Jim Gaffigan

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Jim Gaffigan
Jim Gaffigan making a goofy excited face, Jan 2014, NYC.jpg
Gaffigan in January 2014
Birth name James Christopher Gaffigan
Born (1966-07-07) July 7, 1966 (age 49)
Elgin, Illinois, United States
Medium Stand-up, television, film
Years active 1991–present
Genres Deadpan, sarcasm, observational comedy, satire
Spouse Jeanne Noth (m. 2003)
Children 5
Notable works and roles
Website jimgaffigan.com

James Christopher "Jim" Gaffigan (born July 7, 1966) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, voice-over artist, and author. His humor largely revolves around fatherhood, observations, and (most notably) food. He is also regarded as a "clean" comic, using little profanity in his routines. He has had several successful comedy specials, including Mr. Universe and Jim Gaffigan:Obsessed, both of which received Grammy nominations. His memoir, Dad Is Fat (2013) and his most recent book, Food: A Love Story (2014), are both published by Crown Publishers. He co-created and currently stars in a TV Land television series based on his life called The Jim Gaffigan Show.

He collaborates extensively with his wife, Jeannie Gaffigan, and together they have five children. They are Catholics, a topic that comes up in his comedy, and live in Manhattan, New York.

Early life[edit]

Gaffigan was born on July 7, 1966 in Elgin, Illinois, and was raised in Chesterton, Indiana.[1][2] He is the youngest of six children and often jokes about growing up in a large family.[3] His father was a banker and the first in his family to attend college,[4] and so encouraged his children to seek careers that promised job security.[5] However, at about the age of five, his youngest son announced that when he grew up, he wanted to be an "actress,"[6] and as a teenager watched Saturday Night Live.[4] Gaffigan attended La Lumiere School in La Porte, Indiana, and after graduating, attended Purdue University for one year, where he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity. He transferred to Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, where he graduated in 1988 with a degree in Finance.[5][7] He played football at Georgetown.[8]



Gaffigan performing in May 2009

After graduating, Gaffigan moved to New York to pursue comedy, a move that was inspired by his admiration for David Letterman.[9] He found a job in advertising,[5] and he would work during the day and take acting classes at night.[3][9] However, his career began in earnest when a friend from the class dared him to take a stand-up seminar that required a live set at the end.[3][6] He fell in love with stand-up,[3] and began to play comedy clubs nightly—after his evening acting classes—until the wee hours of the morning.[9] He was often found sleeping on the job; his boss had to wake him up to fire him.[9] For the first seven years of his career, he tried various styles, ranging from angry comedy to impressions and voices.[5] Also, live comedy was in decline following its peak of the 1980s, further affected by the increased popularity of cable.[3] However, after a successful stand-up routine on The Late Show with David Letterman, his career took off.[9]

Gaffigan's style is largely observational, and his principal topics relate to laziness, eating, and parenthood. He is famous for his Hot Pocket routine, which was inspired by a commercial he saw that he mistook for a Saturday Night Live sketch.[6] Also, during his routines, he will sometimes use a high-pitched voice and—in the third-person—deliver negative feedback on his own performance.[10] He calls that voice his "connection with the audience."[6] In an interview with the Duluth News-Tribune, he explained that the voice was developed over time, beginning as a teenager when he would disarm people by talking for them in their presence.[11] He also used it as a way to fend off hecklers earlier in his career, when he says that comedy clubs were more combative.[11] He cursed early in his career, and he added cursing to his comedy album Doing My Time, at the request of his label, in the hopes of drawing more teenagers.[12] However, he has largely removed profanity from his routine, as he feels that his subject matter doesn't lend itself to cursing and that it reduced the effort he put into crafting his jokes.[12][13]

