An interview with Comedian Jim Gaffigan

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Get your permanent markers and Hot Pockets boxes ready. Comedian Jim Gaffigan is stopping by the OSU Barnes & Noble this week for a Q&A and book signing for his latest effort, "Dad is Fat," a memoir full of his particularly hilarious brand of observational humor about a role "for which I have no natural instincts," he said in a phone interview.

That role? Being a father to five children. (Yowza.) They are ages 9, 7, 4, 2 and 8 months. (Double yowza.)

"Ten years ago," he writes, "I could barely get a date, and now my apartment is literally crawling with babies. It's like I left some peanut butter out overnight."

"Dad is Fat," which was released last month, covers what it's like to be a loner with an "acute case of children," the ups and downs and mental breakdowns of parenting and, of course, the evil genius of McDonald's. Whether you have babies of your own or have been annoyed by a child you loved at least once in your life, you'll appreciate "Dad is Fat."

Alive caught up with Gaffigan for a quick convo about his standup and the book and for some answers to the tough parenting questions - like, is raising girls really harder than raising boys?

Jim Gaffigan Talk/ Q&A/ Book Signing

Barnes & Noble/ The Ohio State University Bookstore

12 p.m. Wednesday, June 12

1598 N. High St., Campus

On where that high-pitched aside voice in his stand-up routines comes from:

I've always spoken for other people like that. It's my inner critic. Some of it's a technique that I've used to alleviate awkward situations. … If I'm an hour late, I just talk for someone. "Jim, you're an hour late." It's always been an effective tool. I started using it in my act. … Instead of stopping with a joke ending, I could [do an aside] and disarm an audience's possible judgment.

On writing with his wife Jeannie (a magic Jeannie, as Gaffigan calls her):

We've been writing everything together for nine or 10 years. … I'm not sure if it's like a sheer correspondence, but the collaboration is very much an ongoing dialogue. For ["Dad is Fat"] I would write an essay, she would rewrite it, and then we'd get together and talk about it. There's a formula to the collaboration. In standup I improvise on stage and she'll write the new material in the notes.

On writing and standup:

I know that standup has this impression of people just going on stage and talking but there's definitely writing involved because clarity is so important. The shorter you can make a joke the more clear it can be. Getting an idea across in the shortest manner possible is always the best thing.

On the challenge of being funny in a book versus being funny on stage:

On stage so much is about vocal inflection, facial expressions and the context of how you look. I could say on stage, "My soul is all hip-hop," and it'd be funny. If I wrote that down on a piece of paper, even if they knew that I wrote it, it probably wouldn't be as funny. It was definitely a challenge to maintain clarity and communicate the complexity of an idea.

On what he was like as a child:

I think that I was a little more solitary than my children. [Adults] would give me a coloring book and I would just sit and color the entire thing. I had a focus. … I would organize and re-organize my baseball cards collection. By teams. By my favorite players. By different things. I'd stare at it and re-organize it. That is kind of what comedians do-organize where jokes are going to fall. It's a similar obsession I guess.

On raising girls versus boys:

Some of it sounds like clichés and stereotypes, but from my experience, girls are dramatically easier. If you're around a little girl and a little boy, you'd look at a little boy and there'd be no reason to believe there'd ever be a male president in the United States. The maturity is dramatically different-the fine motor skills, how they articulate what they want. … [Little boys] are like cavemen.

On balancing a comedy career and a family:

It's definitely something I have to re-evaluate constantly. In the end, I love doing standup, but when I'm on my deathbed I'm not going to think of some comedy specials I did. I'm going to be concerned about whether I'm a good dad.