Jim Gaffigan is an enormously successful comedian, actor and author who has opened for the pope. He also was the star of TV Land’s “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” in which he played a less enormously successful version of himself: a middle-aged, lazily observant Catholic comic living in lower Manhattan with his large family. The series’ second season concluded Aug. 21. The next day, he and his wife, Jeannie Gaffigan, who was executive producer, announced there would be no third season. They wanted to spend more time with their five children.
Gaffigan was rightfully proud of the show. “I wanted every story to have an impact,” Gaffigan, 50, said during an interview backstage this summer at the Orange County Fair. “I wanted it to say something a little more than ‘Jim loses a pair of shoes.’ ” Gaffigan will perform Sunday at Taco Bell Arena in Boise.
Q: Has working with your wife changed your comedy at all, opened you up to new things?
A: I think it did open me up. I think I became less intrigued with the notion of shock. I mean, comedy is about surprises; it’s about two unrelated ideas and stuff like that, but shock, I think, became less important of a currency. So there would be jokes, and she’d be like, “Do you have to say that? Can’t you think of something better than that.” And I’m like, “What’s wrong with that?” And she goes, “It’s disgusting.” And I’d be like, “All right, I could say this.” She goes, “I’m still offended by that, but you know what — it’s better written.” In my first special, I had these jokes about being Catholic, and she was like, “You should do those,” and I was like, “No, ’cause people will think that I’m like a religious freak.” But those were my insecurities surrounding it.
She describes herself as having a Ph.D. in Jim Gaffigan; some of it is a sensibility and point of view — that you can disagree over — and then there’s just great observations she’ll come up with that can find their way in there.
Q: One episode this year, “The Trial” — in which you’re thrown into Social Outrage Jail and found guilty of being “a dumb, ignorant, stupid, white guy” — is based on the overwhelmingly negative reaction to an actual tweet of yours from 2013: “Ladies I hope getting your nails done feels good because not a single man notices you got them done.”
A: There are moments where you’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to be famous; I don’t want to be under the microscope at all.” I enjoy the fact that people like my stuff, but I’m certainly not a flamethrower. But comedians do have a tendency to be flamethrowers, to say outlandish things. Still, I wanted that episode to be less about the crime and more about the punishment. It’s like, we’re all reasonable here; we don’t want to be sexist or homophobic, but if we step into it, we can go, “Hey, sorry, my bad,” and people should say, “OK.” But every now and then, people are like, “No.”
Q: In the episode “The List,” after not making a list of the hundred best comics in New York, you go deep into Queens and the depths of alternative comedy. Do you feel commonality with 20-year-olds, that they get you? Or is there a new kind of comedy that’s funny in a different way from what you do.
A: What I love about stand-up, and I’m going to eventually contradict myself, is that it’s a meritocracy. You either do it and you’re good at it and the crowd responds and they come and see you, or you don’t. There might be flashes in the pan that are big for about a year, but in the end, it is a meritocracy.
There are kind of these waves. When I started in stand-up, there were maybe 80 comedians in New York City — maybe. And everyone knew everyone. And now it’s grown exponentially. So there’s times I go into clubs, and I’m a comedian, and I don’t know any of the comedians. And that’s very strange. And there are references that are just lost on some people. The age thing, it’s weird because I think in your 20s, everyone’s all the same age, it seems like; and your 30s and 40s, it’s all the same. But it reaches a point where it’s like, “Oh, wait a minute, I’ve been doing this for 25 years.”
I did a benefit with Ricky Gervais, and I got offstage, and he goes, “Oh, you’re just out there doing jokes.” I go, “Yeah. That’s what I do. That’s what all of us do.” In the end, it’s the Borscht Belt show in the Catskills. It’s either funny or it’s not, you do the job or you don’t.”
7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, Taco Bell Arena, 1401 Bronco Lane, Boise. $39.75 and $59.75. Ticketmaster.