review by: Travis M. Andrews
They say there are seven life-changing events we can experience. Having children is definitely on this list. Making a joke about Hot Pockets giving you diarrhea somehow didn’t make the cut. Yet these are two of the most important things that ever happened to actor/comedian and now writer Jim Gaffigan.
Gaffigan spent this past night discussing these topics with NPR’s Scott Simon at Sixth and I Synagogue. The pair, wearing what appeared to be coordinated red footware of sock or shoe, sat in straight-backed chairs and discussed Gaffigan’s new book Dad is Fat. The book is comic memoir of sorts about being a father to five children, all of who live with him and his wife in a two-bedroom apartment near Houston and Bowery Streets in Lower Manhattan.
Simon and Gaffigan share a natural chemistry, Simon mostly setting Gaffigan’s various bits up. E.g. “Can I get you talk about your wife Jeannie [North]?” asks Simon to the immediate response, “I’ve never met her.”
But, unlike during his standup, he then spends a while discussing how Jeannie is his other half in everything. She is his writing partner—during a later Q&A, a child demanded to know just how much she wrote—and his life partner. He joked that some might call them co-dependent, but even with his asides, his utter love and devotion to her is obvious.
Gaffigan is something of an anomaly in today’s world. Though he hates when people write the exact thing I’m about to write, he works in a world that is often known for its crudeness. Take a look at some superstar comedians in today’s world: Louis C.K., Amy Schumer, Lewis Black. But Gaffigan doesn’t only not curse, his material is about the everyday things we all deal with. I mean, who hasn’t played a game of “find the bacon” while eating a salad with bacon bits?
So it’s refreshing to hear him speak openly and honestly about being a father. And the thing about Jim Gaffigan that seems to be missing from so much of modern pop culture is that he takes extreme joy in being a dad. The man absolutely loves it, and it’s obvious in everything he says, even his jokes: “There’s something about taking your kids to the zoo that makes them crave ice cream” and “I’m amazed by how often we lie to our children. I know there’s a kid in the front row. I’m not talking about your parents.” And it becomes increasingly obvious when he says it: “I love being a dad.”
The stories he told are wonderful, touching and, above all, funny. But I won’t waste words on them here: they’re detailed in his new book in a far funnier fashion than I can relay.
I will say this: It’s refreshing to hear a celebrity discuss the joys of family life, rather than the pitfalls. And it’s refreshing to see a side of Jim Gaffigan that is so poignantly human, the audience seemed genuinely warmed by his presence. Between laughs, of course.
While he’s always been “clean,” he doesn’t inject much in the way of true emotion in his comedy. You don’t leave a Gaffigan show feeling like you’ve been exposed to some truth, the way you might when leaving a Louis C.K. show. So when he, in between his jokes, such as “[Children] are the better part of humans,” calls being a dad “the most important thing I’ll ever do in my life,” it’s a little surprising, if not completely welcome. When he follows with “And I have no idea what I’m doing,” everyone has an excuse to laugh, while considering their own fathers or their own children
The strangest thing, though? “My children have never had a Hot Pocket,” Gaffigan said.