Agatha Christie and healthy fear: Paul F. Tompkins talks about upcoming We the People Improv festival

Photo: Sam Abrams Photography

Paul F. Tompkins and his “Superego” sketch podcast co-hosts may not know exactly what will happen while doing an entire show based on a book they have never read, but that’s the beauty of improv.

As experts in embracing the unknown and making it funny, Tompkins and co-hosts Matt Gourley, Jeremy Carter and Mark McConville will tackle Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery “A.B.C. Murders” to headline We the People Improv Festival this weekend. The comedians have been producing their podcast for more than a decade, and it only gets better in front of a live audience. Metro caught up with the “Bojack Horseman” star to chat about what to expect during We the People, getting started in showbiz and what he does while he’s home in Philly.

What do you have planned for your shows this Friday?

On “Superego”, we improvise sketches and they are edited for the studio podcast so it becomes a sketch show. When we do the live show, we need to do it in real time. During “Forgotten Classics” we take a book that none of us have ever read. We only have the character names, and the first and last lines of the novel, so we improvise everything else. We have only done this live a handful of times, and it’s a fun challenge.

Why did you and your co-hosts choose “A.B.C. Murders” for this show?

We did one Agatha Christie mystery before, and we could not resist doing this for a new audience. Her mysteries are right up our alley. They have familiar tropes, but we play around with them, and we get to do so many different characters in one show in order to populate the entire book. It’s a lot of different voices and attitudes. These shows are really magical, if I can say that myself.

How would you describe your approach to improv and being onstage?

For me, improv came much later in my career, I started out as a standup and did that for many years. I moved to LA and started doing improv at the advent of podcasts. That’s actually how I learned the basics and then went straight into the deep end. I invited the best improvisers to help improve my game. It’s exciting to learn a new thing later in my career and bring new people into my life.

On a scale of 1-10, how much confidence do you need just to walk up to a mic and start talking in front of an audience?

10 for confidence, and a solid five for fear. The confidence gets you on the stage, but that doesn’t mean you know what’s going to happen. I think it’s important to go into it feeling like you know what you’re doing and excited to have things thrown at you, but you should always be little scared so you don’t get cocky.

What’s your relationship with Philly like these days?

I never have enough time here. It’s mostly spent catching up with people I know and going to bars and restaurants. I still feel a very strong connection to the city whenever I go home, just walking around the city. It sends me right back to the times when I lived there and how important was to me in a very formative time of my life. Also, I’m excited for the Phillies versus the Dodgers game this weekend.

Catch “Superego: Forgotten Classics” at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre at 7 p.m. (SOLD OUT) and 9:30 p.m. on July 19.

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