Jim Gaffigan stands out from most stand-ups. The veteran actor-comic is a happily married devout Roman Catholic with five children, who delivers clean material.
Foul-mouthed narcissist is often the comic stereotype. However, Gaffigan, 56, dotes on his children and is so squeaky clean that he was tabbed to open for the Pope in 2015 when he performed as part of the Festival of Families during Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia.
“It was a no-win situation,” Gaffigan said. “I looked out at over 1 million people, and I knew not one of them was thinking, ‘I hope the Pope has a comedian open for him.’ The upside is that I knew the crowd wouldn’t be too difficult because the Pope was following with a message of mercy.”
Gaffigan, who will perform Tuesday at the Spokane Arena, can joke about and with anyone going back to his early days as an entertainer. When David Letterman approached Gaffigan about a development deal with his company, World Wide Pants, the upstart comic joked with the curmudgeonly television icon.
“After I did his show (‘The Late Show with David Letterman’), he brought me in (to his office) and asked me about doing the show (‘Welcome to New York’) and I said, ‘No way, not with you guys,” ’ Gaffigan said. “But seriously, I was thrilled to be a part of it. The scripts were great. Sometimes things just don’t work out.”
“Welcome to New York” lasted for only a season. Gaffigan didn’t make much of a splash and was often confused with the late Academy-Award winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman after “Welcome to New York” was canceled.
“Too often people said I look like him (Hoffman) or Brad Pitt,” Gaffigan cracked.
Gaffigan is a known commodity thanks to his stand-up and his work as an actor on Broadway and on the sound stage. Gaffigan impressed on the Great White Way in 2011 in “That Championship Season,” starring alongside Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric and Brian Cox.
“It was amazing,” Gaffigan said. “Hard but amazing.” Gaffigan earned raves for his dramatic turn in the 2016 feature film “Chuck,” which starred Liev Schreiber as heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner. Gaffigan also appeared in 2017’s “Chappaquiddick.”
“I loved the challenge of playing Chuck Wepner’s best friend, a guy from Bayonne (New Jersey) and a Boston guy in ‘Chappaquiddick,’ ” Gaffigan said. “I’m a white-bread guy from Indiana and I get to challenge myself like that.”
However, the most significant challenge Gaffigan faced was dealing with his wife and writing partner Jeannie Gaffigan’s life-threatening tumor, which surrounded her brain stem in 2017. When Gaffigan learned that it was uncertain whether his wife would make it, he realized that he might lose his spouse and his career since the humorist considered quitting his lifelong passion.
“The reality was that she might be gone,” Gaffigan said. “I had to think about what was going to happen with my kids. Maybe I wasn’t going to be able to do stand-up anymore since I have this responsibility. I had to do the right thing, which was to be with the kids.”
The pear-shaped growth was removed and his wife recovered.
A comic who prioritizes his children over his career is uncommon. In 2013, the Gaffigans developed the pilot “The Jim Gaffigan Show.’ After airing for two seasons at TV Land, the popular show ended after the couple opted to spend more time with their children.
“A television show takes so much time to make happen,” Gaffigan said. “I wanted to spend more time with my family. When the show ended, I thought, ‘I always have stand-up.’ ”
Gaffigan took a page out of the Jeff Foxworthy playbook. Foxworthy declined to work on projects in Los Angeles so he could spend more time with his daughters in Georgia.
“It all comes down to what is most important to you in your life,” Gaffigan said. “I love what I do but my family is incredibly important to me.”
Gaffigan has an everyman persona that is relatable. His family inspires material and so does his often hilarious love of food.
His 2013 book “Dad is Fat” is Gaffigan’s amusing memoir. “Food: A Love Story,” is Gaffigan’s funny follow-up.
“I think people can relate to what I talk about,” Gaffigan said. “That’s particularly so when I talk about food. It’s something I think about a lot. You can tell by looking at me. I’m not going to hide it. I may as well have some fun with it. Most people in America love to eat too much.”
When Gaffigan isn’t working he’s enjoying dinners only a carnivore would love. But that’s how he grew up. His dad’s favorite meal featured a steak.
“I am my father now,” Gaffigan quipped. “I’m eating a steak at this moment and it’s delicious.”
When Gaffigan isn’t having a steak, he’s indulging in Hot Pockets. “They’re the contemporary pot pie,” Gaffigan said. “Remember when we were kids and it was all about the pot pie? Now it’s Hot Pockets. There is the Vegetarian Hot Pocket for those who don’t eat meat but would still like to experience the thrill of diarrhea. You know what’s great about the Hot Pocket? Unlike the pot pie, you don’t need a fork. How can you beat that?”
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