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Jim Gaffigan Brings The Laughs Again

Host Ophira Eisenberg chats with comedian Jim Gaffigan on Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York.
Mike Katzif
Host Ophira Eisenberg chats with comedian Jim Gaffigan on Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York.

How has comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan's relationship with his wife Jeannie evolved over their 15 years of marriage? "I've become more and more frightened of her," Gaffigan deadpanned to Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York. "I was very resistant to [collaborating], but now it's full-on codependency."

The husband and wife creative duo have worked together for their entire career — from stand-up material to a semi-autobiographical TV Land series The Jim Gaffigan Show ,which depicted their family life and living in a cramped New York City apartment with five children. Currently, Jeannie is directing and executive producing Jim's next stand-up special, titled Quality Time, which is intended to be the first original comedy special for Amazon. "When we were first dating we'd get a bottle of wine, we'd sit back, we'd write," Gaffigan recalled. "Now that doesn't happen. Now she sends me emails of comments when she sees a show. And sometimes I'll read them. Her insight is invaluable."

Since his previous appearance on Ask Me Anotherin 2015, Gaffigan has seen both a career high and personal low. In late 2015, Gaffigan had the opportunity to open for Pope Francis at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia for an audience of over 1 million people. At first, the comedian thought the joke was on him. "I thought, 'Okay, they're gonna come and they're gonna see this is not a good idea. This guy talks about bologna for 10 minutes,'" Gaffigan reflected, "'And then the religious leader of the world of Catholics will come on.'"

Going into the performance, Gaffigan understood that he would never amass universally positive feedback. "There are certain situations that you're not going to succeed in. There's no scenario where a comedian's opening for the Pope and people are like, 'That's what we wanted,'" Gaffigan joked. "'You know what, I like the Pope, but the guy that went on before was better.'"

Jim Gaffigan returns to Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York.
Mike Katzif / NPR
Jim Gaffigan returns to Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York.

Two years later, the comedian faced another, more personal challenge: His wife Jeannie discovered she had a pear-sized brain tumor. Despite the intensity of Jeannie's health scare, Gaffigan felt compelled to include jokes about the experience in his Grammy-nominated 2018 album, Noble Ape,after consulting with her. "[Jeannie] came out of that and she was like, 'I do want people to know that they can go through this and survive,' because immediately when she found out she was on the internet looking for examples of people who made it through brain tumors." They also found that this material resonated with audiences who have feared for a loved one's health or spent weeks in a hospital. "I'll run into people in airports, and they'll say, 'I prayed for your wife,'"Gaffigan said. "It's strange because you don't realize how we're all connected. And that's why I'm running for President," he joked.

Between the release of his Noble Ape and his forthcoming Amazon special, Gaffigan starred in three films that played at the Sundance Film Festival: Light from Light, Them That Follow, and Troop Zero. "I've always done acting, I've just never gotten roles," Gaffigan said. "People will ask, 'Why this shift into dramatic roles?'" Gaffigan said, explaining "Because now they started to hire me." Plus, each character allowed him to showcase new sides of himself: "Different roles and different lengths of beard," Gaffigan explained. "There's a lotof beard acting."

In Troop Zero,Gaffigan plays Ramsey Flint, the father of a young girl who dreams being included on NASA's 1977 Voyager Golden Record. For his Ask Me Anotherchallenge, Gaffigan had to guess whether a sound or image described was featured on the actual Voyager Record.


On a Voyager Record photo of a man eating a sandwich from both sides:

"The aliens would be like, 'What kind of weird people eat both sides. They eat a bite of the hot dog and switch to other side? Save the best bite for last.' No wonder the aliens haven't come. These people are annoying."

On the feistiness of the Northeastern United States:

"The whole Acela line from D.C. to Boston — I call it the corridor of hate. It's not necessarily violence, but it's pretty close to it. You go to Virginia, people are thoughtful and introspective. Baltimore, no."

As heard on Jim Gaffigan Brings The Laughs Again.

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