In 2004 Gaffigan's stand up material was featured in Comedy Central's animated series Shorties Watchin' Shorties. In October 2005, he filmed a live Comedy Central special that aired for the following January,[3] and became the comedy album/DVD Beyond the Pale. The routine consisted primarily of material regarding food and American eating habits, and the comedian unknowingly predicted a future menu item at Dunkin Donuts—the 'glazed donut breakfast sandwich'—while commenting on the future of America's eating habits.[14] His 2009 album, King Baby, was also a television special filmed in Austin, Texas, at the end of his "The Sexy Tour". Comedy Central released King Baby on DVD. In a March 2009 interview on Anytime with Bob Kushell, Gaffigan defended his naming of the tour, stating that he thought it would be funny that parents would be unsure about whether to bring their teenage children to the show.[15] Four years later, on March 14, 2013, Gaffigan was named the "King of Clean" by the Wall Street Journal.[16]

On February 25, 2012, Gaffigan taped a one-hour stand-up special—Mr. Universe—at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C.;[17] it was nominated for a Grammy.[5] He announced that, based on the business model used by Louis C.K.'s Live at the Beacon Theater, the stand-up would be available online through his website for $5, with 20% of the total proceeds going to the Bob Woodruff Foundation,[18] an organization that provides support to military veterans.[19] In 2012, he was among the top-ten grossing comics in the US according to Pollstar.[5]

Gaffigan filmed his 2014 comedy special titled Jim Gaffigan: Obsessed at Boston’s Wilbur Theater on January 18, 2014.[20] Obsessed premiered on Comedy Central on April 27 becoming the most watched stand-up comedy special of the year for the network.[21] The accompanying album, also titled Obsessed, debuted at number 11 on the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the Billboard Comedy Album charts.[22] 2015 saw him embark on a headlining tour, culminating in a winter show at Madison Square Gardens.[4]

Gaffigan has performed stand-up to support charitable causes as well. In 2002, he was part of a United Service Organization event at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.[23] Gaffigan performed at the 2013 Stand Up for Heroes charity event benefitting the Bob Woodruff Foundation alongside fellow stand-up comedians Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby and Jon Stewart.[24] Gaffigan also performed at the 2013 CNN Heroes event, which celebrates everyday heroes doing extraordinary work around the world.[25] In May 2014, Gaffigan performed at the Make It Right Gala, an organization founded by Brad Pitt, which builds sustainable homes and buildings for communities in need.[26] On September 26, 2015 he performed at the Festival of families, a catholic event held in Philadelphia, Gaffigan was the only comedian on the bill at the Festival, the event was visited by Pope Francis. With Mark Wahlberg as host, the festival also featured Aretha Franklin, Andrea Bocelli, Juanes, Jackie Evancho and Sister Sledge; more than one million attendees visited to witness this once in a lifetime event.


I did my set, I walked off stage and they said the executive producer wants to meet you up in his office. I thought maybe it was going to be something good. I thought maybe Dave wants me to be a writer. But they wanted me to develop my own show.

Jim Gaffigan, Laugh Spin interview, 2005[3]

As Gaffigan's comedy career stalled in the 1990s, a friend suggested he audition for commercials, a move which turned out to be profitable.[3] He has appeared in over 200 TV commercials,[12] ranging from Rolling Rock to Saturn and ESPN. His ubiquity earned him the title of ‘Salesman of the Year’ by BusinessWeek in 1999.[27] He also performed in a trio of Sierra Mist commercials for the 2007 Super Bowl as part of the Sierra Mist comedy ensemble “The Mis-Takes”.[28][29] He appeared in an ad series for Sierra Mist alongside fellow comedian Michael Ian Black.[citation needed] After his first appearance on the The Late Show with David Letterman in 1999, Gaffigan was tapped by the host to develop a sitcom called Welcome to New York in which he also co-starred alongside Christine Baranski.[4] The show was cancelled after its first season despite receiving positive reviews.[30] During the 2000/2001 television season, he was a cast member of The Ellen Show on CBS, Ellen DeGeneres' second sitcom. He appeared in two movies chosen for the 2001 Sundance Film Festival: Super Troopers and 30 Years to Life. He appeared on That '70s Show. He was a regular cast member of the TBS original sitcom My Boys. He left the show at the end of the third season.[citation needed]

