7:30 p.m. Thu., May 21
Mahalia Jackson Theater, 801 N. Rampart St., 525-1052; www.mahaliajacksontheater.com
For many comedians, a good standup routine is an unnoticed game of connect-the-dots. Or, as Jim Gaffigan might put it, an unseen Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
How do you get from bowling to Bacon without losing your audience? Gaffigan sneaks like a stealth bomber: from bowling ("The advice starts: 'Use a heavier ball ... keep your arms straight ... you should get a vasectomy'") to laziness ("It's hard to do anything once you get in a hammock, because you can't get out. It's like a giant net for catching lazy people"); to beds ("My wife is always like, 'Why don't you ever make the bed?' For the same reason I don't tie my shoes after I take them off: It doesn't make sense"); to breakfast in bed ("That is a fantasy, because it gives you the option of going back to sleep when you're done. 'Well, it
would be rude to eat and run'"); to bacon ("The pig is an amazing animal. You feed a pig an apple, it makes bacon. ... That's magic, or the most successful recycling program ever"); to Bacon ("You can't tell me the success of Kevin Bacon isn't somehow tied to his name. ... 'Who's in this movie?' 'Kevin Bacon.' 'Sounds good'").
The sidewinder bit opens Gaffigan's new Comedy Central special, King Baby, and somehow includes five side-splitting minutes on each of the banal, seemingly unconnected bookends. "I kind of like the challenge of doing rather mundane material," he says. "It's like, all right, I'm going to make escalators funny. I'm going to do four minutes on it."
A comedy-club veteran with numerous TV and film credits — he's the meowing guy in 2001's cult-favorite Super Troopers — Gaffigan broke through with Beyond the Pale, the platinum-selling 2006 routine that launched a thousand "Hot Pockets" jingles. (Google "Hot Pockets" and Gaffigan's routine is the top hit.) It also crowned the fair-skinned comic as king of "romanticized laziness": a brand of middlebrow humor that playfully skewers middle America from the inside-out.
"I'm from a small town in Indiana, so that probably has something to do with it," he says. "New York, L.A., San Francisco — which are three of my best cities for standup — I might talk about religion, but I'm not bashing religion (or) criticizing human beings. When I do religion jokes in L.A. or New York, people are a little bit like, 'What is this guy talking about? Is this Fox News? What's going on?'"
Gaffigan's process is to mull an everyday target — USA Today or taco salad — then chip away at it until only the laughs are left. When conversation turns toward the latter, he quickly lapses into new-material mode: "I think probably the most impressive thing about the taco salad is that they actually get to use the word 'salad.' There is more lettuce on a Big Mac. ... You know the difference between a taco salad and a taco? The taco is actually healthier for you.
"[That's] a classic example of something where I really like the topic, and what inspired me was the fact that the taco salad comes with a deep-fried edible bowl. That's the opposite of a salad right there. There's no salad that includes eating the bowl."
That explains Gaffigan's favorite F-word: food. "I always said comedians like George Carlin and Lenny Bruce, they broke all these rules so there's no censorship, and I kind of went the other way," he says. "It's like, you can do a really filthy show, but then how do you talk about bacon after that?"