The transition from the aughts to the teens found Zombie’s film career in a floundering state. HALLOWEEN II (2009) had basically been a disaster, scuttling any hopes for an immediate future follow up. In order to keep working, Zombie turned to other forms of directing: the always-trusty music video, episodic television, and even animation. His direct-to-video animated feature THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO (2009) found Zombie collaborating with comedian Tom Papa—a pairing that would lead to a rather unconventional entry in Zombie’s career. That entry was TOM PAPA: LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY, a stand-up comedy special released in 2011 to moderate fanfare and a considerable raising of Papa’s profile.
TOM PAPA: LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY is easily the most anonymous entry in Zombie’s canon. It follows the established stand-up style: a comedian standing on stage, covered from multiple cameras running simultaneously as he runs through his routine in front of a lively audience. Papa’s comedy here is leagues better than it was in THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO— his shtick comes off as a cleaner, slicker Louis CK that feels familiar and fresh at the same time. The brief opening sequence is the only instance in which Zombie gets to inject a little of his own style into the proceedings. He crafts a handheld black and white “preparation” sequence with Papa walking around backstage and interacting with a variety of macabre “Zombie”-fied characters, like a clown and a burlesque dancer. Even Zombie’s wife Sheri Moon shows up briefly as a showgirl, proving that Zombie is truly, deeply in love with his wife and will put her in anything.
Zombie does an admirable job in making Papa look good. One gets the distinct notion that Zombie didn’t take this project on as a personal growth opportunity, but rather as a way to help out a good friend and maybe even make a little bit of money in the process. On it’s face, TOM PAPA: LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY is a pedestrian journeyman effort, but its heart is in the right place.
TOM PAPA: LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY is currently available via a high definition Netflix stream.
Produced by: Jay Chapman
Production Designer: Jim Kronzer
Editor: Brenda Carlson
Music by: Craig Stuart Garfinkle