"I'll tell you what it says on my tax return: Entertainer."
I had asked Paul F. Tompkins -- who I must have caught in one of those rare moments when he wasn't recording a podcast, performing on a live show, or shooting an episode of his interview series "Speakeasy" -- how he would describe his career at this point, and that was his disarmingly succinct answer.
Depending on who you are, you may know Tompkins as the snappily-dressed stand-up comedian, the quick-witted host of "Best Week Ever With Paul F. Tompkins", one of the stand-out voice and stage actors of podcast and old-time radio series "Thrilling Adventure Hour", or as one of the original ensemble performers on "Mr. Show". If you are among the comedy faithful with exquisitely-tuned tastes, you know him from all of those things and more.
In May, Tompkins launched "Speakeasy", a web chat show set in a bar that makes most web chat shows look like they were shot on an iPhone in Thunderdome. But it's not just the gorgeous camera work, inviting location and gratuitous shots of perfect pints being served that make Tompkins' series special. It's the genuine affection for the simple act of sharing a drink with someone and getting to know each other.
"I really like conversation." Tompkins explains. "I like conversations with interesting people. My favorite thing in the world is a small dinner party, where everybody is enjoying the same discussion."
In April, Tompkins debuted the one-hour special "Laboring Under Delusions", and just this Tuesday he released "Laboring Under Delusions: Live In Brooklyn", an unedited, 93-minute version of the same material from the special. The unedited release showcases Tompkins' presence as a performer, his ability to make every set an engaged interaction with that particular audience. To see him perform live is to feel you know him, to have had a drink and conversation with him of your very own.
It's that same personal style that lends itself so well to the chat show format.
In season one of "Speakeasy," Tompkins chatted with the likes of Ty Burrell, Andy Richter, Weird Al, Chris Hardwick and more. He just kicked off season two with interviews with Jesse Tyler Ferguson and, most recently, Seth Green. The season also debuts a new look for Mr. Tompkins, who is sporting a shorter 'do and has lost about 20 pounds (which he politely thanked me for not noticing).
More importantly, Tompkins says of the new episodes, "Fingers crossed, we're going to have our first woman on the show... and maybe some other people who aren't straight white males."
See the latest episode of "Speakeasy" below, and download Tompkins' "Laboring Under Delusions: Live In Brooklyn" here.