Grand Prairie — One thing's for sure, you don’t go to a Jim Gaffigan concert hungry. Although if you’re a vegetarian you won’t get quite as worked up. Donuts, steak, Mexican food, barbeque and, of course, Hot Pockets, were all on the menu. But not fish, definitely not “disgusting fish,” which he irrationally, irascibly, irretrievably hates, a byproduct of growing up in fish-free Indiana. “How can it be good when the best thing you can say about it is that it isn’t fishy?”
Gaffigan has always been food focused. His routines on the delicious and deadly Hot Pockets are legendary among fans that shout “Hot Pockets!” when they happen to see him in passing. But this tour ramps up the caloric content to promote his second book, Food: A Love Story. It debuted at No. 5 on the New York Times bestsellers list and stayed in the top 20 for 17 weeks. Crown publishing offered the comedy machine that is Gaffigan, Inc. a seven-figure contract to pen it.
As befits an avowed foe of fish, in his show Wednesday night at Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie, Gaffigan spent 10 minutes on steak alone, a food he associates with Texas. He extols steak “because I’m a man and I’m fat.” Steak remains his prime masculine attribute since he lacks a pickup or an iota of handyman or fighting skills. After all, he notes, with steak you get a house, but with tuna all you get is a can. Alas, he left Dallas disappointed. He tweeted before the show: “Dallas doesn’t have a steakhouse open past 10pm tonight? I guess you guys were right about Obama.”
That last line is classic Gaffigan. He strokes the caricature that fans demand while slipping in the sly. A routine recounted all the weird breakfasts he endured while touring internationally. (In Iceland, “where everyone looks like Macklemore,” he was offered shots of fish oil.) Then he mentioned the distain he received from a Swedish woman and noted “Americans, we’re the new Germans.” Zing! He wrapped with a bit on Australians: “They like us way too much. It makes me question their judgment.”
Gaffigan creates very writerly shows, dense and well woven, chock full of words, yet never too long on any one topic. No wonder he does so well with books. He gave a tip of the hat mid set to wife Jeannie Noth Gaffigan, describing her as his writing partner. While his delivery continues to broaden with a greater use of voices beyond his trademark faux-whispered asides, at the Verizon show he never ventured past a yard square space of stage. He turned to the left, turned to the right, and faced forward, over and over again. At times, you wished for the relaxed couch Gaffigan you see being improvisational and witty on late-night talk shows.
The perfect date-night comic, Gaffigan is never offensive, too sexual or profane. He hits all the right topics to make men feel manly and women feel like queens for putting up with them. He makes mainstream meaningful; the Verizon parking lots were full of SUVs adorned with multiple stick figures on the back windows. Gaffigan will never lead you dangerous places, but he’ll take you close. In a bit on visiting a Jewish holocaust museum, he pulled out his asides voice to imagine people looking at his white hair, even whiter skin and pale blue eyes. He mused that even Hitler would not have approved of him: “He wanted Aryan, not snowman.”
Gaffigan spread the topics around: Dogs carried about in purses, why wax museums still exist, elevators as “a casket on a string,” his closet as a curated museum of weight gain, and binge watching Netflix (“I’ve got to pay attention to my children. Just one more season before bed”). His bit on the hyper masculinity of pick-up marketing—“Truck ads give me anxiety. People with pickups don't seem to pick anything up. ‘But I’m the kind of person who could’ ”—was a great jab on humans' ability to rationalize. He offered up a surprising number of jokes on Christianity and did a sophisticated bit on how Europeans say “going to hospital” or “attending university”: “We’re just going to have to conquer them until they start using more the’s.”
Tom Shillue, who bridges storytelling and stand-up, opened with a too-short set of indefinable yet very funny stories. But he got his biggest laughs with a retro bit on television commercials from the ’70s, focusing on Armour Hot Dogs jingle: “What kind of kids eat Armour Hot Dogs? Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks. Tough kids, sissy kids, even kids with chicken pox. What were ad execs thinking when they approved it, he mused: “Should we start off with ‘fat kids?'” “Sure, that’s our customer base.”
» Video: Jim Gaffigan’s rant on seafood from a live show in Boston.