Comedian Jim Gaffigan is not your typical comic. He has no ego, doesn’t have a checkered past and he’s not a substance abuser. Gaffigan, 50, is married with five young kids and he co-writes his material with his wife, Jeannie. He’s more like a member of the crowd than most entertainers.
When he brings his “Fully Dressed” tour to NYCB Theatre at Westbury, the food-obsessed funnyman will have a belly full of turkey and an hour of brand-new material for a trio of post-Thanksgiving shows Nov. 25-26.
We recently spoke with the Grammy-nominated comedian, who grew up in Elgin, Illinois, from his Manhattan home.
You packed Madison Square Garden last December. How did you find your comedy translated in a venue of that size?
I was a big believer that comedy doesn’t transfer over 3,000. But technology has made it so you can have a great experience plus, like it’s an event. There’s a lot more good seats at Westbury in the round than at MSG. I want everyone to enjoy the experience so they will come back. I’m still convinced that going bigger than 3,000-seat venues is not right for stand-up.
You discontinued your own TV show (“The Jim Gaffigan Show” on TV Land) despite its popularity and success. What was the reason behind that decision?
It was a two-person kind of gig between me and my wife, plus a great cast and a staff of 100 people. Jeannie and I wrote all the scripts, she ran the show, I was the lead — it was an enormous commitment. It was great, but we do have five kids and they are young. The show took up 6-8 months where we were not present enough. We were both working 16-18 hours a day. It was just not fair to do that to our kids.
You are going to be joining the cast of “Fargo,” plus you have two upcoming dramatic roles in “The Bleeder” and “Chappaquiddick.” Is this another side of you?
The dramatic roles are something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m very excited about “Fargo,” I love that show. Maybe people in the industry are figuring out that I can act. I’m thrilled for the opportunities. It’s cool because I’m doing a different accent in all three roles.
What do you think it is about your personality that makes people find you so accessible?
Wouldn’t it be funny if I was like, “Because I’m a great guy!” I don’t know. Perhaps it’s luck with the type of material. Comedians are always striving to be authentic. Maybe it’s because I’m self-effacing. People don’t come to hear about my interactions with celebrities or to find out what I’m wearing. I have a big head now that you said that . . . Well, I actually have a big head anyway.
You have a wide fan base that varies in age and background. What do you get out of interacting with them?
The meet-and-greet thing is really fascinating. It’s instructive and interesting. There’s a gratitude to it. I see a lot of different demographic groups from people in their early 20s to families with young kids to lesbian couples. Stand-up is basically a conversation with the audience. You can get a lot from the laughter whether people understand you or not.
You are known for your playful material on food. Is that expected at this point?
Well, I’m now on my fifth hour of stand-up and in a way I’ve exhausted the food topic so dramatically. But, the appeal of food is universal. There’s a shorthand if I bring up oysters or cake, everyone in the room knows what they are. I don’t have to explain, therefore it’s easier to get into my point of view. Food is a shared experience. In my new hour, I still talk about food but its 40 minutes before I do so.
At this stage of the game when you are a big name in comedy, does that add more pressure on you to deliver?
There’s a pressure to create more material, but it’s self-inflicted. The crowds who come to see me know my sensibility, know my point of view therefore it’s actually an advantage. Because it’s like having a conversation with somebody you know rather than somebody you don’t know, it’s just easier.