[8 April 2009]
Jim Gaffigan is an unlikely comedic hero. While other famous comedians use probably offensive and shockingly unfunny puppets (Jeff Dunham), make “jokes” about society and race that have been done better by just about every stand-up ever (Carlos Mencia), or mug like a seven-year-old left alone with a camera for a few minutes (Dane Cook), Gaffigan does nearly 15-minute riffs on bacon, and its hilarious.
Gaffigan broke to national consciousness with his Beyond the Pale special, which coincided with appearances on Conan O’Brien as a member of the Pale Force, an animated series that found he and O’Brien united to fight crime using their pale skin as a weapon, and his bit appearance in cult film Super Troopers. Beyond the Pale became a hit on the back of a lengthy riff about Hot Pockets and their impact on the human digestion system (you might as well just put them in the toilet to save yourself), which is now something of a comedy standard.
Now Gaffigan is back with yet another special, titled King Baby, which was recorded in Austin, TX. The 71-mintue performance DVD comes packed with lots of extras, including a few Pale Force episodes, a lengthy Sirius/XM interview, and a bunch of promo clips he shot for Comedy Central.
King Baby is mostly about laziness—ours and Gaffigan’s. This leads him down paths discussing moving walks (including the ones that announce the walk is ending, in case you forgot how to walk), escalators, and watching obscene amounts of TV without moving (and replacing the batteries for the remote from the smoke alarm). But most of the laughs come from Gaffigan’s lengthy riffs on bacon (including choosing a religion based on it’s opinion of bacon), ketchup, and how bologna’s spelling is beyond comprehension.
Food jokes are obviously an integral part of Gaffigan’s act (which features absolutely no cursing), and while they have a tendency to drag a bit, they help position Gaffigan as an everyman—the guy who you meet at a bar and end up spending 45-minutes talking to about how bad the diarrhea is you get when eating frozen food packets, and about how awesome bacon is.
King Baby also features a lot of Gaffigan’s “crowd voice” where he talks in a higher register and asks rhetorical questions of himself from the point of view of an audience member. These jokes (like an audience member going, “How many jokes is he going to do about bacon?”) not only allow Gaffigan to step outside of the goofy slacker persona he’s created for himself, they allow him to make rapid-fire jokes upon jokes, never really leaving a blank lull in between them. Sometimes the quick succession of jokes lessens the laughs, but often, it’s one of Gaffigan’s biggest strengths (especially when he more or less argues with himself during a few bits).
Overall, King Baby is a tighter performance DVD than Beyond the Pale but it lacks the truly memorable riffs that the latter had. If anything, King Baby confirms Gaffigan’s comedic chops, and further cements his position as one of the better working comedians today.