Even though he heralds the wonder of laziness, comedian Jim Gaffigan couldn’t be busier these days.
His international Noble Ape Tour makes a stop at Tampa’s Amalie Arena on New Year’s Eve. He just wrapped up production as the leading man in the comedy You Can Choose Your Family. He plays the district attorney in the film Chappaquiddick, coming out in April about Sen. Ted Kennedy and the 1969 car accident that took the life of Mary Jo Kopechne. And he is beginning production of a dramatic thriller, Them That Follow, where he plays a pious husband of a community matriarch.
In July, Forbes listed him among the world’s highest-paid comics and estimated his earnings for the year at $30.5 million.
So is the guy with the lazy shtick secretly a hard worker?
"I like to think that I romanticize laziness," Gaffigan said in a phone interview, "but compared to my wife, I am incredibly lazy. I’m just befuddled by her energy level."
All this performing "is definitely taxing," he said, "but it’s not as hard as mixing cement, which I did one summer."
From his food choices to his pale complexion to his large Catholic brood, Gaffigan has always mined his life for comedy. And for this tour, the more serious topic of his wife’s brain tumor is on the table as well.
On April 18, Jeannie Gaffigan’s tumor — which was wrapped around her brain stem — was removed in a nine-hour surgery.
"The brain tumor is gone — along with my ability to ever win another argument," Gaffigan cracked.
She is his writing partner, so she is right in there with him finding humor in the horror, he said.
"I remember she came out of an MRI and was very much like, ‘Write this down,’ " he said. "It’s just insane. They say don’t move and you say what if something is wrong and they say, ‘Well, we’re not going to be able to hear you anyway.’ There is this loud thud, and it just sounds like a torture device really."
In the midst of a national conversation about sexual misconduct that has brought to a halt the careers of comedians like Louis C.K. and T.J. Miller, comedian Jessica Delfino wrote about the harassment female comedians face, but she also wrote about the many times male comedians have helped her.
"Jim Gaffigan put me in his TV show and was a regular fixture, reliably lending his star power to a dinky monthly comedy show I helped produce," Delfino wrote. She also told tales of being given a pep talk by Kevin Hart and advice and career boosts from Colin Quinn and Dave Chappelle.
"That’s encouraging," Gaffigan said when Delfino’s words were read to him.
"I’ve reached out to female comedian friends and say I want to help, and some of it is sitting back and listening and learning," Gaffigan said. "One of them jokingly said, ‘Don’t be a pervert. Don’t be a creep. That’s how you can help.’ "
"It is kind of this interesting path, we live in this day and age where every day there is something exposed that is horrifying and frightening. I honestly don’t know what I could have done even if I did know about it. I was never really in a position of power as it pertains to the Louis C.K. thing. I had assumed it was just rumors."
He doesn’t expect much of a rowdy crowd at his show in Tampa, even if it is New Year’s Eve.
"Twenty years ago doing a show on New Year’s, you kind of classified it as an exercise in babysitting," Gaffigan said. "But times have changed. People that are going to come to my show are not a mess. And if they want to go on to a New Year’s Eve party after, they can still go to it."
Tickets are $32-$66 for the bedtime-friendly show at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Amalie Arena. But if you still want to ring in the new year with the rest of Tampa, you will be within walking distance of the fireworks at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park at midnight.
What’s so funny Jim?
I interviewed Gaffigan in 2008 and asked him what makes him laugh and here were his answers, and they still hold up nine years later. I asked him again what entertains him in 2017. Social media makes an appearance and the dark mood of the country has him turning toward dramas over comedy.
The website Stuff White People Like
"It just nails it. Even Facebook is on there. White people love Facebook, unpaid internships, having black friends. A lot of stuff that’s in my act is represented there."
With small kids, Pixar movies are a sure bet for the adults to have a good time, too. As for the movie’s vision of a future in which humans are obese gluttons who never leave their padded floating arm chairs? "That’s my dream."
Hot Pockets commercials
"They recently announced that it’s now made with real cheese. Really? Do you even want to admit it wasn’t real cheese to begin with? And then they came out with Vegetarian Pockets, for those of us who don’t want to eat meat, but still want diarrhea."
The standup comic, writer, actor and creator of the original U.K. version of The Office "is one of the great comedic minds," mostly because he ended The Office on a high note. "He could have run that into the ground but he stopped. He’s never done something just for the $5 million."
"Anthony Anderson (Black-ish) will post some really obnoxious video of someone just doing something embarrassing, like dancing on a table and falling off." A post this week included a video of a large-bottomed woman twerking on the roof of a car. She then falls into the windshield, cracking it badly. "I think what’s appealing about those kinds of videos is we all can identify with it. It’s the basis of every Shakespearean play, the hubris."
"I think Nate Bargatze (who was part of Jimmy Fallon’s Clean Cut Comedy Tour) is really funny and the guy who opens for me, Ted Alexander, makes me laugh so hard."
"I don’t watch television comedies these days. I’m sure they are great but my appetite at this point of my life is just looking at dramas or I’m just consumed with watching the news."