Jim Gaffigan Feasts on Your Etiquette Questions

The comedian explains why the "Jim" you see on stage and on screen is a little dumber than his real-life counterpart, before delving into our listeners' hamburger hardships.

(Photo Courtesy of TV Land)

Each week you send in your questions about how to behave, and answering them this time is Jim Gaffigan.

Over the last 20 years, he’s become one of America’s most-watched stand-up comics, with self-deprecating observations about raising five kids with his wife, and especially about his love of food. In fact, a couple years back, he published the best-selling book called, “Food: A Love Story.”

This summer you can catch him on a stand-up tour and on his TV Land sitcom, “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” which he writes and produces with his wife Jeannie. Now in the midst of its second season, the show follows a guy named Jim Gaffigan, who has a wife and five kids, as he tries to be a decent Catholic, while making his way as a comic in New York City. Sound familiar? Here’s a preview:


Brendan Francis Newman: Jim, it’s an honor to have you on our show.

Jim Gaffigan: It is an honor to be here! I’m excited.

Rico Gagliano: I’m glad. We can hear it in your voice.

Jim Gaffigan: That’s the etiquette, that you’re supposed to be excited.

Rico Gagliano: I guess so.

Jim Gaffigan: I’m Midwestern. I feel like Midwesterners, we have an advantage in the etiquette thing.

Rico Gagliano: How’s that?

Jim Gaffigan: I don’t know. There’s a certain civility that masks our anger.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, but it’s just a mask though, isn’t it? Like we all know you’re seething piles of evil.

Jim Gaffigan: But we’re polite about it. That’s the premise of “Fargo,” is, like, these people are nutjobs, but they’re gonna talk about it politely.

Rico Gagliano: They’ll put you in the wood chipper, but they’ll be kind.

Jim Gaffigan: Yeah.

Rico Gagliano: Well talking about that duality, we do need to start with the obvious question: To what extent is the Jim Gaffigan on the show the Jim Gaffigan we’re speaking to right now?

Jim Gaffigan: Well, you know, Jim Gaffigan real life, not the brightest guy. Jim Gaffigan who does stand-up, remove a couple IQ points.

Rico Gagliano: Gotcha.

Jim Gaffigan: Jim Gaffigan television show, remove a couple more IQ points. It’s very, it’s gradations of dumb.

Jim Gaffigan and John Mulaney in a scene from "The Jim Gaffigan Show." (Photo Courtesy of TV Land)
Jim Gaffigan and John Mulaney in a scene from “The Jim Gaffigan Show.” (Photo Courtesy of TV Land)

Rico Gagliano: So how did that character evolve though? Why did you choose to devolve your intellect for the stage and for TV?

Jim Gaffigan: It’s interesting, I love playing a smart dumb person. Like I think Ellen DeGeneres does it very well, too. It’s just funny, somebody that’s very confident that is clueless. You see that at… every waterpark is filled with a lot of people with a lot of confidence that should not have confidence. I think we identify, because we all walk around with this illusion that we’re a little bit better than we are. But we get a glimpse in the mirror and we realize the reality.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, I know. Steve Martin’s act was basically about that. I’m the best comedian in the world, when what he’s doing is actually silly and stupid.

Jim Gaffigan: Right.

Brendan Francis Newman: So is it hard to keep track of these Jim Gaffigans. As you mentioned, you do write this show with your wife. And there’s this character you’re creating together, and then, you actually are raising five children.

Jim Gaffigan: For me personally, it definitely does bleed into my personal life. Our season finale has to do– I play my dad and my son plays me. And my dad is a much more gruff, impatient kind of pre-Phil Donahue man. I think that kind of bled into my everyday life after it for a couple weeks.

Rico Gagliano: How so?

Jim Gaffigan: Well I just think there’s an impatience that I witnessed with my dad, and kind of a male entitlement that I kind of adopted a little bit. And now, I’m married to a strong woman, so she beat it out of me.