In 2008, he was in the movie The Love Guru starring Mike Myers.[citation needed]

In 2009, Gaffigan guest starred as the best friend of Murray Hewitt in one episode of the HBO comedy series Flight of the Conchords. Later that same year, he appeared in the Sam Mendes-directed dramedy Away We Go and the teen comedy 17 Again. On June 11, 2009, Gaffigan appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. He appeared on Law & Order episodes "Flight" and "Reality Bites", as well as an episode entitled "Smile" on Law and Order: Criminal Intent.[citation needed]

He was in an episode of The Daily Show as a man posing as a Daily Show correspondent who knows nothing about the show (he refers to it as "The John Daily Show") and simply wants to be seen with Jon Stewart. This was meant to be a parody of the 2009 White House gatecrash incident.[citation needed]

Gaffigan appeared on Broadway in That Championship Season, which opened in March 2011, opposite Brian Cox, Chris Noth, Kiefer Sutherland, and Jason Patric.[31] Gaffigan's performance was praised by ABC News correspondent Sandy Kenyon as the most moving and that he may "steal the show".[32] He called being on Broadway "an amazing experience, really hard but really fun."[6]

Gaffigan starred in Shia LaBeouf's 2013 short film Howard Cantour.com, the content of which was later revealed to be mostly plagiarized from Daniel Clowes’ 2007 graphic novella Justin M. Damiano.[33] Reflecting on the incident in an interview for The Daily Beast, Gaffigan said, "There’s no greater sin in the stand-up world than thievery...So you do not want to be associated with thievery," but added, "I don’t have any hard feelings about it because I don’t think people think I had anything to do with it.”[4]

In the 2010s, Gaffigan and his wife, along with Peter Tolan, began to develop material for a show based loosely on their own life. CBS agreed to shoot a pilot of their show in March 2013, with casting by Marc Hirschfeld,[34] and Mira Sorvino playing his wife;[5] but ultimately passed on the project.[35] Finally, the cable network TV Land, beginning efforts to broadcast original material and attract younger audiences, offered the Gaffigans complete creative control. The result was The Jim Gaffigan Show, a sitcom about a couple raising their five kids in a two-bedroom New York apartment. After the release of two, online-only episodes in June 2015, the pilot episode aired on July 15, 2015. The show stars Gaffigan as a fictionalized version of himself and his family,[36] with his wife Jeannie played by Ashley Williams. Other characters include their real-estate agent (and Jeannie's best friend) Daniel (played by Michael Ian Black), Jim's fellow comic and best friend Dave (Adam Goldberg), and their priest, Father Nicholas (Tongayi Chirisa).

Gaffigan is set to co-star in the film Experimenter, a fictionalized account of the experiements of the Yale professor Dr. Stanley Milgram.[37] Gaffigan plays an actor hired to collaborate in the experiments.[37]

In February 2016, Gaffigan began appearing in KFC commercials as Colonel Sanders, [38] replacing Norm McDonald.


Gaffigan produced a series of animated shorts for Late Night with Conan O'Brien, titled Pale Force. The animated sketches, which ran from 2005 – 2008, had Gaffigan and O'Brien as superheroes who fight crime with their extremely pale skin.[10] The series was nominated for a Daytime Emmy in 2007 in the category of "Outstanding Broadband Program – Comedy".[39]

Gaffigan's humorous quips have earned him over two and a half million followers on Twitter, and he was listed by Rolling Stone as one of the "25 funniest people on Twitter" in 2012.[40][41]

