On Welcome to New York, the short-lived sitcom that introduced him to the public in 2000, Jim Gaffigan portrayed a naïve Midwesterner. Since then, Hollywood rarely has let the Chesterton, Ind., native play anything else. That’ll change at 10 p.m. Nov. 28 when he co-stars as public defender Andy Franklin in the new TBS sitcom My Boys.
“The opportunity to play a sarcastic, sardonic, almost nihilistic guy is a nice reprieve from the dumb guy,” he says.
Gaffigan is anything but dumb. As those who’ve seen his hilarious Comedy Central standup special, Beyond the Pale, and those who are going to see him Dec. 1 at the Murat Theatre know, Gaffigan’s a sharp-witted observational comedian. (Those who’ve seen his Pale Force cartoons on Late Night with Conan O’Brien know he also has a wicked sense of the absurd.)
A typical joke: “I got married. My wife changed her name. I know some women have a problem with that, but I wanted her to have my old girlfriend’s name. Call me old-fashioned, but this fella does what the Bible tells him.”
He’s the kind of guy who watched Halle Berry play a poverty-stricken woman in Monster’s Ball and thought, “Why doesn’t she just become a model? She could be the next Halle Berry.”
In an interview with NUVO, Gaffigan talked about what he’s learned from show business.
NUVO: In less than 10 years, you have 54 acting credits, which is an amazing amount of work. Do you feel like you’ve done well?
Gaffigan: I feel very grateful, but I also know that the irony of being an actor is that you either get too much respect or none. But I feel like I had to fight tooth and nail for each and every one of those jobs. I never got those because someone said, “Let’s just give this to Jim Gaffigan.” It’s not something I take for granted.
NUVO: What are your expectations for My Boys?
Gaffigan: I have a pretty decent feeling about it. The show explores this extended adolescence that I think we as a society have adopted. It’s not a show with five models and one goofy guy. It’s got a lot of real-looking people, which I think is refreshing, too.
What I like about this show is, it feels like the language is grounded in reality as opposed to the sitcom thing of “You’re going to say something that has nothing to do with the topic we’re talking about, but it’s going to set up a punch line for me.”
NUVO: You’ve had some good luck with commercials, too. Those Sierra Mist ads are pretty funny.
Gaffigan: I have so much fun doing those. They’re incredibly, creatively fulfilling. I feel like Michael Ian Black and I have a unique chemistry that is not that common. No one comes up to me and says, “I don’t like those Sierra Mist commercials,” which I think is pretty amazing.
NUVO: Some actors say they won’t do commercials.
Gaffigan: Would you rather do commercials or a bad sitcom? Which one’s the worse evil? Do you want to be the moronic neighbor or do you want to be the funny guy in the commercial?
NUVO: From Welcome to New York to now, it seems that you’ve really grown to understand the business.
Gaffigan: As a comedian, I am the writer/director/performer and if I don’t want to curse or do stupid, irreverent material just to get a shock laugh, I can cut it out myself. I think the lesson I’ve learned is that you’ve got to be in control. I was spoiled because I literally did standup on Letterman and they offered me the development deal that led to Welcome to New York. You have to take complete control to get anything done because relying on someone to do the right thing or relying on any level of meritocracy in this business is just really naïve.