Arts and Culture

Tom Papa Wants You to Eat More Bread

Tom Papa headlines Comedy Works South from Thursday, September 27, through Saturday, September 29.
Tom Papa headlines Comedy Works South from Thursday, September 27, through Saturday, September 29. Dan Dion
Comedian Tom Papa – host of the Food Network's brand-new series Baked, which premiered September 3 – is a charming and knowledgeable guide to the nation's best bakeries. He's also recorded three standup specials, most recently 2016's Human Mule, and appeared in films such as Top Five, Behind the Candelabra and The Informant!, as well as shows like Inside Amy Schumer, The Marriage Ref and The Knick. He starred in an NBC sitcom and a Sirius XM podcast called Come to Papa, too.

Now Papa's back in Denver, and he's got a brand-new bag of jokes. To help celebrate one of the world's finest observational comics ahead of his weekend-long engagement at Comedy Works South from Thursday, September 27, through Saturday, September 29, Westword caught up with Papa via email to briefly discuss his new show, fail to acquire a recipe and confirm his fondness for Denver.

Westword: Your latest endeavor is the Food Network's Baked. What inspired your interest in the art of baking?

Tom Papa: I love bread, and then realized it doesn't always come from the supermarket. People actually make it with their hands. Now I'm one of those people.

At the risk of blowing your host-ly objectivity, who are some of your favorite bakers in the country or the world, for that matter?

Gian Pierro in Queens, N.Y. Kate's Bread in Ojai, California. But there are so many great places out there.

Can you share a simple sourdough recipe with our kindly readers?

No! Not because I'm mean, but it's not that simple. I'll tell you the ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast.

You've recently been appointed as a head writer on Live From Here, public radio's de facto replacement for Prairie Home Companion. How did you prepare to accept the mantle of a broadcasting legend?

For the past five years, I have been writing comedy for my own radio show on Sirius/XM and the podcast Come to Papa, so when the phone rang, I was ready.

How does the new program differ from its predecessor?

The old program was really the vision and voice of one man; this version is more of a collective voice of a wide range of talented musicians and comedians. But we try and honor the sense of place and joy that he created.

Your first book, Your Dad Stole My Rake: And Other Family Dilemmas, was published just this June. How did you approach the memoir-writing process?

I took my writing process for standup comedy and quadrupled the amount of time and coffee.

What differentiates the sort of family dilemmas that make for an amusing anecdote and the ones that call for the treatment of a therapist?

If you look close enough, they all have amusing aspects, especially what goes on in a therapist's office.

Can you characterize your latest hour? What can fans expect at these shows?

It's an optimistic escape from the noise you find on TV. And it has a lot more laughs.

Do you have any plans to adapt your current material into a standup special in the near future? What title would you give the hour if you had to choose one now?

Eventually. If I were to name it today, I would call it "My Love Affair With Denver."

Is there anything else you want to mention before we wrap up the interview?

Yes. Eat more bread.

Tom Papa headlines Comedy Works South from Thursday, September 27, through Saturday, September 29. Visit the Comedy Works box-office page for the complete schedule and to buy tickets, $25 to $30.
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Byron Graham is a writer, comedian and gentleman thief from Denver. Co-host of Designated Drunkard: A Comedy Drinking Game, the deathless Lion's Lair open mic and the Mutiny Book Club podcast, Byron also writes about comedy for Westword. He cannot abide cowardice, and he's never been defeated in an open duel.
Contact: Byron Graham