12 Apr 2017

Jim Gaffigan: fatherhood, laziness and food

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 3:07 pm on 12 April 2017

As a father of 5 who embraces laziness and the middle age spread that comes with that, Jim Gaffigan was destined to be a comedian.

His humour doesn't come at the expense of someone else - he has so much material to draw from in his own life.

He's won an Emmy, had two Grammy nominations, was in Flight of the Conchords and had his own sitcom The Jim Gaffigan Show.

Jim Gaffigan

Jim Gaffigan Photo: Supplied/Eric Levin

Now he's on a world tour that includes New Zealand for the first time. He will be here in August and told RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan his wife and all five of his children will be joining him for the trip.

“I love doing stand-up, I love travelling international travel and I really wouldn’t want to be away from my family for this extended time and also I think it’s important for my kids to see the world.

“I think it’s a responsibility of mine to make sure there’s five less dumb Americans in the world.”

He says taking his children – aged 12, 11, 7, 5 and 4 - halfway across the world is crazy and difficult, but that’s part and parcel of parenting.

“It’s very much one of those things where happiness is a journey.

“There’s no better cure for jet lag than a four-year-old with jetlag.”

Gaffigan, who writes everything with his wife, describes her as a superhero with incomparable energy levels.

The family has just returned from China and Japan, where Gaffigan was performing, which he says was fascinating.

“In China, my children are young and blonde and look like my wife so the Chinese wanted photographs.

“It was fascinating and my children loved it.”

Three of his children learn Mandarin and go through an intensive school day with all of their learning in Mandarin.

“It was fun to see the Chinese react to seeing my children speak Mandarin.”

He says there’s nothing normal about being a comedian and laughs at the idea that you could be an unusual comedian.

“It is weird because, you know, even as a comedian when another comedian’s getting married, your thought is like, why would you do this to a human?

“Because comedians, we’re weird people, we’re not normal.”

Gaffigan says stand-up comedy is a strange meritocracy.

“There’s many different types of comedians but you either do the job or you don’t.

“There’s never, you know, well that person’s very good looking and their parents were successful and so they’re going to get a leg up. You either do the job or you don’t.”

Gaffigan says people’s time is precious and he doesn’t take his audiences for granted.

“I think the relationship a comedian has with an audience, it’s not just that it’s new material, it’s that it better be good.

“If you’re driving a car you can listen to comedy, but if you’re taking the effort to buy the ticket, and show up or maybe get a babysitter, or pay for a date, it’s like, you better deliver.”

Gaffigan opts not to swear in his stand-up shows, which he says some times he gets credit for.

“I can’t imagine someone like Chris Rock or Bill Hicks not cursing, but if Seinfeld was cursing, it might feel a little disjointed.

“Stand-up comedy is very point of view driven. I feel like my point of view is much more driven by befuddled than angry.”

Gaffigan also doesn’t do political comedy, which he says means he can perform in the United States and be a break from the current political discussion.

“I did a show in Washington State and my opener had a bunch of Trump jokes and it was probably an audience of 5000 people and all you need is one person to get very upset and start yelling and that’s exactly what happened.”

But he says as soon as he leaves the US, it’s a topic he can’t ignore.

“I’m going to have to address it in in my shows in New Zealand.”

He says he always wanted his comedy to be accessible to everyone in the room.

“I never wanted to be one of those comedians that says ‘these people are assholes’.”

“You can bring light rather than darkness”

Gaffigan says he’s excited to have some time in New Zealand before he performs so he can submerge himself in the culture.

“I think an audience will appreciate the effort you’ve made.”

Having worked with Flight of the Conchord creators Jermaine Clement and Brett Mackenzie, Gaffigan says he has very high expectations of New Zealanders.

“If I encounter someone who’s rude… I’m going to be shocked.”

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