Spontaneanation with Paul F. Tompkins is a comedy/interview podcast hosted by actor/comedian Paul F. Tompkins, the former host of the Dead Authors Podcast, frequent guest of podcasts such as Comedy Death Ray Radio and The Thrilling Adventure Hour, and an actor in TV shows such as Bojack Horseman. Episodes of the podcast are divided into three parts; beginning with a brief, comedic monologue by Tompkins himself, followed up with an interview with a special guest, centered around a specific question asked of them, and ending with a long-form improvised comedic sketch performed by Tompkins and a 3-person panel of improvisational comedians. (The special guest will occasionally participate as well.) The show is generally done in-studio, but occasionally performed in a live setting, often at the Los Angeles lounge Largo at The Coronet, where Tompkins maintains a residency.
Improvisational comedy plays a central role in the podcast, and is a recurring theme throughout each episode. The question each special guest interview is based upon is given by the previous guest, (Often leading to some awkwardly specific questions) the long-form improv is also based upon details gleamed from the interview itself, incorporating a location specified by the guest. Even though the skit is completely improvised, some structure exists in the form of special sound effects used to move the setting about in time. (Backwards into the past, forwards into the future, or sideways to another location in the present.)
The proceedings are scored live and on the spot on piano, (Except for rare occasions when it is scored alongside the already-recorded podcast) performed by composer Eban Schletter, who has been a longtime collaborator of Paul F. Tompkins, and has written musical score for Mr. Show, SpongeBob SquarePants, and has been a session musician and collaborator for Garfunkel and Oates, Jill Sobule, and many more.
Special guests of the podcast have included Jon Hamm, Michael Sheen, Kristen Schaal, Phil La Marr, Margaret Cho, Jonathan Coulton, Paget Brewster, and numerous others, while the panel of improvisational comedians has featured seasoned improvisers like Hal Lublin (The Venture Bros.), Marc Evan Jackson (The Thrilling Adventure Hour), Colleen Smith (No, You Shut Up!), Craig Cackowski (Drunk History), Gary Anthony Williams (The Boondocks), Matt Gourley (The Super Ego Podcast), Chris Tallman (The Thundermans), Janet Varney (The Legend of Korra), Brandon Johnson (Rick and Morty), Steve Agee (The Sarah Silverman Program) and many more. Often guests from Paul F. Tompkins' previous projects including The Super Ego Podcast, The Thrilling Adventure Hour, Bojack Horseman, or Bajillion Dollar Propertie$ will make appearances either as interview guests, or guest improvisers. A complete listing of the various guests and improvisers that have appeared can be found on Spontaneanation's page on The Other Wiki.
Episodes are available through the iTunes Store or directly from their web site on the Earwolf Podcast Network.
Spontaneanation provides examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: Most of the long-form scenarios have featured this at some point, due to Rule of Funny.
- Ascended Extra: Craig Cackowski, a frequent improviser on the program, ended up being the interview guest for the 81st and 99th episodes of the program.
- Again in episode #83, with frequent improvisers Janet Varney & Jean Villepique.
- Call-Back: Being an improv-based podcast, Spontaneanation is full of these, especially during the improvised segment, in which the acted-out scene must draw details from the previous interview and other moments that occurred before the segment to craft a scenario.
- Catchphrase: From episode 7 onward, Paul closes each episode by saying "Semper en Presente!" (Latin for "Always In The Moment")
Paul: Are you curious to the identity of this guest?
- When the improvised scene reaches an end, Paul will bring it to a close with: "And it all happened in a place called Spontaneanation."
- In more recent episodes Paul has taken to cutting to commercial breaks by saying: "No matter what occurs: Stay alive!"
- Since near the beginning of the series, before Paul would introduce the interview question to his guest, he would ask the guest: "Are you curious as to who posited this interview question?" If the guest responded in the affirmative Paul would follow it up with a self-promoting plug to purchase a subscription to the premium streaming service Spontaneanation is available on (Either Howl.FM or Stitcher Premium) to find out. ("Hours of listening pleasure await you!") Since episode 112 he has discontinued this running joke, stating that he was sick of it.
