Jim Gaffigan: King Baby

CD review by Steve Bennett

There’s little criticism you can level at Jim Gaffigan that he hasn’t already thought of himself. Just as a routine gathers momentum, he adopts the high-pitched whiney whisper of an unimpressed audience member offering a weary commentary on the material. ‘Pillow jokes? Really? That’s what he’s doing?,’ he complains sarcastically. ‘I didn’t know he was going to be so edgy.’

Yes, his observational shtick is as solidly mainstream as it gets, with slight everyday topics picked apart with unremitting pedantry. It’s true that some of his jokes come from the obvious – the cushions routine is based on the indisputable fact the women tend to buy a lot of them – but the delight comes from the elegance of his phrasing. He’s not the first comedian to moan about a broken-down escalator (see the late great Mitch Hedberg) but he surely is the first to deride the static stairs as ‘an organised hill’.

He is, by his own, admission, a man of sublime laziness; a real-life Homer Simpson who – whatever he’s doing – would rather be slobbing out in front of the TV. Life, then, is something to be wearily dismissed as an inconvenience keeping from this blissful sofa nirvana.

Food, though, is a major concern, and you wouldn’t think a man could make so much of the subject. He’s already as famous as a jobbing stand-up can be in his native America for a routine about Hot Pockets –pasties, basically – and here he has so many lines about bacon that you might suspect he’s backed by the American Pork-Breeders’ Association.

‘How many bacon jokes is he gonna do?’ ask the small voice of dissent – which Gaffigan uses more sparingly and more effectively than ever before – just before, yes, more jokes about the porcine wonder food. When Gaffigan does a subject, he does it thoroughly, with just about every angle covered. Such meticulous, some could say anal, dedication makes him nerdily endearing.

The audience in Austin, Texas, love him; greeting even the mildest witticism with adulation – which can be irritating, and devalues the truly beautiful lines that sit among the more workaday observations. But when he nails a subject – whether its ten-pin bowling, low-rent waffle houses, snooze buttons or camping – he really nails it.

His timing is skilful, and the pace relaxed, drawing you into his slothful world ready to be delightfully sucker-punched by the graceful turns of phrase in his finest quips.

  • Jim Gaffigan: King Baby is out on Comedy Central, priced £7.99 on CD or download. Click here to buy it. Gaffigan is playing London's Shaw Theatre on Saturday March 20.

Published: 4 Mar 2010

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