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Interview: Grammy nominated comic Jim Gaffigan plays Ottawa this month

By Daniel Araya on February 6, 2017

Grammy nominated comedian and New York Times best-selling author Jim Gaffigan will perform in Ottawa on his North American tour.

With multiple projects underway, including his television series The Jim Gaffigan Show, Gaffigan is touring a new standup show, Fully Dressed.

Ahead of his Ottawa date, I had the chance to speak with Gaffigan over the phone. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Apt613: You’re prolific. How and when did you develop the discipline to function without sleep?

Jim Gaffigan: I’ve been doing this for so long, when opportunities came I couldn’t pass them up.

So it’s seeing an opportunity and saying, “Alright I know what I have to do. And I’ll finish it no matter how I feel?”

Well you also have to consider I’m doing something I enjoy! So going up to Ottawa and performing doesn’t feel like work for me.

My hobbies are doing standup and being a parent and occasionally eating a beaver tail.

 Yeah completely! But to become a comedian everybody understands that you have to be obsessed to become great. Your number one priority is becoming a great comic and then when you become a father your number one priority changes. Your number one becomes being a great dad. How do you balance that? Without being overwhelmed?

Well thanks! I mean look, it’s an ongoing battle! I think every parent kind of deals with a level of guilt. I think the guilt is the thing that balances it all out, it’s what causes people to call their parents. I’m not bringing my kids with me to Ottawa but I typically will bring them, it’s expensive but it balances things out. I had shows in London, England and I’m doing a show in Paris and taking them there. A lot of it has to do with my wife being an incredible partner in the process. She’s my writing partner, its about that balance but also I don’t golf. My hobbies are doing standup and being a parent and occasionally eating a beaver tail.

That’s interesting, because a lot of headliners don’t have kids and some of them discuss struggling with relationships. What attributes do you think kept you and your wife together? What kind of person is your wife? 

It’s pretty incredible. She’s my writing partner so even when we did the show we wrote all the scripts together and she directed. Even when we started dating we both had a similar work ethic. I eat a lot more than her but we have the same mentality. In some ways having five kids is too much, and acting is too much but you only get one life on this planet so… might as well do it up.

That work ethic, is that a New York work ethic? How do you get so much done?

That’s kind of you but I don’t feel like I’m getting much done. I feel like I have to work harder than other people. I mean we can’t all be Dave Chapelle. Dave Chapelle who I’m sure works very hard, is an incredibly gifted comedian where I think I work really hard. 

You don’t think you’re one of the chosen ones Jim? In standup?

I think things definitely take me longer to figure out than the normal person, but for comedians the respect of the peers is the important thing. When I started, Dave Attell and [Jerry] Seinfeld said I was funny and that inspired me. But I think when you buy your own hype that’s when you lose the momentum, the drive.

I feel like standup is something I keep getting better at, the learning curve is continuing. There isn’t a stagnation, I have a new hour and it’s different from the Netflix special Cinco and it’s exciting. I think people forget how much comedians enjoy doing standup comedy. The endorphins that are released from a room full of strangers laughing is pretty powerful.

Who were the peers that you started out with?

When I started out there was this mini generation, these people that were really good that were beginning to be established. Dave Attell, Louis CK, Marc Maron and Todd Berry, these great comedians! In my class it was Greg Giraldo, Judah Friedlander, Bonnie McFarlane, Ian Bagg. The people that were above us were so good, it was really hard for us to get stage time.

I didn’t know that! I imagine you guys were scared, not sure if this road would work out. Do you guys look at each other now like “Hey… it’s okay. We made it. We’re safe.”

Oh yeah! I think the landscape has changed so much. When I got into comedy in the early 90s there wasn’t an expectation that you were going to perform in Canada. You may be at Just For Laughs but you wouldn’t be touring at the Canadian Tire Centre. This is before Youtube, before Netflix, and satellite radio. The people that went into standup… it was a passion project, it was a different kind of comedian.

The fact that you have new hour after the Cinco special is incredible, how do you approach a new hour?

In some ways it’s a fun challenge but it’s also terrifying. Cinco was my fifth special, I’m working on my sixth. I remember my agent going “Alright, when can we book shows?” and I’m going “hold off!” I had time leading up to Cinco where I was doing shows and had some ideas that developed and by December I had 30 minutes of material and then by January I had 45.

In some ways it’s misleading because coming up with a new joke or a new line is more rewarding than killing with material that you already have, that’s where the real endorphins are released. It’s terrifying because you might fail and you can’t fail when you’re doing an Arena show. But it’s fun challenging yourself

Thank you so much Jim!

It’s a pleasure Daniel!

Jim Gaffigan will perform in Ottawa at 8pm on Friday February 10 at the Canadian Tire Centre. Ticket are available online at www.canadiantirecentre.com for $45–85 plus service charges.

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