The last thing that I’d ever want to do is to encourage heckling. These loudmouths and drunks are the bane of the existence of many a comic. That being said, the heckler at the Paul F. Tompkins and Friends (Real and Fake), and how Tompkins dealt with said heckler, is a big part of what was great about the show today at Bumbershoot.

Tompkins was the host of the show, with Kumail Nanjiani, Jen Kirkman, and James Adomian doing spots in the showcase. He came out and riffed for a few minutes about Phil Collins, his status as an obvious one percenter – it’s always hard to tell with him if it’s material, or extemporaneous. He was warming up the audience, and into this situation a man walked down to the front and elbowed his way to a seat, finally falling into it with what should have ended in a cartoonish explosion. Instead it ended with Tompkins engaging the sous.

The drunken devil inhabiting the man’s brain gave him some solid belligerence. He tossed some throw-away sunglasses onto the stage, and Tompkiins stomped on them. “Sir, you are a worthy opponent,” Tompkins said to the man. Some of the heckler’s words that made sense were “I gave you a gift,” and “cops know me by name!” The whole time the man was calling Tompkins “Jerry.” Eventually Tompkins got the man to settle down and be quiet, all the while making the audience laugh, and never once did we have the slightest feeling that he was ever out of control. Tompkins ended the exchange by saying to the man, “You know what? You can call me Jerry.” The man is an expert with an audience.

Jen Kirkman was the first up after Tompkins. What really struck me was how she was telling lots of individual jokes, but it really felt like one long story. Guess that’s what a well-crafted chunk looks like. There’s a good reason that Tompkins says that she is his favorite stand-up. Between jokes about police monitoring divorcees lady parts for legal purposes and the perils of being a disappointed cougar, there was a theme. That theme was Kirkman on Kirkman, and we were on-board.

James Adomian is living in New York, after having grown up in California, and likewise, his comedy is in a bit of a transition. A comic known for his characters as much as anything else, I half-expected him to come out at the Sheriff of Nottingham, or one of his other characters, but it would seem that the character work for this show was left to the host, who reappeared as Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Gary Marshall during the show. Adomian had some fun at the expense of professional football, and did a great bit about the idea of an openly closeted comic. Any show is improved with a bit of Adomian. Buy his new-ish album, Low Hanging Fruit.

Kumail Nanjiani was the final act of the show. Watching him is like being showered with joke cluster bombs. Every few seconds there’s a laugh. I love storytelling in a comedy show, but seeing a tight set that is as stuffed with laughs as a Where’s Waldo book is stuffed with everybody but waldo is truly and insanely fun. This whole show was outstanding. Seek out these performers, often, and if you are here this weekend, stand in line tomorrow morning for tickets. Totally worth it.