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Tom Papa on The Marriage Ref

Published February 22, 2010 in Television
By Fred Topel | Image property of NBC
The Marriage Ref The Marriage Ref
Tom Papa has the title role in NBC’s new show The Marriage Ref. He’ll be screening tapes of real couples having real arguments and deciding who is right once and for all.

Tom Papa Talks The Marriage Ref


“It's quite a responsibility, but I actually just am there to be funny,” Papa said. “My whole act is just about marriage and family life. That's everything I live and breathe. So this role is just very natural for me. It doesn't seem like there's any extra weight on it. It's just fun. If someone could come to my house and tell my wife and I who is right and who is wrong about all of these issues and clean them up so we never have to fight again, I would thank them. This isn't like a real weighty role here.”

He will try to be fair and take his job seriously, but the end result will be comedy one way or the other. “We really do think about them. In our way, as comedians, we always are looking for the truth. It is fun to look at these arguments and come up with a real reason as to why this one is right or this one is wrong and then just make the call. If people get angry, that's just the way it goes. There are no rules. It's really instinct. I think that's the key. We are going through these couples, and we were talking about who I would go for. Some of them, this one is right, and that one is wrong. Some of them, I don't like the way that the guy talked to that woman. I don't like the way that he condescendingly tried to get one over on her. It's just a feeling.”



The arguments range from whether or not to have a dead dog stuffed, to parking a motorcycle in the living room. These are not complicated issues requiring sensitive experts, as if there are any real experts.

“Anybody saying they're an expert on your marriage, don't believe them,” Papa said. “There's Dr. Phil and places you can go for that. This is all light and funny. This isn't fights about whether we should stay married or get divorced. It's all just silly. We find in our marriages if you laugh at all these crazy situations, you survive. That's what this show's about, surviving. We want these marriages to flourish and be okay, so we just want to have a laugh with it all.”

You’ll have to tune in to see what happens with the dog and the motorcycle couples. “She's yelling at him, ‘You have a Harley in the living room.’ And he's, like, ‘I understand that, dear.’ And he was so nice to her. I was like, what he's doing is completely insane, but how respectful is this guy? He's got to get points. It's sports-oriented with the ref. So there's a lot of telestrator. There's a lot of instant replay, a lot of those things, stop the tape, roll back. See how he raised his hand like that? Do you see that eye roll?”

Find out what call he makes when The Marriage Ref premieres Feb. 28 on NBC.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of NBC
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