Photo by Rex Bullington
The somewhat recently minted host of VH-1’s
Best Week Ever!
, Paul F. Tompkins has lived, breathed, and studied stand-up comedy like it was a lifelong doctorate degree ten times over. Therefore, he’s the funniest stand-up comedian alive. I just wanted to interview him, really, about anything, but writing this guide was top on the priority list so the exchange was geared towards the appropriate direction.
Vice: What’s the next year look like for you re: festival attendance/performance?
Man, I don’t know. The production schedule of my TV show has me pretty busy. I am doing one in North Carolina. Let me look it up. OK, it’s at the University of North Carolina but I don’t know what it’s called. I will be sure to find out before I go. I might also be doing South by Southwest in Austin, which I did for the first time last year.
Which festival name is your favorite and why?
I think I like “Bumbershoot” the best. It’s the most whimsical, and it draws on the personality of the city in a subtle way. And in an even subtler way, it functions as advice. “Bring an umbrella. It’s Seattle.”
How do you view the increasing presence of comedy at music and arts festivals over the past five or so years?
I think it’s positive, on the whole. People can take a break from the one and see the other throughout the day. It’s nice.
Both personally and in respect to other performers, how do you feel about performing stand-up at a festival?
It’s tricky, sometimes. When you’re just talking, it can be an effort to maintain the focus of—and the control over—a large crowd. An audience can become a mob very easily. So sometimes it’s not as enjoyable to perform at venues like that, because you can’t relax as much as you could in a more intimate space. Like, if you’re outside? There are sooooo many distractions. You’re outside! I mean, what if a blimp appears in the sky? Personally, I would stop paying attention to my best friend if I got to look at a blimp. I think the way they float is so graceful and serene.
Create and name your dream music and arts festival. Please include location, and lineup can be any size.
What? I’m not gonna do that. That sounds like work, even for dreaming. I used to do a monthly variety show in Los Angeles, and it nearly killed me every month. So just the idea of creating a festival freaks me out.
Create and name your nightmare music and arts festival. Please include location, and lineup can be any size.
Well, I’ve already committed to not dreaming, so it’d be unfair if I nightmared. Sorry.
What bands would you like to see reunite for a future lineup of Coachella?
I would love to see the Replacements get back together at the Spoleto Festival in South Carolina, because I never got to see them live and I love Charleston. I would hope that they’d play a superlong set and start it sober, then end it drunk, so I could get both of the Replacements experiences I’ve heard so much about.
Got any mortifying festival-related war stories you’d like to share?
I’ve been pretty lucky. So, no. Wait, why do you just assume I’ve had “mortifying” experiences? I do quite well in all sorts of situations, thank you very much.