Tom Papa: You’re Doing Great!

2 out of 5

Directed by: Gregory Jacobs

Though not unfunny, Tom Papa’s You’re Doing Great! special is like the procedural version of standup, covering standby subject matter – marriage! kids! social media! – and making funny faces and sound effects when appropriate. Papa’s pacing and delivery are excellent, sifting incredibly naturally through his jokes, and pulling off an affectation that’s a great balance between flat and quirky. There’s nothing wrong with procedural standup.

…And in theory, having a central theme (which is found the special’s title, important around the time of Covid, when we all needed a back-patting pick-me-up) is great for stand-up as well, keeping what would otherwise be random subjects linked – whether actually linked or not – around some concepts to which one can return, giving the set focus, but there are aspects of Papa’s presentation which make the theme feel somewhat forced. Some of this can be found in the direction and editing: the direction is standard front and back shots; Papa stands in one spot, so this approach matches, but some more dynamic shots with the crowd could’ve helped to elevate some material (especially when he’s interacting with the crowd), and the pauses for larger laughter… don’t seem to sync up with jokes / comments that merit it. These aspects give the special and cut-and-paste vibe that undermines the patter, further not helped by when Papa steps off script for chatting with the crowd, and then clearly tries to force it back on to script.

Again – not unfunny. And definitely an acceptable passing of time. But in the realm of televised standup, there are funnier sets, but also much better presented standard sets.