August 9, 2023

Tom Papa can’t “Wait Wait” to come to Indy

Submitted Photo

Submitted Photo

Tom Papa has done and seemingly is doing it all - standup comedy, podcasting, acting, hosting for television shows. He's written three books. He is also a public radio veteran -- first on the old show “Live From Here”, and now occasionally on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” Tom Papa is also appearing at Clowes Memorial Hall in Indianapolis on October 6. He spoke to WFYI’s Ray Steele.

STEELE: Tom, welcome.

TOM PAPA: Nice to see you.

STEELE: I've always thought of standup comedy as one of the hardest jobs in the world, certainly one of the hardest jobs and entertainment. You've been doing it for 20 plus years now. What made you want to do this in the first place?

PAPA: Yeah, it's definitely a hard job if you're not funny. If you're not funny, I do not recommend going anywhere near this career.

STEELE: But even if you are funny, it doesn't necessarily guarantee that you're going to be a success at standup.

PAPA: Yes and no. I mean, I don't know very many people from when I started, who were absolutely hilarious, who didn't gain attention and make their way. There's been a lot of people in the middle who you know, you thought maybe they could do it, and then didn't make it. But the truly funny ones and that goes for all genders, all races all everything, the really funny ones would walk into the club and everybody would take notice. They all stuck around. And I wanted to do it since I was a little kid because I was funny. I was funny right off the bat.

STEELE: And humble, too (laughs).

PAPA: Well, I was funny. But you know, you are right, that you have to craft it and then do all the things to bring that ‘funny’ - from kindergarten running around with a banana to then make that into walking out on stage and making it work. Then it becomes a craft. And that necessitates a lot of hard work.

STEELE: (Let’s talk about) “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”  It's the only show on my station that my oldest kid who's in college likes to listen to because it's so much fun. But they do actually have points among you on the show. There is a winner among the celebrity players declared at the end of the show.  Is there a hint of competition there? Are you trying to win the show?

PAPA: There is a hint of it. I've been lucky enough to guest host it five times, which is a lot harder. Peter (Sagal)’s job is a lot harder than sitting on the panel with me and Paula Poundstone and just having fun. Some people show up and you can tell they want to win. They've got magazines, they've got articles, they've got the notes written down. I don't really care. (laughs) It’s more important that I get some good laughs, but that being said, I will be honest when I do win, it feels pretty good. And it is the first question that my wife asks when I call home after the show. ‘Did you win?’

STEELE: So, take out Hari Kondabolu, Tom. You have to do it for the family.

PAPA: Yeah, exactly. Sorry, Hari.

STEELE: Tom, it's been a pleasure. Thanks for joining me.

PAPA: Thank you. I can't wait to come your way.

You can hear Tom Papa from time to time on NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”, Saturdays at 11:00am and Sundays at Noon on 90.1 WFYI.  Papa will appear at Clowes Memorial Hall in Indianapolis on Friday, October 6.

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