Friday, March 27, 2009

Jim Gaffigan, the whitest cat u'know

Throughout this year, I'm posting older material--like non-Blogspot stuff from a few years ago, unpublished writing I've kept buried in my computer and transcripts of interviews from A Fistful of Soundtracks' terrestrial radio years.

Here's another one from my archives, an alternate version of a 2006 plug for Jim Gaffigan, who's gotten me hooked on bacon again, and whose latest Comedy Central special, King Baby, premieres this Sunday night.


Jim Gaffigan (l.) and the most beautiful thing on Earth (r.)

The moment you hear the words "airline" and "peanuts," you know you're trapped in a room with a bad observational stand-up (or an ancient Evening at the Improv rerun full of 10 of them). On the other hand, a really good observational stand-up is someone like Indiana-born Jim Gaffigan.

Like other observational comics, Gaffigan fixates on food, but not on exhausted food-related topics like peanuts, Taco Bell or that other '80s classic, Grape Nuts ("What is the deal? It's neither a grape nor a nut!"). His favorite punching bag is Hot Pockets, which are like calzones if they were made by a crackhead and come complete with a jingle that makes "By Mennen!" sound like Kid A ("Hoooot Pocket!").

Gaffigan frequently beats up on his own appearance, like another self-deprecating paleface, Conan O'Brien. He's turned his whiteness into the key gag for a series of cheapo and very funny superhero cartoon spoofs created for Late Night with Conan O'Brien. In Pale Force, a buffed-up Gaffigan and his cowardly sidekick Conan (both voiced by Gaffigan) strike fear into the hearts of evildoers with their pale skin and laser-firing nipples. The next episode of Pale Force ought to be a celebrity deathmatch between the melanin-challenged men of steel and those albino twins from The Matrix, with Powder as the referee.

In an interview, Gaffigan said he doesn't curse anymore onstage. "Clean stand-up comedy" are three words that often scare people away, though not as badly as "Kevin Federline rapping." What's unique about Gaffigan is that he got funnier as he did away with the profanity, which is like Richard Pryor in reverse. At about the same time as the F-words vanished, he developed a falsetto "inner voice" character--an unamused, prissy female audience member commenting on Gaffigan's jokes. It's become an audience favorite. With his clever riffs on junk food, religion and Tom from MySpace-style yellow fever ("I only dated one Asian girl, but she was very Asian. She was a panda"), Gaffigan proves that curse-free observational humor doesn't have to suck like, well, a Hot Pocket.


  1. Beyond the pale is one of the best one hour packaged standup routines I've ever seen. It has stood up to repeated viewing by me.

  2. No doubt. So many great lines in Beyond the Pale:

    "Funnel cake is essentially a giant French fry covered in sugar."

    "I know I make you nauseous. Here's a Tums with 'Hug me' written on it."

    "There's too much standing involved in church. Can I lie down and worship?"

    "Not a good Catholic. I don't even feel comfortable when someone's praying next to me in church. I'm like, 'Can you do that outside? I'm trying to check out some of the ladies in here.'"

    "Seems like so much at church is memorization. I have a horrible memory. I'm always like, 'Our Father who art in heaven without the approved written consent of Major League Baseball.'"