Comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan will be at Carmichaels Bookstore from 7pm-8:30pm on Wednesday, June 12 to promote his new book, “Dad Is Fat”. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim which included discussing his book, his kids, parenting, Space Jam, and he even complimented our very own Louisville Palace:
“That is an amazing theater.”
Highlights from the interview:
Louisville.Com: When did you get the idea of writing a book? How did it come along?
Jim Gaffigan: I’m an observational comedian and I want my stand up to appeal to everyone in the room. And so I found myself almost censoring how much kids or parenting material I do because I didn’t want to alienate people, you know, when I was in my twenties the kids material or the parenting material I be like ‘that’s great, but I can’t get a date I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ But Twitter really opened up a venue for me to post these observations and comments. And so I had all of these Twitter comments and I felt they were connecting with parents and even people that didn’t have kids were enjoying them. And so I had all of these observations and jokes about parenting that I knew I wasn’t going to put in my act and so I thought I could use this outlet to lean into some of these topics given the fact that I have five kids, so i knew I could talk about a kids relationship with candy, so I ended up writing about my kids life and we turned it into a book proposal and here we are.
LC: That’s awesome, so where did the title “Dad Is Fat” originate from?
JG: “Dad Is Fat” was my son’s (Jake now seven) first sentence that he wrote probably when he was five on a dry erase board. And you know kids write very simple words initially like cat, mom, and dog. And his first sentence was, dad is fat. And so he showed it to me and he knew I would laugh, and I laughed..and then I put him up for adoption.
LC: So I guess you have four kids now? I watched your kids book review online and I have to say they are totally adorable. Do you usually get inspiration from your kids for your comic work?
JG: No.. well some. I’m definitely inspired by their point of view and that they kind of have a perspective that hasn’t been tarnished by dentist visits and bankruptcy. I love that point of view, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that jokes are coming from my kids.
LC: Yea, but do they find you funny?
JG: Oh do they find me funny? Yea, I think so. I don’t know if they’ll always find me funny. My oldest is nine and there are some voices that I do that she finds rather annoying. But I think they find me a little bit funny. Humor is important.. around the dinner table.
LC: I totally agree with that, my dad is pretty openly funny around the dinner table too. So how do you balance your busy work schedule and family?
JG: I essentially have no life. You know, I’m not the kind of person that wants to go to a movie premiere but I’m doing shows and then hanging out with my wife and kids. You know, my life is pretty much constructed around the fulfillment I find in doing stand-up and hanging out with my kids and trying to be an involved dad and hopefully teaching them something. The whole book is about how I don’t have the best instincts for this parenting stuff..but I’m definitely trying my best.
LC: Well that’s good that you’re spending a lot of time with them. So your wife helps a lot with most of your work, did she help a lot with the book?
JG: Yes, she was very instrumental in the book. Um, the whole process of writing it, Jeannie and I write everything together and her involvement in the book. I probably should have shared the credit with her..but the point of view of the book should come from a dad. I have images of her rewriting parts while breastfeeding.
LC: So you guys are partners in crime with the book. So is there another book in the future? Acting gig? Stand-up tour?
JG: Yea, I’m always writing a new hour. But we did a pilot for CBS and we are reshooting the pilot. But I would definitely be open to writing another book.. and these book events are pretty fun and I’m surprised by how much I enjoy them. It’s very much like you’re holding a press conference and it’s fun to answer questions and meet people while you’re signing a book for them.
LC: What is the main difference between a book tour and a stand-up tour?
JG: I’ve been to like ten book events and I’ve done numerous stand up shows, but I’d say the book events are very loose. They’re casualness like I said..it’s like a strange press conference. It’s kind of fun and stable..it’s not like they’re having happy hour and then heading over to a book event. And that’s not saying that my shows are filled with drunk people, because they really aren’t. I don’t know..they’re smaller and they’re more intimate.
LC: In one of your passages, the Lone Ranger, I could totally relate to that. Do you have any words of wisdom for single loners in a couples world?