In 2013, Gaffigan released Dad Is Fat, a title derived from the first complete sentence his eldest son wrote on a dry-erase board at the age of four or five. "He showed it to me," Gaffigan recalled in an interview, "and I laughed, and then I put him up for adoption."[42] The book is a collection of essays dealing with the raising of his children, as well as reminiscences from his own childhood.[43] In support of the volume, he appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition, ABC's The View, and MSNBC's Morning Joe, spoke at BEA in New York, embarked on a nine-stop bus tour that ended on Father's Day.[44] It debuted at number five on the The New York Times Best Seller's list, remaining on the list for three months.[45][46] The book received tepid reviews from critics. Kirkus Reviews said of the book that it's "hardly groundbreaking comedy material, but the book will appeal to Gaffigan's fans."[47] Lou Harry of the Indianapolis Business Journal said that while "no new ground is broken in Jim Gaffigan's book...'Dad is Fat' should be a fun intermezzo in your summer reading pile."[48] Regarding the audiobook, which Gaffigan read, Audiofile said his "performance strikes the right balance between his near-deadpan comedy delivery and the energy needed to keep a beleaguered parent engaged."[49]

Gaffigan signed with Crown Publishing in June 2013 to write a second book of comic essays. The book, Food: A Love Story, which was released in Fall 2014.[50][51][52] Publisher's Weekly said the book "packs plenty of laughs."[53] Kirkus Reviews remarked that "Gaffigan somehow manages to work 'clean' without ever becoming sickeningly saccharine," and that 'laughs [are] served up just right on every page."[54] Of the accompanying audiobook, the Library Journal said, "The witty commentary is peppered with jokes and funny stories that will have listeners smiling throughout and occasionally laughing out loud."[55]

Prior to meeting his wife, Gaffigan largely wrote alone. However, while working on his first show, Welcome to New York, he was overwhelmed and asked for input from his then-friend (and actress in her own right) Jeannie Noth. Although initially hesitant to have a collaborator, as their relationship grew, so did Jeannie's ability to write material for him. Once they married, Jeannie left behind her work with her youth theater project (Shakespeare on the Playground) to devote herself to raising their expanding brood, and after a joke she wrote drew big laughs at a show, Jim invited began to collaborate more.[citation needed] She gradually transferred into the position of Jim's chief co-writer, and they are now full writing partners. She has been a credited writer and/or executive producer on all his comedy endeavors since Beyond the Pale, including his two books and television show.[35] He also credits her with "coaching" him through his performance in That Championship Season.[6]

Media appearances[edit]

Gaffigan participated on the NPR radio quiz program Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! in 2013.[42] Gaffigan is also a regular contributor on CBS Sunday Morning.


Gaffigan credits David Letterman and Bill Murray as influences, and asserts that Richard Pryor was the greatest stand-up comedian ever.[4]


Gaffigan is widely noted for being an "everyman" and a clean comic,[5][56] and signature routines regard Hot Pockets,[5][42][56] cake, and bacon.[10] His tendency to avoid profanity has drawn mixed responses from audiences and critics. One critic compared him to Full House-era Bob Saget (who starred in the 1990s family show), which Gaffigan took as a "fucking insult."[12] However, Hampton Stevens for The Atlantic, said that the comic champions "a vital element to standup that [Lenny] Bruce had taken away—the indispensable, but apparently forgotten idea that comedians have no obligation to be provocative, topical, socially conscious, or anything else but funny."[10]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to actress Jeannie Gaffigan (née Noth),[5] with whom he has two daughters, Marre and Katie Louise, and three sons, Jack, Michael, and Patrick. The family of seven famously lived in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City,[57] before moving to a larger home in 2015. To stay connected to his family, he tries to maintain bedtime rituals while working in the city;[11] when on tour, he takes his family with him. He generally doesn't work on Sunday.[11]

Gaffigan has stated on stage, and elsewhere, that he is Catholic.[58][59][60] He and his family attend mass at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan.[61]



Selected television appearances[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

On April 26, 2014, Gaffigan received the award for Concert Comedian at the American Comedy Awards for his work.[62][63]

In, 2007 "Pale Force" was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Broadband Program in the Comedy category. Gaffigan served as executive producer, writer, and lead actor.

Grammy Awards[edit]

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Gaffigan has been nominated twice.

Year Recipient/Nominated work Award Result
2013 Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe Best Comedy Album Nominated
2015 Obsessed Best Comedy Album Nominated[64]


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  49. ^ (October/November 2013), "DAD IS FAT". AudioFile. 22 (3):51
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External links[edit]