Rico Gagliano: You’re both represented on the show, and you write it together. They must assume that you’re the couple on the screen. How does that play out in real life?

Jim Gaffigan: It’s pretty fascinating. My wife is actually very different. I mean, I’m different from my television character, but my wife is very different. Now, some of that was intentional from just kind of setting a story, or characters. Like, if Jim is this slovenly, kind of lazy guy, we couldn’t have the wife or mom be anything but resilient. ‘Cause we didn’t want people to watch this show and go, “These children are in trouble.”

Rico Gagliano: They have no guiding light.

Jim Gaffigan: Right. So, I think my wife’s resilient, but in much more of a practical way. Whereas Ashley kind of portrays a brightness that… when we were casting the show, we were at a network test, and I said, “Look, Ashley Williams could come at Jim with a chainsaw, and the viewer would be like, ‘That’s adorable!’” And that was intentional.

Ashley Williams contemplates coming at Jim with a chainsaw (kidding!) on "The Jim Gaffigan Show." (Photo Courtesy of TV Land)
Ashley Williams contemplates coming at Jim with a chainsaw (kidding!) on “The Jim Gaffigan Show.” (Photo Courtesy of TV Land)

Rico Gagliano: All right, maybe you can bring that attitude to our listeners’ etiquette questions. Are you ready for these?

Jim Gaffigan: Yeah, I’m ready.

Kid Food = Bar Food

Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Kristapps, via Instagram. And Kristapps writes: what’s the protocol around eating food you’ve served to kids? How many times do you have to offer it to them and have it rejected before you can claim it, or should you claim it?

Jim Gaffigan: Oh, that’s an interesting scenario. Well, that’s why most parents are fat. Because it’s like, any adult that gives a meal to some kid, who for some random reason, doesn’t eat it, you sit there and you feel like, “Maybe I should eat it!?” And also, kids eat, essentially, the equivalent of bar food. So the food that you eat at two in the morning…

Rico Gagliano: Chicken tenders.

Jim Gaffigan: …After you’ve been drinking for six hours, is what kids will have for lunch. Kids, they’ll eat like one chicken tender, or they’ll say like, “I want pancakes and eggs!” And there’s an exhaustion, so you’re like, “All right, fine. Just get the pancakes and eggs.”

And then they’re just like drinking orange juice for breakfast. And you’ll look at the pancakes and eggs, which — if you’re a responsible adult — you’re like I’m not gonna eat both of these, but you end up eating both of them.

Brendan Francis Newman: Is it under the guise of we don’t want this to go to waste, being a good example for your children about food waste?

Jim Gaffigan: I think it’s just food in front of you. And as you get older, your metabolism stops. When I was single, I wouldn’t have pancakes in my apartment. But when you have children, the food is in front of you, and you paid for it.

Rico Gagliano: But what’s the advice here then? Should we avoid doing that to ourselves, or it’s just like, give up?

Jim Gaffigan: I think you’re gonna take your kids’ food anyway, unless they touched it. ‘Cause children are filthy. I think just take the food.

Rico Gagliano: All right, Kristapps.

Brendan Francis Newman: Eat the food.

Rico Gagliano: Good luck. Enjoy your new weight.

Careless Car Alarmers

Brendan Francis Newman: This next question comes from Candace, from Raleigh, North Carolina. Candace writes: “When someone chooses to remotely lock or unlock their car just as you happen to be walking right next to it, thus startling or at the very least annoying you, how do you politely call this rude behavior out, when one really wants to just yell, ‘Thanks, jerk!’”

Jim Gaffigan: I think the answer is just a loud huff, right? Or, I think Candace should, like, not think that everything is about her. You know, ‘cause I don’t know if it’s that bad. Someone locking their door. In their presence.

Brendan Francis Newman: Well, it’s the sound. I think it’s the sound, the “Beep beep!”

Rico Gagliano: She thinks that maybe this person is aware that she’s next to the car but they don’t care, they’re not waiting for her.

Jim Gaffigan: And they’re doing it on purpose.

