When Jim Gaffigan plays the Chicago Theatre this weekend, it will be a homecoming of sorts for the Northwest Indiana native.
His comedy makes no effort to hide his love for the simple things of Midwestern life. He talks openly about his love of food and laziness, which has tuned him into one of the most successful comedians in the business. And then there's the Gaffigan who has lived in New York City since he was 19, been on numerous sitcoms, appeared in a Broadway play and just wrote his first book, "My Dad is Fat," which hits shelves May 7--all while raising five kids.
We talked to him about his Chicago experiences, pizza, and how authors would do as comedians.
(Jim Gaffigan, 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Chicago Theatre, $54-$64)
It always surprises me you've never lived in Chicago, since it seems like the most Jim Gaffigan-y city in America.
Right. I was born in Barrington and moved to Northwest Indiana. I would say that I've been floating around Chicago. I mean, Northwest Indiana identifies itself as Chicago. I grew up in Chesterton and Munster. There are jokes that I have that I can only really do in Chicago because of the fact I'm from Indiana. I love telling people in Chicago I'm from Northwest Indiana and they say "Where is that?" and I say "It's 10 minutes away." Northwest Indiana is kind of the stepbrother to Chicago.
You did get to live in fake Chicago on "My Boys." What was that like?
Filming in fake Chicago is like filming in fake wherever. It's very odd. The thing that is interesting about "My Boys" is how many Chicago people worked on the show. There's such a rich comedy produced from Second City that when they do Second City they're in their early 20s, and they identify Chicago as almost a college campus. It is this romantic college experience for them. So a lot of the writers went to Northwestern or Second City.
What was growing up around the city like?
I grew up going into Chicago and trying to convince my friends to go into Chicago. Then I went to school on the East Coast and moved to New York City. So I'm relatively ignorant about Chicago. I still have the 16-year-old suburbanite perspective on Chicago. My brothers and sisters live or have lived in Chicago. I'm the guy who goes back to Chicago and gets the deep dish pizza and the people who live in Chicago look at me like I'm wearing a Statue of Liberty hat. But I don't care, I love the deep dish pizza.
Do you have a favorite Chicago pizza place?
Lately I've been going to Lou Malnati's, but usually it's whatever is closest to my hotel because I'm exhausted. It depends. But they're everywhere. I'm doing this book tour in May and I think there's going to be one in Naperville and Winnetka and the first thought that came to my mind was there is probably a Giordano's there.
Last slice of pizza of your life: New York pizza or Chicago pizza?
Oh, I would say beyond a doubt Chicago pizza. I say that on stage in New York. There is no comparison. I just love the idea of sausage pizza where there is just a whole layer of sausage, a significant layer. I don't stop eating it, either. You eat it until you feel physically uncomfortable. That's how I eat Chicago pizza.
There's also something about the wait involved. It almost feels excruciatingly long. I virtually tackle a waiter. I'm like, "Get me a sausage pizza," and they're like, "OK," and I'm pushing them into the kitchen because I don't want to wait. It takes 45 minutes. I always destroy my mouth on the first bite, burning it. But it is one of those things where I would never eat it during the day and then try to do two shows. I do it late at night when I'm watching Lifetime.
It seems like you've embraced "fat," like you are totally cool with it now.
Being a guy who talks about things where we just want to eat and sleep and things like that, some of that is probably a function of having five kids. I used to eat a lot and work out a lot. But now I don't have time to work out. It's not as if I'm super thin. It's not like I feel comfortable taking my shirt off at the pool anyways. I've got a hot wife, who am I doing it for? It's just a simple pleasure.
I've got to ask you, what were you thinking having five kids? It blows my mind you are still out there performing with five kids.
I'm a very low energy guy. It's really a compliment to my wife, who is an energetic force. I love being a father and having so many kids is great. It's one of those situations where you put the frog in the boiling water and slowing turn up the heat. I didn't have five kids at once. You are so tired it doesn't really matter. Two kids is really hard. After that you are struggling to have time to take a shower. But I wouldn't have it any other way.