JG: Yea I mean, I’m in my forties and it’s amazing how much life changes. I mean think about how different you were in high school..I couldn’t get a date ten years ago and now my apartment is crawling with babies. It’s amazing how much your life can change and I’m talking only positives. Don’t assume that you know the path your life is going to have. I thought and was pretty comfortable with the idea that I was going to be the weird uncle that lived in New York City, but now I’m this guy who has an entire basketball team.
LC: I have to ask, you were recently on an episode of Portlandia. What was it like working on the set and working with Fred and Carrie?
JG: It was kind of amazing. There are some shows that I’ve worked on and I would say, Flight Of The Conchords was kind of like this too. You’re literally playing...it’s like you’re hanging out with friends and you pretend...and that’s what Portlandia and Flight of the Conchords are like. And a lot of the acting work I’ve done has been a blast. But Portlandia...there was a script...and it was a funny script..and we didn’t even do it..we kind of played. Carrie and Fred; I don’t know if they’re just really comfortable with their success but they’re just really down to earth people. And it’s also a reflection of the city of Portland...that it’s just a great vibe. You show up to do the thing, there’s all this goody bag of stuff from Oregon like organic chocolate and stuff like that. It would be nice if life was like Portlandia...if all acting jobs were like Portlandia.
LC: Okay this is an off question. If the book was going to be turned into a movie who would play you?
JG: Brad Pitt, or uh maybe Tracy Morgan. No, who would play me? I don’t know... Bruce Vilanch?... Joan Rivers? I don’t know. I could only think of the most ridiculous examples. Obviously Phil Hoffman looks like me..he could play my brother.
LC: You always say that the movie was better than the book. I figured you might try to make it into a movie.
JG: That’s the irony, right? On Twitter people were like ‘wait a minute aren’t you the guy that says you don’t like to read and know you’ve written a book?’ and I get it..and that’s why I did want to write the book. I mean, we went through the pains to make this. I wanted this to be a book that I would read and I didn’t want a bunch of stories about my boring existence. I wanted it to be funny. It’s observation. I think the best compliments I get on Twitter is when college students and high school students say that they read it and like it and I’m like ‘that’s great’. You know, I was hoping for that and just trying to be realistic about it.
LC: Do you have a favorite passage in the book or a section you enjoyed writing about?
JG: There are funny observations..like how fatherhood, like being the dad is like being the Vice President of the family. I love that observation..how you’re essentially filling a ceremonial role in that way like ordering pizza or going to pageants. But there are some that came really easy..and there’s some that weren’t easy..like the parenting cool essay which we probably rewrote like seven times. I don’t know, there are some that just came out..like that candy one just came out because it’s similar to my stand-up and just an observation on candy and the different types of candy. There is some stuff that was interesting, like writing about my dad because I had some of that a long time ago as stand-up material and then I wrote it and I sent it to my brother and my brother said ‘you can’t say this about Dad’..but it was in my stand-up and dad liked it. It’s weird how some things in written form have a different tone.
LC: What is the weirdest question you’ve been asked so far in an interview about the book?
JG: I thought it was kind of weird when someone asked me, ‘Did you write the book?’ Yea of course, I mean if you read any part of it, I mean I’m a comedian writing a book. You can tell I’m a simple guy writing a book. It’s not Shakespeare or there’s no ghost rider here. I think that’s funny, but I understand because there are people that talk to ghost writers and they say ‘this is what happened’ and you write it down. But that’s not my way... I wouldn’t do that. But at a book event there was this one kid and he asked me what I thought about the movie Space Jam. Remember how I told you how these book events are loose and casual? So I was like..okay Space Jam let’s see uh..I said that it was interesting and I had to had to ask him, ‘Do you even know who Michael Jordan is?’ He kind of lied and said, ‘Yea, I do’..and you could tell he didn’t, and it’s the same reason why my son likes it, because it’s animated and this war that creates disaster.
LC: it’s probably one of the best movies of all time.
JG: People love that movie.
So if you have some spare time, drop by Carmicheals to buy his book “Dad Is Fat” and meet him in person. It’s well worth the trip. Who knows... you might even get your book signed.