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Paul F. Tompkins’ ‘Varietopia’ unleashes his comedic talents in one go

As the old saying goes: variety is the spice of life. Combine that with the creatively eclectic and expansive comedic spirit of Paul F. Tompkinsand you have everything you need for a feel-good utopia, or rather a Varietopia, to bring home – even if it travels from city to city.

Featuring a freshly updated edition of his long-running live show Varietopia, which takes the City Winery stage on Thursday (May 2) for two sold-out shows, Tompkins wields a Willy Wonka-level world of pure imagination and comedic stamina while flexing all his extensive comedic muscles. Featuring elements of stand-up, music, improvisation, character work and multimedia, all in a true mixing bowl of talent and comedic perspectives, the Comedy Bang! Pop! Star looks forward to wearing all of his long-worn artistic hats simultaneously in Boston as he brings this show to town for the very first time.

Although the multi-faceted show has been around since the early 2000s, Tompkins is excited about what the show has grown into in recent years since returning to a more regular schedule.

“I’ve been doing this show on and off for about 20 years, after I started doing it at Largo in Los Angeles. I remember loving variety shows as a kid, so I wanted to do something like that when the club started doing more comedy,” says Tompkins. Vanyaland. “There were times when I might have been too busy with other things and we would stop doing the show for a while and then come back to it, with the last time I stopped being in 2014. I actually hadn’t thought about doing it again because I was doing a lot of podcasting, so learning improv as a new skill was really interesting to me at the time, and once the quarantine was over I had all this time to I thought about what I wanted to do, and I realized that I really missed those kinds of performances, so I started doing shows regularly again in 2021.”

Together with Jordan Katz’s musical direction, Tompkins has put together what he believes is the tightest show in its history, thanks to both a solid structure of a show to lean on and enough flexibility to allow for some fun spontaneity. From the beginning, these elements worked tremendously in Tompkins’ eyes, and in turn helped him achieve what he believed the show was capable of all along.

“The idea is that the show is the star of the show and the elements I have collected will be good. It shouldn’t matter whether you’ve heard of someone or not that determines whether you come to the show or not because it’s going to be an entertaining show,” Tompkins said. “What audiences can expect is more than just entertainment for their money, that these shows are very joyful and that they are kind of life-affirming in a way. It’s about feeling good, but not being saccharine or corny. Everyone is working at the top of their game, so it’s just a really nice mix of things.”

It’s one thing to be able to bring out all his favorite comedic and generally creative elements. Because the show certainly requires a specific kind of attention, Tompkins has come to love not only the final product that hits the stage each night, but also the process it takes to get there. Not to mention that the response to everything Tompkins needed to go from planning to performing is a special aspect that really makes it worth it for him.

“Honestly, the excitement of the audience towards the guests is my favorite part of the show. Sometimes when people come, it’s people they’ve heard of and I can hear the surprise in their voices and reactions, which is so nice,” says Tompkins. “If there’s someone they’ve never heard of before, the reaction afterwards, about how someone might have just discovered a new favorite artist, is such an amazing feeling.”

The mystery and wonder of the show is one thing, but something else that Tompkins cites as one of the show’s greatest exports is the naturally light and cheerful makeup, and the connection between the players that helps keep the train rolling hold.

“It’s not a cynical show, so it’s positive by default. Whatever type of art people do, these are people who have passions and are deeply invested in what they do, so they work at their level to put on a good show,” says Tompkins. “There’s a lot of camaraderie on stage, to the point where everyone really becomes fans of each other if they haven’t met before. The atmosphere of the room is always very fun and cheerful, and it’s just something special. Of course you want people to laugh, but you also want them to feel something, and you want to give them a good atmosphere, and that aspect really means a lot to me.”

While the overall vibe of the show is all about keeping it light and fun, Tompkins and his mysterious cast of comedic comrades don’t necessarily shy away from pointing out just how much of a horror show the world is right now. But first and foremost, the goal is to entertain and help bring laughter to the world, and the Philadelphia native is excited to bring those laughs back to the East Coast.

“I love being back on the East Coast and being in a place that is reminiscent of growing up in Philadelphia with that specific atmosphere,” Tompkins said. “The closer I get to home, the more ‘Philly’ I become, so it really takes me back to when I started out as a young man learning comedy, to be able to return to the East Coast after realizing my dream to be able to make a living from this, it’s very meaningful to me to be back in these places where I went through some scary times of figuring out what I was going to do, and wanting so fervently to be good at it. So it’s very meaningful for me to be back as a professional entertainer.”

PAUL F. TOMPKINS: VARIETOPIA :: Thursday, May 2 at City Winery, 80 Beverly St. in Boston, MA :: 6:00 PM and 9:30 PM, $30 to $45 :: Advance tickets