Seen in Atlanta, Georgia, September 20, 2008
Jim Gaffigan is a bit of an odd performer. He doesn’t come across as excessively spontaneous or improvisational. In fact, he seems like he’s delivering a sixty minute-plus monologue. A monologue that evokes things that everyone can relate to, whether it’s an extensive routine about the divine nature of bacon or why the snooze bar on your alarm clock is your best friend and your worst enemy. And the routines don’t have punchlines. They have jablines that mean that the entire routine is funny from start to finish. And his delivery is kind of like Stephen Wright after a truckload of therapy: a lot more animated but rarely self-amused. And yet: he’s funny. And what’s more–and this I know because some of his bits have found their way onto my “Listened To Often” playlist on my iPod–they’re still funny the fifth or sixth time you hear them.
[ad#longpost]So he’s in Atlanta for two shows last night. His opening act is Rich Brooks. And I’m not familiar with Brooks, but his stuff was unevenly funny. In fact, most of his problem stemmed from, in my opinion, that he seemed to have little regard for the fact he was performing in front of a live audience. If you say a state’s name and people react with whistles or shouts, it’s good to acknowledge them somehow. Otherwise, why can’t we just catch your act at home? Now, in all fairness, they’ve got two shows a night, so Brooks’ job is to get the hell off the stage and make room for Gaffigan, who then has to get the hell off the stage to get out to the lobby, then somehow meet and greet a houseful of people and reset in time for the 9:30pm show. We got out of our show at 8:30pm. This, I’m sure, can lead to stress and a desire to burn through material without regard for audience interaction. So it might not be his fault. But still. And it would have helped if he were funnier.
Gaffigan took the stage shortly thereafter and immediately did an entire tirade in his odd “what the audience is thinking” voice, which has the odd quality of amping up the humor value of anything that is said. Thereafter he spent a great deal of time discussing laziness and food. There was the aforementioned bacon routine, which was funny for longer than it had any right to be. And at one point he nodded to the fact that people where only there to hear his Hot Pockets routine. Indeed, someone going into the theatre ahead of us was carrying a box. Except for Hot Pockets, there was very little in the way of repeat material. Just when I thought he was going to branch into some version of his bit on Holidays, he instead focused on the turkey at Thanksgiving, and what the nature of stuffing actually was. And what it meant to the turkey.
Gaffigan is a very funny guy and it’s interesting to see him live in a full house of folks. Because, naturally, the humor is amped up with people around you are laughing almost perpetually at every odd thing that he says. I will say this for Hot Pockets, though: it’s the equivalent of the band playing their hit song at the end of the set. People went apeshit for the Hot Pockets routine. To Gaffigan’s credit, though, there were a few bits in there that were new (compared to the version I have on CD/DVD, anyway) so that everybody got something out of it.
A really nice night out, although if I had any suggestions for Comedy Central Live it would be either start the first show of the evening later or go for two separate nights. I don’t know about in other cities, but logistically it’s hard to get in and out of the Cobb Energy Centre with traffic and all for one event an evening, much less two. And I’m sure it will give your performers room to breathe.