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Arts & Culture

Comedian Jim Gaffigan Enjoys Highlighting Cultural Silliness

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It’s often said that it’s healthy to laugh at ourselves. If that’s true, Jim Gaffigan is in great shape. Gaffigan’s observations about his eating habits, lack of physical activity, and life as a married father of five while living in a two-bedroom Manhattan apartment have been mainstays in his standup act. And now he stars in a new sitcom on TVLand called The Jim Gaffigan Show.

Jim Gaffigan performed his standup comedy Saturday night at the Uptown Amphitheater. He spoke to WFAE’s Greg Collard.

Transcript of segment

Greg Collard: Life is changing for Jim Gaffigan. There’s his new TV show, and Gaffigan and his family moved to a bigger place this year.

One thing that's not changed? Food. It's always been a staple of Gaffigan’s act. A bit on the mysteries of the Hot Pocket is a classic. What he calls “McDonald’s denial” is another food subject he’s addressed.

So what's the food or food topic on his mind these days?

Gaffigan: I think there's always kind of a food trend whether it be kale, which I describe as a super food and its super power is that it tastes horrible... In New York City there's been the trend towards avocado toast, which I think it's hysterical. It's essentially an avocado chopped up and put on a piece of toast, and they charge $20 for it. We're just silly. We're silly creatures. We're trying to always impress one another, and we get caught up in these trends. I think it's funny.

Collard: Have you tried avocado toast?

Gaffigan: Yes, it's amazing. The avocado is an amazing vegetable. It's so good it should be classified as a cheese. But the whole notion of avocado toast, it's silly to me.

Collard: You're known as a "clean" comedian. You don't curse on stage - at least I haven't seen you in your specials. Is that by design or a result of the content you perform?

Gaffigan: I think it's a very much just a result of the content I'm discussing. It's not really necessary to curse if you're talking about donuts, I suppose. And some of it (is a) minor design. I curse occasionally. I'm from a small town in the Midwest, so I'm not someone who would say the most obnoxious thing on stage anyway. But I think comedians get a lot of criticism for just doing the comedy they would do. Some of my favorite comedians are considered "dirty," but that's just the only comedy they would do just as my comedy is the only comedy I would do.

Collard: In the '90s, a lot of sitcoms it seems were based on the comedy of standups. Shows like Home Improvement and Everybody Loves Raymond come to mind. More recently is seems like a standup comedian's life behind the scenes has almost become its own comedy genre. There's Louis C.K., Marc Maron, Jim Jeffries had his own show and now there's The Jim Gaffigan Show. Why do you think audiences are connecting to scripted shows about the lives of comedians?

Gaffigan: I think some of that has to do with reality shows. I think wanting to see behind the curtain is something that's very curious to people. I mean, even going back to Seinfeld, like the fact that that was about a comedian was, I think, curious to people. But there's so much  reality (TV) and we're such a voyeuristic culture and an exhibitionist culture that it makes sense.

Collard: These days if a comedian offends a segment of society, people are going to hear about it through social media. Do you need thicker skin these days to take that criticism or do you think comedians are thinking more these days about what they say?

Gaffigan: That's a pretty interesting question because I think that some comedians are kind of flame-throwers that play to a certain side, whether it be on the political spectrum or something like that. I do feel like we are a culture that is, because of social media, that's kind of looking for people to make mistakes. Even making a grammatical error on Twitter. I'll do a tweet - I have horrible grammar - and people will just rip me apart for a grammatical error. But I don't think comedians are cautious of it. I think that people are more aware of it and I also think some comedians almost play into it. If you're going to shock people by saying something, they'll point that out. But I also think it's pretty important for people to learn when they're coming across as insensitive. That all being said, I most certainly am not a believer in censorship. I think we all are censoring ourselves constantly.

Greg (voiceover): Still, he says any good comedian will end up offending someone, intentional or not. Even a comic who focuses on food, family, and being lazy. Jim Gaffigan performs Saturday night at the Uptown Amphitheater.