- Subverted in both of Ron Funches appearances:
Ron: Ah, you know I'm not.
Paul: ...h'whelp! Asked and answered! Moving on.
- Crossover: There have been multiple occasions when the guests or the long-form improvisers in an episode have been the cast of another podcast or live improv show. (Examples have included crossovers with fellow Earwolf podcasts Super Ego and Hollywood Handbook, as well as live improv shows like The Black Version, and castmates of Paul's former TV show No, You Shut Up!)
- Ultimately culminated in the inception of the first ever "Crossover Month" in April of 2017, in which every week the guests and improvisers were from a TV show or fellow podcast.
- In-Series Nickname: Paul's bluesman-inspired nickname for recurring guest and improviser: "Little Janet Varney".
- Recurring Character: Not during the improvised segments, but the commercial breaks in-between segments (Presented by Paul F. Tompkins himself) are often presented in the form of improvised characters, who have had a tendency to take on a life and story of their own, while still advertising products.
- Mitch, a hapless stumblebum who is often blissfully unaware of his surroundings and is eager to share information about products to his frustrated, put-upon friend Dolores. Mitch will begin to talk about a product only for Dolores to intermittently interrupt him to remind him of the current dangerous situation they have found themselves in. (On the edge of an active volcano, swallowed by a whale, in the middle of defusing a bomb, etc.)
- The Contraptionaire, originally a character born out of an improv segment, The Contraptionaire is a stereotypical old Southern gentleman from Savannah, Georgia, who makes his way in the world building and selling complicated "contraptions" that are visually impressive, but aren't particularly useful.
- Santa Claus, the omnipotent, immortal mythological character, whom Paul portrays with an incredibly filthy mouth, and clearly tired from handling Christmas year after year. This character originated from Paul's appearances on the Comedy Death Ray Radio podcast.
- Mack Weldon, the namesake of the real-world undergarment company. A rugged man's man who wears cowboy hats, invents new forms of socks and underwear on his ranch, and hates microbes.
- Al A. Peterson, a mysterious man currently on the run from the law also known as "The Smooth Criminal", because he has no head or body hair. Long ago he faked having alopecia in order to get out of a relationship, and later found a job after earning sympathy from it, leading him to constantly shave his body hair off in order to keep the ruse up. Currently runs a business to help people fake their own deaths. This character would later make appearances on the Comedy Death Ray Radio podcast and live tour.
- Frankie Valli, a parody version of the famed singer of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, who is constantly incorporating the advertisements into his music, is under government investigation for accidentally hacking into NORAD while trying to make a website, and fears demonic possession.
- Cal Solomon, a founding member of seminal rap group The Sugarhill Gang who was fired after making exorbitant tour demands, and it was discovered that he had no real ability to rap. He is currently trying to get a new rap group together called "The Sugar Mountain Ensemble." This character would later make appearances on the Comedy Death Ray Radio podcast and live tour.
- Peter Gabriel, a blatant parody of the solo artist and former Genesis vocalist. Paul's version of the singer has a thick New York accent, lives in a castle that he purchased after writing jingles for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, owns a walk-in refrigerator, and enjoys looking at internet memes.
- Running Joke: Eban Schletter, the live pianist cannot speak during the podcast, and thus only communicates to Paul through musical cues and noises made with his piano.
- Shout-Out: Every episode ends with a plug section, where the improvisers can promote current or upcoming projects of theirs.
- Any time Paul makes reference to a famous piece of music/song during his opening monologue, Eban will incorporate it into whatever musical backdrop he's currently playing. Similarly whenever Paul mentions a movie or a TV show, Eban will perform the theme song to it on the spot, much to Paul's annoyance.
- During live performances, when Craig Cackowski is one of the guest improvisers, Paul and Craig will address the audience as "Cack-Attackers", a nickname for fans of Craig.
- Simultaneous Arcs: A frequent device of the long-form improv, controlled by the sound effects device.
- Special Guest: During the interview segments, and occasionally during the improvised portion.
- Time Machine: The sound effects device, in a sense, which can move the improvised scenario forward and backwards through time.