Tom Papa has built a thriving career as a club headliner nationwide, and as the opening act at nearly every Jerry Seinfeld tour show. While the host of the popular Come to Papa podcast and former host of the NBC show The Marriage Ref has a pretty clean-cut family-guy image, he got a big surprise while working on the set of the HBO movie about Liberace, Behind the Candelabra – as he told Carl Kozlowski, Sal Rodriguez and Clive Aden, the co-hosts of radiotitans.com’s podcast, Grown-Ass Men.
Papa has long collaborated with rocker Rob Zombie as the director of his standup DVDs, but working with Candelabra director Steven Soderbergh – an Oscar winner for “Traffic” – was an entirely different end of the creative and critical spectrum. While he was proud to be a part of the Emmy-winning biopic, playing Liberace’s tour manager, he wasn’t around for the movie’s most notorious scenes.
“I didn’t see [‘Candelabra’ costars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon] make out. It was my one day off. I came back in and Matt asked what’d you do yesterday. I said I was with family at the pool, and Matt said ‘I climbed out of a pool in a speedo, straddled Mike [Douglas] and made out with him all day.’”
At that point, Men cohost Rodriguez cracked: “Did he get throat cancer from making out with Michael?” Papa laughed at that before offering one final insight from the Liberace movie experience:
“They were hilarious. Michael would stay in character on the set. There was a Matt scene where Michael and I are in background, not on a mic. Michael was still in Liberace voice and he said ‘Wow [Soderbegh is] doing a lot of takes on this one, I wish he would hurry up, I’ve gotta take a dump.’ So if you ever see that scene, I’m in the back trying not to laugh.”
Papa also shared his memories of working with Joan Rivers, for whom he opened in New York City just two weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In fact, he recalls that the famously daring comedian actually shocked the audience into laughter by wearing a gas mask on stage.
“The first time I met her was a couple weeks after 9/11. She had a show at the [Madison Square] Garden and asked me to open for her. I met her backstage and she was mean and she was funny. She was a real comic, not just a lady selling jewelry on QVC. So I was done and she said ‘Go back and take your bow.’ I laughed and she said ‘Go do it.’ So I did and came back and she said ‘See, that’s how show biz works.’ Then she went on stage with a gas mask and said ‘They’re coming back!’[about the terrorists], right there in the heart of Manhattan.’
Hear more of Papa’s extensive interview with “Grown-Ass Men,” here, at radiotitans.com. Find hundreds of other interviews with comedians, filmmakers, writers, musicians and more at www.radiotitans.com. “Grown-Ass Men” streams live Fridays from 10 am-noon PST before being downloadable shortly after from www.radiotitans.com.
Carl Kozlowski is a co-founder of www.radiotitans.com, and host of “The Koz Effect”, “Kozversations,” and “Grown Ass Men.He is also an entertainment correspondent and a booker for “Grand Theft Audio” and the winner of the world-famous Laugh Factory’s “America’s Funniest Reporter” contest.