Comedian Tom Papa delivers laughs at SOPAC

Danny DeVito, Abbott and Costello, Kevin Spacey; we all know these names pretty well. They are people that make us laugh. The next big laugh comes from a man named Tom Papa.


Tom Papa performed a standup routine on Jan. 14 at SOPAC. Photo courtesy of Tom Papa.


Born and raised in Passaic, N.J., you might have seen Papa during his standup special on Netflix called “Tom Papa Live In New York City,” his guest appearance on the Stephen Colbert show, or maybe you’ve listened to his weekly podcast on Sirius XM entitled, “Come to Papa”. He hit South Orange on Saturday, Jan. 14 at the South Orange Performing Arts Center.

Dee Billia, SOPAC director of External Relations, mentioned that the Center likes to have a variety of entertainment.

“It is wonderful to present this caliber of (an) artist at SOPAC,” Billia said. “The performance was a clear success.”

Papa explained that once he graduated from Rider University, he moved to New York City and began his stand-up performances.

“We’d be bombing (and) performing in bars and people (were) throwing french fries at us and (we were) making five bucks a night and we loved every minute of it,” Papa said. “I think that’s when you know you’re meant to do something.”

Papa said he tries to write content every day. He explained that writing for comedy is not like writing a book or an article. Papa spends time looking and listening to the words he’s written on the page then he tries to make the content conversational, and then he sees how it “lives” onstage.

“It’s not like writing a book because it is constantly writing and performing at the same time,” Papa said. 

Papa looked up to George Carlin for his serious but funny content, as well as Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Cosby. He opened for Jerry Seinfeld on the road, which he said was his biggest break, and now he and Seinfeld are good friends. 

As far as content goes, Papa explained, “Influence comes from everything. I like things that mean something for a long time. I don’t get into news or politics or things that are loud and noisy and only relevant for a couple weeks or a couple months, but more cultural stuff.”

Seton Hall student Michelle Prizzi, a junior anthropology major, attended the show on Jan. 14 . “His jokes about being an adult were hilarious,” he said. “I could really relate to some of them.”

Erika Szumel can be reached at

Author: Erika Szumel

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