You undoubtedly know Paul from hosting the hilarious Best Week Ever. You might know Paul from appearing in “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, cameo appearances in There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, The Informant!, “Weeds”, and if you have a keen since of hearing, you would recognize his voice in an episode of one my favorite shows ever, “The Life & Times of Tim”. I’m leaving out tons of other work he has done. My point is, you know Paul F. Tompkins, and when you think of him, I would bet a smile follows.
I will admit I’m so glad Paul even responded to my interview. The questions were horrible. I won’t make excuses. Sometimes you get such an idea of who a person is without actually knowing them, although you think you have an idea of who they are, that it makes you assume or ask dumb questions. He was nice enough to let me send him the questions in the first place, and then even nicer to answer them after he read the questions. A big thanks to Paul F. Tompkins, and I will forever be a fan.
Serial Optimist: You always dress very sharp and always look good. It’s hard to tell if that’s part of a persona that is supposed to be ironic or if you really enjoy being fashionable and looking nice. Is that generally how you dress, or is it more for Paul F. Tompkins “character”?
Paul F. Tompkins: Irony has truly lost all meaning if dressing nicely is considered potentially “ironic.” Hey. It’s okay to genuinely like the clothes you wear. The only “message” I’m trying to send is: “I like wearing nice clothes and looking nice.”
SO: Do you watch TV before you go to bed; if so, what do you watch? Do you turn it off before you go to sleep or put it on a sleep timer?
PFT: I watch TV like nobody’s business, but I read in bed. I used to do the timer thing years ago, but it started to feel squalid.
SO: You’ve appeared on numerous podcasts and seem to be into new media formats. On July 31st, you launched your own: The Pod F. Tompkast. What was the process like coming up with the theme of your new podcast? Did you take into consideration what works for Comedy Death-Ray, Doug Loves Movies, etc or did you approach it as wanting to have a totally different angle/theme, and really your own style?
PFT: I was inspired by a few different podcasts: SuperEgo, The Best Show on WFMU, and the audio book version of John Hodgman’s “More Information Than You Require.” They showed me that I could do whatever I wanted with a podcast, and that it didn’t have to be the three-folks-chatting format that’s very popular and simple to do. Even though it took a lot of figuring out, I knew it’d express more facets of who I am creatively to do a studio-produced show. And I am indebted to Scott Aukerman for giving me a place to work out some characters on his Comedy Death-Ray Radio.
SO: Do you feel the need to always be sarcastic? Do you ever find yourself going, “wait, was I just being sarcastic or sincere”?
PFT: Do you feel the need to review your questions for potential gross exaggerations and character assassinations?
(Me, thinking to myself, somebody, kill me. Now. Please. Quickly.)
SO: Who are some people you like in the comedy scene, actually like as a person, people that are just nice and you enjoy. Also, who are the dicks?
SO: You have done some dramatic work (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, The Informant!), how important is getting more opportunities like that to you? If you had two equally great scripts in front of you, one a drama, one a comedy, which one do you choose?
PFT: I’ll do whatever’s fun to do. I don’t pursue film as much as TV, because I finally realized I don’t care about the “prestige” of film anymore. If something comes up, I’ll audition for it, but I don’t aggressively seek out film work. TV work is a lot more stable and you’re usually able to sleep in your own bed at the end of the day. Between two comedy & drama scripts, if they’re equally good, and I have a choice between them, I will probably go play the lottery, because miracles are happing, apparently.
SO: What was the last movie you saw in the theater, and was it good or bad?
PFT: “Exit Through The Gift Shop,” the documentary about Banksy and Mr. Brainwash. I thought it was good.
SO: Would you say you are an optimist, a pessimist, or a realist, and why?
PFT: I’m realistic optimist. Because it makes life better to be one.