Rico Gagliano: I guess so.

Jim Gaffigan: And so like, the civil thing, would be like, wait for Candace to walk by the car, and then beep it. That’s what they would do on “Downton Abbey,” right? [Laughs]

Rico Gagliano: Yeah. Candace expects a lot.

Jim Gaffigan: It’s interesting. Candace seems like a bundle of fun.

Brendan Francis Newman: I think the car lock alarm in “Downton Abbey” too, is just three French Horns. [Imitates horn sound.]

Rico Gagliano: It would be kind of a chamber orchestra would play?

Brendan Francis Newman: Yeah, exactly.

Rico Gagliano: Candace, you gotta give up your Victorian ways.

How to dine on tall burgers

Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from ConfusedAndMessy in St. Paul. ConfusedAndMessy writes: “How does one eat a burger in public, that is taller than it is wide? Using a fork and knife feels like cheating.”

Jim Gaffigan: Yeah. Well, first of all, I’ve done this many times… I think you gotta cut it in half. That’s what you gotta do. First of all… I hope if it’s that tall, that there’s at least a fried egg on there, so you’ve earned some of that height.

One of the many times Jim has had a tall burger in his life. (Photo Courtesy of TV Land)
One of the many times Jim has had a tall burger in his life. (Photo Courtesy of TV Land)

Brendan Francis Newman: It’s not just bun, or something.

Jim Gaffigan: Yeah, or Brussels sprouts, something weird on there. You can have avocado, I’m all right with that, but like, don’t put pulled pork on a burger. Don’t take like an entire entree and put it on there. Like when they put pasta… you ever go into Sbarro’s and they have like pasta on the pizza? Don’t you wanna just go, “Stop doing this!” Right? “Just stop, all right?”

Rico Gagliano: “Choose one.”

Jim Gaffigan: “I know we’re trying to make some money, but like, let’s just not do that.”

Rico Gagliano: Novelty stops at a certain point.

Jim Gaffigan: Yeah. And so I think you cut it in half.

Rico Gagliano: I guess the thing is, she asked, using a fork and knife seems cheating. My question maybe is a more ontological. Is it still a burger if you’re using a fork and knife? Because that’s almost, you’re in steak-frites territory if you can’t–

Brendan Francis Newman: Oh my gosh!

Jim Gaffigan: I think if it’s got the bun, it’s a burger. But I think that using a fork and knife, that’s just wrong. I mean, didn’t that kill John Kasich’s campaign? Isn’t that why he’s not the Republican nominee?

Brendan Francis Newman: But [Bill] de Blasio, the mayor of New York got in trouble for using a fork and knife with pizza in New York.

Rico Gagliano: Oh God.

Brendan Francis Newman: If you’re a politician, stay away from forks and knives.

Rico Gagliano: But I do have to point out, to cut the thing in half, you are gonna have to use a knife. So maybe just a knife, not a fork and a knife. Maybe the fork is the problem.

Jim Gaffigan: Yeah, or just get a normal burger. Don’t get an Empire State Building burger.

Rico Gagliano: That’s right.

Jim Gaffigan: That’s my reference for tall burgers.

Brendan Francis Newman: All right. And Rico, just to clarify, if you’re using the knife, you’re still using your hand to carry your hand to carry the burger to your mouth.

Jim Gaffigan: Yes.

Rico Gagliano: OK.

Jim Gaffigan: It has to be carried to the mouth with the hand.

Rico Gagliano: With the hand.

Jim Gaffigan: Or a mechanical hand. You know what I mean?

Brendan Francis Newman: There’s that.

Jim Gaffigan: I’m not against technology.

Rico Gagliano: Some sort of crane?

Jim Gaffigan: Well, I’m sure Elon Musk is working on something, right? He’s gotta be like, now you don’t even have to move your arm. Thanks, Elon Musk!

Rico Gagliano: If he’s not, he is now. Jim Gaffigan, thank you so much for telling our audience how to behave and eat.

Jim Gaffigan: Thanks, you guys.