Jim Gaffigan builds up fan base, landing at Philips Arena Nov. 11

Posted Friday, November 3, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.om on his AJC Radio & TV Talk subscriber-based blog

Jim Gaffigan is the stand-up model of the baffled dad, perplexed and annoyed by society as a whole. He's a more self-aware, self-deprecating version of Homer Simpson with an equal love for donuts.

Over the course of two-plus decades, the 51-year-old author and actor has steadily built his stand-up fan base to the point where he is now headlining arenas. He comes to Atlanta's Philips Arena for the first time November 11, a rarefied achievement matched by the likes of  Amy Schumer and Kevin Hart in recent years.

"I've done arenas before," he said. "The quality of the experience for the audience is surprisingly pretty good."

RELATED: My 2013 interview with Gaffigan

RELATED: My 2015 interview with Gaffigan

Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock at Fox Theatre appearances earlier this year forced attendees to place their smartphones in a special magnetic pouch so they couldn't video or audiotape them. Gaffigan doesn't care.

"I may be behind the curve on this, but my audience isn't the type to do that or heckle," Gaffigan said. "Nobody comes to see what outfit I'm wearing or what outrageous thing I might say. They just come to laugh."

And his busy schedule belies how he portrays himself on stage as someone who prefers to sit and binge-watch shows and eat chips than, um, move.

"Laziness is a romanticism of what I want to be," Gaffigan said. "But that being said, I do feel like there are plenty of things I am lazy about. So when I talk about watching TV and not being able to find the remote so I just watch whatever is on, that's based on truth."

"In my stand up, I do portray myself as being kind of a bad parent," he added, "but hopefully I'm not really a bad parent... My joke is being a dad is the most important thing that I will fail at. I enjoy fatherhood but it's not like you can win it."

Gaffigan, from a career perspective, said he only does stuff he really wants to do. Sure, he could host a game show to get his face out there more but he's not interested. He does enjoy acting and has even picked up a few dramatic roles.

In an upcoming film "Chappaquiddick," Gaffigan plays an attorney Paul Markham who was accused of helping cover up Ted Kennedy's role in Mary Jo Kopechne's 1969 drowning after Kennedy drove a vehicle off a bridge into a pond.

"When I'm in a movie, I'll see a tweet: 'What's he doing in this movie not trying to be funny?' To me, it's strange that we think it's odd a funny person would be in a serious role. It's not like someone who is serious in a comedic role. I think that's odd. But comedic people understand sincerity. That's why they can be funny."

He now has five Netflix specials, including his most recent 2017 "Cinco." He intersperses his usual mix of jokes about his girth, his parenting fails and (of course) food. And as a devoted Catholic, he doesn't mind touching religion.

"I wouldn't mind being in shape," he said during his 2017 special. "You know who was in really good shape? Jesus." After some uncomfortable laughter, he said, "Nothing like the topic of Jesus to take the air out of the room! That's what he would have wanted: 'When you bring up my name, I want them to be really uncomfortable!' "

After a few more riffs on Jesus making bread, he pretended to be someone in the audience uttering, "Get back to your regular food jokes!" So he talked steak. "If eating steak is manly, it is the only manly attribute I have. I know nothing about cars. I'm not handy. I can't fix things. If something breaks, I say to my wife, 'You should call someone!' "

Gaffigan admits he could be the next Andy Rooney, the curmudgeonly "60 Minutes" commentator from 1978 to 2011. In fact, he does Rooney-like commentaries for "CBS Mornings" on occasion. "When I first started stand up, I'd do impressions of Andy Rooney and Casey Kasem," Gaffigan said. "But there are people who do impressions much better than me. There are people who do irreverent material better than me. I like the stand up I do. I like the fact that in this day and age we're in, it's almost as if I'm this reprieve from the news drama. We can come here and not hear about all the fears we read about all day, which is nice."

I recently interviewed Brian Regan, a popular comic with a similar following. Regan, when asked which celebrity could interview him for Vulture a couple of years ago, asked for Gaffigan. "Very few people have that energy," Gaffigan said. "It's almost like he's stirring the pot of laughter. It's amazing to witness seeing Brian do this thing with his sensibility. He was a huge influence on me. When I was in my late 20s and trying to be more edgy and irreverent, I saw Brian doing what he did, which was just be funny in an authentic way. It inspired me to take a similar path."

RELATED: Brian Regan interview about being a 'clean' comic in a dirty world

Gaffigan is edgier than Regan, relatively speaking. He recently made a joke on Twitter about World Food Day, providing a reel of Gaffigan eating. He received no complaints but he was aware this wasn't exactly safe territory given World Food Day is a serious movement to address hunger.

"There's a balance," he said. "Social media is similar to stand up. People can say it's about political correctness or whatever. But it's about being tone deaf. I even kind of struggle with it. I don't want to be disrespectful. Am I being dismissive of the fact people around the world are really struggling with being fed? It's a balancing act."

And he said his TV Land show "The Jim Gaffigan Show" was not cancelled last year. He walked away from it. "My wife and I worked on it together. She was the director. We wrote all the scripts. After two seasons, we just couldn't do it anymore. We have five kids. We don't want to suck at that. Again, you can't control how things are perceived. We actually spent less time with our kids doing that show than when I tour."


Jim Gaffigan

8 p.m. Saturday, November 11


Philips Arena

1 Philips Drive, Atlanta


About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
I cover local radio and TV for both the print and online editions. I write a blog on the same topics.Rodney Ho's Radio & TV Talk blog (new) | Recent archiveSports...