We’re All in This Together . . .
So Make Some Room
by Tom Papa
pub date 06-June-2023
St. Martin’s Press
AMBER LOVE 27-APRIL-2023 This review is a courtesy provided by NetGalley. To support this site and my other work, please consider being a monthly donor at Patreon.com/amberunmasked; you can also buy my books through Amazon (or ask your local retailer to order you copies). I also have Amazon recommendations in lists which may provide affiliate income.
- alcohol use
- a brief mention of Trump
Stand-up is all well and good, but observational humor that’s funny and warm may work best in books. And Tom Papa, whose loyal audiences are packed with “date night” couples of all ages, has perfected the form. In We’re All In This Together, Papa’s thirty-seven short essays tackle these universal American topics, among others:
–Love for Your First Car (“To Buy or Lease”)
–The Truth about Personal Hygiene (“How You Know When It’s Time to Go”)
–Date Nights (“Will You Go Out with Me?”)
–Unfamiliar Hotel Rooms (“Why Nothing Works”)
–Pets (“Cats–Ancient Menace”)
–Drinking (“There’s no Cure for a Hangover”)
–Ducking your Family, even Though you Love Them (“The Lesson of Mark Twain’s Cigars”)
Tom Papa’s books make readers laugh, but–crucially–feel better about themselves while doing it. And while there’s thematic overlap with Papa’s stand-up, with a couple of exceptions, all the writing here is fresh for our book.
I’ve watched Tom Papa’s standup comedy specials so many times, I have them memorized. There’s something about listening to stories about his family that make it feel like there’s someone else out there who understands. I doubt other people have his stories embedded into their brains the way I do. That’s important here because his books are those same stories with a lot more detail. Plus, there are plenty that even I haven’t heard before.
Readers of Generation X age who grew up before cell phones and the internet will easily relate to a lot of the life lessons and anecdotes in We’re All in This Together…So Make Some Room. If you also happen to be a New Jersey reader, you’ll find a bit extra in the nostalgia department. Papa’s fondness for his home state, the Garden State, is discussed often in his books.
If you were surrounded by drunk family or simply crazy people even when sober, essays like Quit Complaining and Don’t Swim Alone will strike a chord. It could be that wacky grandma who morning drinks with her bridge club or your dad who never consumed a glass of water in his life. Bonus points for relating if there was always food. Food and drinking—the two mainstays of family interactions.
Something that became clear to me when reading We’re All in This Together…So Make Some Room that I didn’t garner from Papa’s standup specials, is that he has a beautiful imagination and has had it since he was a child. Most kids have this until they’re forced to be serious and grow up which our society sees as being mutually exclusive from playing in the woods and visiting the fairies.
The chapter, What Gnomes Can Teach Us, is a breathtaking look inside the child’s mind. It’s a reminder that Once Upon a Time, we believed. We may not have believed in Santa Clause, but we believed in something. Unicorns. Magic. Gnomes in the garden. Or that our cats know exactly what we’re saying. Tom Papa was connected to the natural world as a child in New Jersey’s woods and shores. A copse of trees wasn’t just a place waiting for the next buyer to chop them down and build a strip mall or condos. Those trees were places where a kid could climb, spy, play Tarzan, and get away from adults—all without the worries of things like Lyme Disease. You didn’t need marijuana or shrooms as a kid.
There’s also a chapter akin to the show The Good Place which starred Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, and William Jackson Harper. It’s called The Good and the Bad. It shouldn’t take a tragedy like 9/11 to bring people together and be a little nicer to each other. Tom Papa has had enough experience mingling with other humans in airports, hotels, resorts, and the streets of New York and LA to know that people are gross and selfish. He says the world would be better if we just had better manners. And I agree.
However, I only say “Sir” or “Ma’am” when I’m being facetious and snarky to people who don’t know that inside my head, I think they’re annoying d-bags. As Papa says, the world is also filled with scumbags who use politeness as a weapon. Those people are courteous and put-together as they revoke basic human rights from others. The difference is whether you can be genuine in your politeness. Say “Excuse me” when you knock into someone; hold the door for the person behind you (if they aren’t 50 feet away of course); essentially, don’t be a Grade A a-hole.
Tom Papa’s We’re All in This Together…So Make Some Room is the kind of book that would make a great gift. Father’s Day is coming up. The recipient doesn’t need to know who this author is. They’ll be fine going into it without any pre-conceived notions. Some of the chapters are the perfect word count for one of Dad’s trips to the bathroom.
Rating: 5 stars