Inside the Presidential Primaries with Paul F. Tompkins

Last Thursday night Fusion aired the first in a two-part special report of its comedy news show No, You Shut Up! Host Paul F. Tompkins and his panel of puppets were joined by guests like Kristen Schaal and Hannibal Buress to take stock in the current field of 2016 presidential candidates. The second special report airs tonight at 10pm. To get you primed, I talked to Tompkins from the No, You Shut Up! offices about the upcoming fourth season of the series, his political opinions and his ongoing efforts to slow down and take care of himself.

Season 4 of No, You Shut Up! doesn’t premiere until February 2016. There’s so much wild material to work with right now in the presidential race from people like Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Ben Carson. Are you concerned that some of these people might fall off between now and then and that you might be struggling for characters to work with?

I doubt that we’ll run out of things to talk about. Elections are so crazy. No matter who it ends up being, even if some of the more extreme people drop out along the way, I think there will still be plenty to talk about.

Do you have a particular candidate that you hope will advance?

From a professional standpoint or from a human voter standpoint?

From a personal standpoint.

From a personal standpoint I really like that Bernie Sanders is making so much noise. I like that he’s being taken seriously in polling. I think it’s good to shake things up and I think he’s doing that. For the Republican party I wish that there was somebody… like a guy like John Kasich. I hope he’ll be able to stay in because he seems like a reasonable human being. But he’s not getting the attention and he’s not getting the numbers that the more extreme people are getting. I think that’s a real shame.

In the last few elections the noisiest people in the Republican party have been the ones with the most extreme, cringeworthy viewpoints. But they get people coming out of the woodwork for them. I think people are like, “Finally, somebody is saying in public what we’ve been saying in private all along.”

That’s the thing. It’s a shift in tone that I think really started with Sarah Palin. She was just a nasty person who said nasty things. It seems the more shallow and mean the candidates are the more they rise in the polls. I personally think – and maybe this is a little too Pollyanna of me – that when it comes time to actually vote I don’t think people are going to vote on meanness or straight talk alone. I think they really want someone who seems like they can actually do a good job running things. I don’t think anyone in the Republican field has really shown that they can do that. But I need to be fair. There has been a lot of talk about a lot of other bullshit. The CNBC debate – as much as you can say those guys were being babies because they didn’t like the questions – had some terrible questions. They were not helpful to the American public as voters.

What are some of the issues that you’re most concerned about?

The things on my mind a lot lately are gun control and Planned Parenthood. The fact that we keep saying that there’s nothing we can do about gun control is really scary to me. I feel like people are just giving up and that the NRA has such a powerful lobby that they’re winning. There are a number of things we have to try. I think we need a president who is going to make that a priority. Obviously a president can’t rule as a king and ban all guns. But I think we need a president who is going to make sure that there is gun control and that people still feel like their freedoms are intact. People need to feel a little safer. These mass shootings are happening in such a degree that it kind of makes you not want to go to the movies. It’s a thing we didn’t have to worry about before and it’s starting to feel like a more and more likely occurrence in our lives. As for Planned Parenthood, the idea of trying to defund them is a really terrible thing. They do a lot of great stuff for women. It’s something the public needs to be continually educated on as to what Planned Parenthood does and how they can help.

You’re exactly right. There’s so much misinformation about Planned Parenthood floating around right now. Too many people think it’s just an abortion store. A lot people don’t understand the wide range of services they provide for women and men.

We need to leave women alone. Stop making things so difficult for them all of the time.

Comedy and satire have always played an important role in analyzing and breaking down politics. With your show you have the ability to use comedy to get ideas across. If done right, humor can cause people to lower their guards and hear something in a different way for the first time. Do you feel a heavy sense of responsibility to make sure that you’re getting these ideas out in a respectful way while still being funny?

Yeah, that’s always the goal. All comedy, whether it’s based on current events or personal experience, is all about trying to get out a clear message while still being funny. We just happen to be talking about political stuff and the affairs of the day, but the mission is the same. The responsibility is heightened a little bit because you want people to really look at this, examine these things and make up their own minds. We want to present them with something to think about. We’re trying to make a point in a funny way. That’s sort of the in. Then hopefully the ideas will get people thinking, starting conversations. But it starts with being funny for sure.

I was reading an interview from around the time you decided to end Speakeasy where you said that you wanted to do less and focus on just a couple of things specifically. Quality over quantity. But recently your special came out, you’re doing Spontaneanation, you’ve got No, You Shut Up!, you just did the CollegeHumor Comedy Music Hall of Fame thing. Are you really sticking to that plan of slowing down and focusing on a couple of things or are more opportunities coming your way that you feel you just can’t pass up?

Believe it or not I really am. Sure, there are things that are absolutely impossible to say no to. Also, there are things that I recorded a long time ago that are just coming out now. I definitely have made an effort to slow down and do a few things as well as I possibly can and just take care of myself, have more of a balanced life and make sure I don’t run myself down.

After the second No, You Shut Up! special report there will be break until the regular season starts up in February. What can we look for from you between now and then?

My podcast will be released every Monday. I did a voice for a couple episodes of Venture Bros. And of course, BoJack Horseman. We’re almost finished recording Season 3 and people should be able to see it next summer.

Inside the Presidential Primaries with Paul F. Tompkins