Relax. It's good. You're doing fine.
It's the mantra of stand-up Tom Papa -- and just what some folks may need to hear during these tense times. The producers at "Prairie Home Companion" seem to agree. They've booked the comedian for this Saturday's show at The Fitzgerald, just a week after he performed two shows in the state.
"How badly did you want to cancel?" said the 48-year-old comic Friday night after blowing kisses to the packed house at the Woman's Club of Minneapolis.
Not that badly. Papa may be best known as one of Jerry Seinfeld's best bros, but he's a clever, quick-witted performer all on his own. His non-political slant on the world (he didn't mention Donald Trump once) offers a much-needed pause from the stream of enraged posts filling up your Twitter account.
Papa gets it. He knows his role: Remind your fans that no matter how emotionally charged the news may get, we're all still the same schlubs who, deep down inside, want to blow off date night, go home and take off our pants.
"I'm just aggravated that we have to pay attention," said Papa in one of his rare acknowledgements of the ever-changing headlines. "I don't have time to take on another activity."
Papa's people are busy. They are the dude who works in a pipe, existing on hot dogs from 7-11; the Costco regular who can't afford to shop for conflict-free M&Ms, the woman hijacked by her family for a morning-TV makeover that she really doesn't want. His hero's dream: retiring to a crummy beach, making bagels before sunrise.
Papa doesn't do impersonations in the traditional sense. But with a subtle change in posture, and a slight change in tone, he captures the working-class American in ways that TV sitcoms so often try, and fail, to do.
I've seen Papa about four times and he's always impressed me as one of the sharpest, best prepared stand-ups in the business. But maybe we just bring out the best of him.
"Why is Minneapolis the best comedy city in the United States?" he mused near the end of his 80-minute set. "Is it because of the cold? 'I've got to get out of the house!'"
Maybe. More likely, it's the fact that the New Jersey native has a better appreciation than his peers for the view from flyover land.
If you missed Papa this past weekend in Minneapolis and in Red Wing, and can't get into Saturday's show at The Fitz (it's already sold out), you can catch his "Come to Papa" podcast co-starring his very amiable warm-up act Paul Morrissey. You can also take comfort in the fact that Papa will be back soon. He always is.
In other words, Relax. It's good. We'll be fine.