Freak Out with Tom Papa

by | Jul 3, 2020 | Art & Culture

Are you ready for intelligent, benevolent comedy? Let me introduce you to Freaked Out with Tom Papa.

So much comedy is cynical or mean spirited or just not funny. This one-hour routine from 2013 is a beautiful exception. 

Tom Papa: Freaked Out appeals to the mind—to rational thought and rational values. Observing that so many people today are “freaked out” because we are the first generation that has been bombarded with the cable news networks’ “24-hour horror show of other people’s problems,” Papa urges us to celebrate the good and the beauty of life and not to stress about the little things. And, for the most part, he mocks only the absurd, the irrational, the insignificant.

For instance, he laudes technology, wealth, our current standard of living, the joys of parenting, and the beautiful messiness of a busy, value-laden life. He mocks government monopolies such as the Post Office and NASA for being calcified and ridiculously behind the times. He mocks the Occupy Wall Street movement for having poor math skills and for not knowing what they stand for. And he mocks religion for the horrors it foists on people in the name of love and compassion.

Papa’s cadence and timing are masterful. His facial expressions and body language amplify and leverage his well-crafted stories. He moves seamlessly from vignette to vignette, with brilliant transitions, weaving everything together with subtleties rarely seen in standup. (Unfortunately, in a few brief segments, Papa resorts to cynicism. But, on the whole, this routine is stellar.)

That said, I cannot recommend his other shows, including Human Mule (2016) and You’re Doing Great! (2020), as enthusiastically. These routines are weighted substantially toward the negative, cynical end of the spectrum. Granted, there are some extremely funny moments in these performances. But the negativity and pessimism undermine and taint even the good parts of these shows. (Tom, if you’re reading this, here is one vote for a return to your benevolent, uplifting humor. In my view, your expertise in this more-difficult arena is what distinguishes you and makes you a comedic genius.)

Although I’ve posted two sample clips from Freaked Out below, I don’t recommend judging this show by these clips or by the others available on YouTube or Facebook. They are far from Papa’s best moments, and his humor is highly dependent on context, rhythm, and cadence.

Instead, I suggest that you start watching Freaked Out on Amazon Prime, and give it five or ten minutes. If you’re not hooked by then, it’s probably not for you.

Comedy is very much a personal value, and you simply might not like this routine. But if your taste in this area is similar to mine, I think you’ll find Freaked Out to be brilliantly hilarious, benevolent, pro-reason, pro-progress, pro-happiness.

What more could you want from comedy?



On Solid Ground is a community blog where we publish articles by guest contributors as well as by the staff and officers of OSI. The ideas offered by guest contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the ideas of the staff or officers of OSI. Likewise, the ideas offered by people employed by OSI are their own, and do not necessarily reflect those of others in the organization.

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