Jim Gaffigan Interview

Written by Express contributor Roxana Hadad

Jim Gaffigan attended Georgetown University, so his upcoming two shows at the D.C. Improv  are kind of like a homecoming. Except that he never intended to be a comedian at all — not realistically, anyway.

"I always wanted to be a comedian and an actor just going back a long time — and before Comedy Central and before improv — so I never really saw it as a possibility," Gaffigan said. "I was raised in a relatively maturity-driven family, so it wasn't really OK to go into entertainment. It was like, 'Get a white-collar job.' So I went to school at Georgetown and I studied finance there, and I did a talent show kind of thing there, and always had the itching for it. I was a class clown but I wasn't comfortable speaking in public, and eventually I just kind of got to the point where I thought, 'I have to try it' — mainly because I was just horrible at my job, I guess.

"Who knows if Gaffigan was actually awful at finance. His success as a comedian, though, is undeniable: Both shows at the Improv beginning Sunday, June 27, are sold out, he's released seven albums in eight years and acted in comedies including "13 Going on 30" and "17 Again." Before his appearances at the Improv, Gaffigan spoke to Express about his working relationship with his wife and why he finds certain foods are so damn funny.

EXPRESS: You're known for your jokes about food, like bacon and Hot Pockets. Could you expand on what you consider your stand-up style?

GAFFIGAN: People say I romanticize laziness and gluttony, but I'm kind of an offbeat, observational guy who kind of explores the id and what the id really wants to do. I'm based on the belief that we all want to sit at home and watch TV and eat bacon, but yeah, I've been doing stand-up for 20 years, so it's kind of evolving. I still feel like I'm getting better at it.

EXPRESS: You mentioned that you're evolving — how does that affect your writing style?

GAFFIGAN: Jeannie and I — my wife — we write everything together, so it's a very unique situation. Stand-up is a very solitary endeavor, so to have a writing partner — and she comes to every show — there's this constant crafting that's occurring that I think is kind of unique, so that informs our writing process. Some of how we write is from life experience ... but we don't want to write just about our kids. The writing can literally come from anywhere: What might spark us to write about seafood might be the fact that we go to a family reunion in Maryland every year, so there's the whole crab thing. So the ideas can really come from anywhere, and crafting them and rewriting them.

EXPRESS: So you started doing the "aside" here, and you're well known for it. Could you talk about how it started?

GAFFIGAN: The aside, or the inside voice or talking to the audience — it very much comes out of improv, but it's hard to write for that inside voice. ... It's stand-up comedy, there's no fourth wall; you're seeing people in the audience, you're getting a feel or reaction of how they're reacting emotionally to a joke, and so you can only write that or come up with those ideas onstage.But there's some stuff we write with the inside voice that will come on, and other stuff we'll write where the inside voice just never appears. It's not like the inside voice is going away, but there's different kinds of versions of it, so with the inside voice now, it's kind of like an Italian guy from Brooklyn. I say that this week, and it could be different next week. I mean, it's hard describe without sounding absolutely insane.

EXPRESS: So are you and Jeannie working on anything new right now?

GAFFIGAN: I can tell you topics that we're working on, but the irony is I feel like it sounds really boring. It's like, seafood, whales and working out — it sounds really generic. It's like, "Oh really, he's going out on an edge there," but it's not just like, "Working out, I do blah blah blah." There's some craft going into it.

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