But for the new stand-up show he’s bringing to Charlotte’s Spectrum Center on Friday, Nov. 10, the 51-year-old funnyman/Everyman is going on a restrictive diet, of sorts.
“This hour that I’m doing right now, there’s no food jokes,” Gaffigan told the Observer during a recent phone interview. “That being said, I don’t imagine that I’ll suddenly not be known as ‘the food guy,’ but ... as a writer, you’re always trying to challenge yourself.”
His life and career, in fact, are currently full of challenges. Here are 10 he discussed with us.
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1. His beard. “I just went and got my beard trimmed at this place near my apartment. There’s these guys – I think they’re all from Azerbaijan – who trim my beard, and it looks great for a day, then it poops out again.”
2. His kids (now ages 13, 11, 8, 6 and 5). “My 11- and 13-year-old kind of know what’s going on, and they have friends that are really into stand-up. But my daughter (the 13-year-old) is probably more excited that Twenty One Pilots came to my show. ... And then I would say my 5- and 6-year-old, they assume I just work on a computer. We’ll be out to dinner and someone’ll come up to the table, and they’ll be like, ‘Does that guy know you?’ ”
3. Mother Nature. His show at Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre in August 2015 was a rain-soaked affair, but at least he made it through his whole set. “I did a show in Little Rock (this past August), and I had probably done 45 minutes when someone walked on stage and gave me a note that said: ‘There’s lightning a mile away. Instruct everyone to vacate the area immediately.’ ” The show ended prematurely. Fortunately, “I’ll be in an arena this time in Charlotte, so we won’t have to worry about that.”
4. Fine-tuning his routine. “I go around New York City, where I live, and I’m always trying out material so that when I am doing a theater or an arena show, it’s all ‘A’s.’ ... I live a couple blocks from this comedy club, EastVille, and I also kind of started at Gotham – so I mostly work at those two places. I can just walk in and do a set, although I only do it if I’m not bumping a friend of mine, or someone I started out with. ... I’ll put some of my kids to bed, go and do a show, then come back and put my other kids to bed – or, with the teenager, try to beg her to go to sleep.”
5. Meeting audiences where they are. “I’ll be in Charlotte in this arena this time ... before it was an outdoor venue, and before that was a large theater. It’s ever-changing. I mean, there’s people that will only go to outdoor venues. When I performed in theaters, there were people that would never go to comedy clubs but would go to theaters. So it’s an ongoing and educational process for me.”
6. Understanding his audiences. “I’m a substance guy. People are coming for the material, and the conversation which stand-up is. People aren’t coming to see my outfit. Or hear about my stories with Jay-Z. They’re just coming for the material.”
7. Acting. He’ll play U.S. Attorney Paul F. Markham in the crime drama about Ted Kennedy – “Chappaquiddick,” which is due in theaters on April 6, 2018. Gaffigan also starts work soon in Youngstown, Ohio, on a thriller titled “Them That Follow”; he says he’ll play “an Appalachian guy.” “I’ve always loved acting. It’s just the process of getting the opportunity to do it. I mean, I think comedians, we’re rather spoiled. We can come up with an idea and try it that night – whereas in acting, you have to wait for the opportunity where people are like, ‘Alright, you look like that guy,’ or, ‘Alright, you’ve showed that you can act there, so we’ll let you do this here.’ But I love it. Having little kids, they dress up as superheroes all the time. (Acting) is another form of dress-up. It’s just a blast.”
8. Watching his acting. “People will send me links – they’re like, ‘Here’s the movie!’ But I won’t go out of my way to watch it, because I’m kind of a control freak. Having had my own show (“The Jim Gaffigan Show”), I’m like, ‘Ah, I wish they would’ve used a different take.’ ... I’ve had to listen to my voice so much it doesn’t make me cringe, but I’ve never really seen a photograph of myself and thought, ‘Hey, that’s a good one!’ So yeah, I’m not dying to see my work. But then again, it’s important to see it so that you can learn.”
9. Avoiding food. In his comedy, that is. “When my wife (Jeannie Gaffigan) and I were writing ‘King Baby’ (which came out in 2009), we were like, ‘No food jokes. We’re not gonna do any food jokes.’ And then I stumbled upon bacon and a bunch of fast food jokes, and we were like, ‘Oh, alright.’ So then there was this McDonald’s chunk, then we wrote a book about food (“Food: A Love Story”), then I just kind of embraced it. ... Finally, though, I got to a point where I had discussed so many of the food things that I had kind of exhausted that perspective. Between the book and five specials, I had pretty much talked about or captured my viewpoint on most food items.”
10. More specifically, avoiding Hot Pockets – which have spawned arguably his most famous series of jokes. “I started doing interviews for the day more than an hour ago, and this is the first time it’s come up. Now, that being said, they haven’t been radio interviews. If it’s a morning radio interview, they (always bring it up). But that’s the blessing and the curse of it. ... And at shows, I’ll do Hot Pockets as an encore. Because I know there’s at least one person in the audience who came just to hear that.”
Jim Gaffigan: Noble Ape Tour
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10.
Where: Spectrum Center, 333 E. Trade St.
Tickets: $35 and up.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.