'Marriage Ref' is a stand-up kind of guy

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 5, 2010 - 8:30 PM

Have you ever noticed that Tom Papa, host of NBC's "The Marriage Ref," has a similar vocal cadence to Jerry Seinfeld, creator of the TV show?

OK, neither has Papa. "Maybe we're hanging out too much," he said last weekend, after the first of four sold-out shows at Acme Comedy Co.

Papa and Seinfeld have been friends for nine years. "I was in the [NYC] clubs coming up," Papa said. "There was just one week where we ran into each other. He didn't really know that many people there -- at the time, all his crew was gone. We just kind of hit it off, had a similar sense of humor and started hanging out in the clubs together and started going out on the road together. And then he had this idea for the show."

I had a delicate question about the show, which features a changing roundtable of celebrities deciding stupid disputes that couples have posed.

What percentage of the couples on the show would Papa guess is still having sex with their spouse?

"I would say it's a low percentage that is not [having sex] anymore. Everybody seems pretty connected. There were a couple of people who have seemed more frigid toward each other," Papa said.

"What's really cool to me about it: You see them come up on the monitor. I love when we actually get to see them live. They've gone through this fight and you think, Geez, are they in trouble? Are they going to make it? But they know it's marriage, you have this fight, they're in love."

Papa understands what's really going on in most of the marital disputes: "A lot of it's about power, exerting power, not necessarily that you're disgusted by something, but 'I'm the one in charge here.'"

Papa said we should watch for an upcoming show featuring a couple married for 66 years. "You see the two of them, they're so intimate with each other, it's crazy," Papa said.

Crazy is the direction the phone lines went at Acme Comedy after Papa was on "Joy's Comedy Corner," a Joy Behar segment on "The View," a couple of weeks ago. At the end of the segment, during which Behar graciously pulled back and let Papa's hysterical, low-key observations about marriage and family have the floor, she mentioned that Papa had an upcoming gig in Minneapolis at Acme. Locals reacted instantly.

"I heard that," Papa said. "It's so great. We sold out all the shows."

Miss Shannan, a comedian and the promotions and marketing director at 96.3 Now, the FM station formerly known as B96, was one of the opening acts for Papa. Miss Shannan, who had worked with Papa before, asked to work with him again at Acme. She also kindly arranged for me to interview Papa, who sidestepped my request that he dole out advice to certain high-profile couples with marriages in scandalous disarray.

"You don't know what's really going on," Papa said of Elin and Tiger and Sandra and Jesse. "You don't know what they knew, so it's hard to say [anything]."

Oh, come now. Would Sandra Bullock have brought brown Louis into her marriage knowing of her cheating husband's appreciation for Hitler?

"Good point, very good point," Papa said.

As for the strangest thing going on in his marriage right now, Papa said he is perplexed about why his wife wants to have a conversation whenever she sees him reading a book.

I'll ref this one: Let the man read in peace.

Charity by any name

There's a clever charity event today that Sandra Bullock may not know about even though her name's being used.

Today's installment of Lori Barghini's MyTalk 107.1 show is a "Bullock Baby Shower" to benefit Harriet Tubman Center, the Minneapolis domestic abuse facility. Barghini will anchor the show from the Crave restaurant in St. Louis Park. Listeners are invited, but not required, to bring baby gifts or make donations from 4-7 p.m.

"No, we haven't [contacted Bullock] because we're not really sending gifts to Sandra," Barghini said.

Her show also did a tribute show for Farrah Fawcett after her death was inexplicably ignored at the Oscars.

Web moguls at benefit

A couple of webby-weights are expected at Saturday's annual PACER's benefit because they just love the entertainment.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, a former Google.com veep, is scheduled to be there along with her Minnesota-raised husband, David Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey.com. Goldberg is the son of PACER's Executive Director Paula Goldberg, who told me, "They're coming to the benefit because they really, really like Lyle Lovett" and his Large Band, who are headlining the entertainment.

Sandberg, who has been on a couple of financial magazines' lists of the nation's most powerful women, sounds like a fascinating, exceedingly well-organized person based on a story about her in the May issue of Vogue. She has got something a friend describes as "infectious insistence," and she tells it as it is, instead of saying what you want to hear.

C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or cj@startribune.com. She can be seen on FOX 9 Thursday mornings.

  • BENEFIT 1

    Lori Barghini will broadcast her show today from St. Louis Park's Crave as a benefit for the Harriet Tubman Center.

    BENEFIT 2

    Lyle Lovett will headline Saturday night's annual PACER benefit at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

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