Stream or skip?


Stream or skip? +2023

In his second Netflix special, Tom Papa jokes about raising his parents, being tutored by his kids, and learning to love his marriage for what it’s worth. Wait. Doesn’t all this sound alarmist or reactionary at all? Is dad even still a Gen X type comic in 2022 if he’s not whining about the kids like a boomer these days?

The essentials: Dad, who co-hosts Netflix’s SiriusXM radio comedy talk show with Fortune Feimster, jokingly asked us all to literally go Netflix and chill in his first special for the platform. Tom Papa: You’re doing great! Of course, that pep talk came in February 2020 when we didn’t think we were going to have a pandemic and more worries. Now we do. Or still. Anyway, like all stand-up comedians, dad has some new life lessons to share from the past two years. However, don’t expect many topical jokes about masks, vaccines, or politicians and politicized figures. Dad keeps things pretty much closer to his own family tree this hour.

What comedy specials will it remind you of?: If you love Jim Gaffigan, chances are you’ll love Papa too.


Memorable Jokes: An opening salvo that suggests billionaires should only have 24 hours to enjoy their hoarded wealth before sharing it (or otherwise) quickly and easily gives way to the notion of problems 99 percent of us can identify with — such as just resting by not having to retrieve your username or password. So dad can ask us to remind ourselves if we are older or imagine how we would act if we left the house without our phones. Would we, could we, make our way to the airport? Or would we miss our flight?

One of his daughters brought home a rescued pug during the pandemic, but dad will have you wondering if a pug still qualifies as a dog if it’s named Frank, wears pants, and wrecks the house with no consequences.

Most of his hour revolves around men’s horrific disorder, with the comedian blaming his gender not only for the pandemic but for pretty much every bad habit or weird politics we have to grapple with. No wonder he won’t blame his wife for anything in their marriage. Even if he likes to make fun of her because of his own habits. If you want to know how he stayed married to her for 22 years, he will tell you. And when he’s done making his point and sharing his advice, he’ll earn a break for it.

Our opinion: Don’t have to bother resetting or remembering your electronic security codes? This simple pleasure leads to Dad’s eponymous exclamation, “What a day!”

His hour is thematically about similarly simple joys of being in the world, whether as a child of aging parents, a parent of aging children, or even as a person trying to coexist with other people while traveling. Papa manages to speak to the masses or a much wider audience than other male comedians his age without feeling the need to go to logical extremes. No lectures or guesses about masks or vaccines from him. Don’t talk about what you can or can’t talk about on stage. Instead, when he talks about the pandemic and how it may have changed us, he’s addressing more fundamental emotions. Like the premise that two years without family visits could already be considered “the good old days”. Pandemic or not, dad also recognizes that life is about making connections, even if it ends up caring for others, which worries you even more.

And yet, despite wondering how some of us can live without caring about others, or how some of us can be so rude, Dad doesn’t seem overly concerned about arguing with bad people for hope to change their behavior. His appeal to these people is quite simple: “Just do less of what you’re doing now.” Once again, Dad is asking us to tone down our rhetoric and our worst character flaws. And once again he has a message worth betraying.

Our appeal: Stream it. At a Christmas time when many of us are reuniting with loved ones for the first time in a long time, Dad’s material reminds us of what we need to be thankful for. But please don’t google a pug’s penis. No matter what dad tells you.

Sean L. McCarthy edits the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The comic of the comic; before that for real newspapers. Based in NYC but travels everywhere for news: ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes featuring comedians revealing origin stories: Comic’s comic presents last things first.

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