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July 27, 2014

Jim Gaffigan: The TV Squad interview - VIDEOS

by Danny Gallagher, posted Mar 27th 2009 2:00PM
Actor and comedian Jim GaffiganActor and comedian Jim Gaffigan has come a long way from driving down the stock price for Hot Pockets.

He landed his own short-lived sitcom on CBS, thanks to David Letterman, called Welcome to New York and a co-starring role on the hit TBS' dramedy My Boys, which returns for a third season on March 31.

He also racked up a long resume of funny and dramatic roles on hit shows like Sex and the City, Flight of the Conchords, and That 70's Show. He is also one of the few actors to score appearances on all of the Law & Order series if you don't count the spinoff that hardcore L&O cultists are forbidden to say out loud.

Stand-up comedy, however, is the job that still puts bacon on his family's table. His last album and special, Beyond the Pale, achieved both wide critical acclaim and record CD and DVD sales levels. His third Comedy Central special, King Baby, premieres this Sunday at 9 pm/8 pm central with the same buzz, thanks to heavy promotion both from the network and his own Internet filter.

Gaffigan took some time to sit down with TV Squad blogger Danny Gallagher over the phone during a press tour in L.A. with his family. He provided us with a hilarious discussion about acting in television and stand-up comedy, or at least as funny as a man can be at 8 a.m. with two kids still sleeping in the adjacent room.

DG:
Sorry to hear that you passed away on Twitter.

JG: (chuckles) Oh yeah, Twitter, I'm still figuring it out. I'm sure I'm one of the only people left that still doesn't know how to do it. It's just laziness and stubbornness and a refusal to read the simple instructions.

DG: Don't worry. I think you and me are the only people left who don't use Twitter. Well, now it's just me. So you've been using Twitter to do some funny advertising for the show and then I saw the ad you did online where you try to "Dane Cook" up your show. You also have your vlogs on YouTube.

JG: There are always these great plans to have an advertising campaign and publicity push, but hopefully, these weird funny things will get it more attention than anything really. My hope was just to kind of make light of me, this comedian who makes fun of rather mundane topics, and I thought it was funny because with HBO and their comedy specials, they always advertise it with words like "taboo," "groundbreaking" and all that stuff. My comedy, I'm talking about ketchup and bacon.

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DG: Has that made getting noticed easier?

JG: I've realized the value of it. The traditional way was a promoter buying a radio ad or putting a print ad in some kind of alternative weekly. This was an easier way to do it. As a comedian, you'll always go to, say, Orlando and get back home and get an email saying, "When are you coming to Orlando?" and you're like, "I was just there."

DG: Is it becoming a habit?

JG: I'm a relatively lazy guy. So doing those vlogs everyday on YouTube, I don't know if I could keep that up. I'm married and I have kids, so that's the priority ... I don't know if people are going to tune in on Sunday or not. I just don't want to wake up on Monday and think if I had done the vlog a day, it might have helped.

DG: So you've got your stand-up, which is how you make your living, but you also do a good bit of acting in movies and My Boys. You've done network and cable TV. Is there a big difference between the two?

JG: Every set is a new kind of experience. It's always interesting as a comedian. You write and perform everything and you're more or less directing yourself, and then there's this immediate feedback. There is something really fun about acting, but you miss the immediate feedback and the control you have over the material. If I'm not crazy about a joke, I can rewrite it or just take it out. But when you're a hired actor, people have been working on the stuff for a while, so I don't want to mess up their thing.

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DG: So does that mean you would take stand-up over acting?

JG: There are times when I really like doing both of them. I'm grateful to do both of them. Let me be very clear about that. The traveling that's involved with stand-up and the whole thing of doing two shows in Atlantic City, I have to peak at 11 o'clock at night, which means my whole schedule is kind of messed up. But on the other side, the whole acting thing, the process of auditioning is such an insane pursuit where you work for hours preparing an audition and you walk in the room and they look at you like, "There is no chance you're getting the job."

DG: Are there times when the two lives butt heads? I imagine the travel alone must be hard.

JG: If I never had to go through security at airport again, I certainly wouldn't miss it. Performing in a theater, some beautiful theater with 1,800 people who paid money to come and see you is an amazing experience. It's something I don't take for granted. So if I have to take a connecting flight to get there, it's not the end of the world.

DG: How do you describe your comedy?

JG: My point of view has changed a little bit, but I'm someone who romanticizes laziness and embraces the idea of eating what you want and not doing anything. This is my third special and I'm sure my stand-up will evolve, but this last special, I deal with the hard-hitting issues of ketchup and bacon.

DG: How do you find ways to reinvent what you do and distance yourself from the things you're known for?

JG: You're a writer too, so you know, I don't think it's ever changing. I come up with ideas, and my wife and I will talk about them. There are definitely moments where I'm going to try and make escalators funny or do a bunch of jokes on bowling. But there are plenty of times when I try and do that and there is nothing in the well for me.

I want the topics to be universal. That's why I do so much about food. If ketchup comes up, I don't have to explain what ketchup is. Everyone knows and we all have kind of a shared experience on ketchup. Sometimes I'll talk about Waffle House and there are some people in some cities who may have heard of it but never had an experience with it.

DG: So what can we expect from your new show?

JG: I talk about camping and fast food, in general. It's funny. I hear myself saying these topics and I think that's really edgy. Bologna and I don't know if it's in the special but I talk about Dunkin' Donuts.

There is something fun about making someone laugh at something mundane and making it entertaining like when you're eating meat and all the meat has been taken off the bone, so you go through and attack it again. There are certain topics that no comic would really want to touch, like airline food, but I do talk about camping, which other comics have talked about. It's motivated from your point-of-view, and I've been in touch with this point-of-view for awhile, so you know how to approach it so it will be unique.

DG: Do you feel there is too much of a need to be the cool guy in comedy? Has it punked itself out too much?

JG: I think among most comedians, we're just trying to get laughs. We're not trying to run for Senate or be rock stars or anything like that, but it is interesting because I feel like comedians do what they do and get credit for other things. I just write the jokes that I write. I put a lot of effort into it, but I get a lot of credit for being a clean comedian and 90 percent of the people are not at the show because I don't curse. They are going there because I'm funny and somehow we give a lot of credit to them for being irreverent when the real deal is that they are very funny. That's just my opinion.

DG: In terms of the show you're doing this Sunday, is there anything from your acting you bring to the show or vice versa, or are they two different worlds?

JG: Stand-up and acting both help each other. In some ways, they are two completely different things. There are times when you're acting that your stand-up or improv background helps what you are doing. When I was doing an episode of Flight of the Conchords, I was doing a scene with a bunch of other comics and we had a chance to improvise. I know those guys and their sensibility, so I'm not going to improvise something that is completely out-of-whack. Stand-up helps show you ways that you're funny.

DG: Is there a role or show you would like to do that you haven't?

JG: Stand-up kind of spoils you because among the entertainment industry, it has a semblance of meritocracy. You either get the laugh or you don't. In acting, I'm somebody who has been very lucky but there is a lot of luck into whenever you get a role or a part in a movie and there is a lot of timing in that. There are a lot of things I would like to do but I don't have necessarily an expectation that I'll be able to do a lot of those things.

But if I want to write a couple of jokes about cardboard boxes, I can just go out and do it.

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