Jim Gaffigan at Montreal Just For Laughs

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

He’s made more out of a single foodstuff than any other comedian, with the possible exception of Peter Kay and his blasted garlic bread. Even now, several years after he first discussed the dubious nutritional value of Hot Pockets, Jim Gaffican returns to the subject for the encore of his current tour. His fans, who are legion, expect nothing less, and are vocal in their appreciation – even if the punchlines are increasingly predictable, now he’s so firmly established his premise.

But everyman Gaffigan is a master of making the apparently inconsequential into a full routine, and the reason the Hot Pockets material has endured is the artful way he can pick apart the everyday, reinforcing ideas that resonate with everyone.

Food still remains the main obsession, with talk here of McDonald’s fries, Kobe beef, Subway sandwiches, the cholesterol-packed Quebecoise speciality of poutine (which every comic visiting Montreal feels duty-bound to mention) and – another of his trademark topics – bacon.

But even something as apparently unremarkable as taking a bath is the basis for an excellent few minutes, spinning off into the preposterous marketing of all the lotions and potions that is unthinkingly accepted by us all. But while pointing out the nonsense is easy, Gaffigan winkles it out so delicately, bringing the humour out a little at a time. Each line exposes a tiny truth you’re probably aware of but never vocalised, then every so often he’ll nail a more inventive thought so exquisitely you’ll have to laugh.

As always, he comments on several of his routines as he goes along in a stage-whisper, representing the voice of the audience – or any third person he needs to vocalise. It gives him a second chance to get laughs out of the few bits of material that don’t land, as well as generating running jokes, such as his ill-advised attempt to mock the French or by commenting on just how often he mentioned the words ‘body wash’ – and thereby repeating them yet again. But it all helps set up recurring phrases to stick in the mind, almost like the chorus of a song.

One of his finest routines in this show is on seafood, inspired by both a visit to Maryland where everyone bangs on about their crab, and, of course, his fixation on eating. His memorable, evocative, thoughts on the matter, so eloquently put, are likely to put anyone hearing them off shellfish forever. There are also some hilarious musings on hotel rooms travellers might not want to hear.

The focus of the show is shared experiences, although Gaffigan – billed as the king of clean comedy – occasionally mines his life for material. He has his fifth child in eight years on the way, and comparing his toddlers with bar-room drunks is another delight.

There’s nothing here that’s revelatory, or will shift your view on the world, but in wittily summing up the everyday experiences of wide cross-section of the population, Gaffigan is on to a winner.

Review date: 24 Jul 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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