Jim Gaffigan Curated

American Stand-up Comedian, Actor, and Writer

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This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Jim Gaffigan have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Jim Gaffigan's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming comedians. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • What was it like for you when you got to New York and had to establish a comic identity?

    Well, you know, it's - you know, I always had this romantic notion of living in New York. I didn't know - I just felt like, you know, everyone could be different and weird and whatever they are in New York, where I felt like in the Midwest, as much as I love the Midwest, I felt that I was, you know, I was a little bit different. And so when I started stand-up - and this is in the '90s - there was definitely - you know, people hadn't watched decades of Comedy Central, where, you know, people are really much more educated on stand-up comedy. It used to be much more of a form combat. You know, heckling was much more common. And I - you know, I couldn't get stage time, and so I would go out to Pip's in Sheepshead Bay.

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  • Comedy took you away from the faith. What brought you back to it?

    I wouldn't say that comedy brought me away from it. I think that my idea of faith was another obligation in my life. You know, I was raised in a family where my father was the first one to go to college. You sought security. You didn't question - kind of like, you would go to college. You would wear a tie to work. You would, you know, you would work for 40 years. And then you would play golf for three years, and then you would die. That was how I was raised. And so I think when my mother died, it was such a - you know, a shock to the logic that I had been raised with. You know, I wasn't going to church. I never went to church when I was in college, either. But I would say my return to my faith is - you know, it's a very personal thing. But I think it was - you know, I reached a point in my life where I didn't really like who I was. And, you know, I had the all these things that I wanted. I was married to an amazing woman. I had children, and yet there was frustration. You know, it's kind of hard to articulate, but, like, this notion of mercy, forgiveness, was very appealing for me. It was very profound. And it had a deep impact, and I think it still does.

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  • When you were growing up, did you grow up with the concept of mercy?

    I don't think so. I think I grew up with the idea that God was a punishing being, constructed around rules. And so he was, you know, this father figure that, you know, I was in trouble with, you know, constantly. And so it was not something that - you know, I lived across from a Catholic church for 15 years that I never went into. And then I got married to my wife and - you know, and now we're going in there every other day baptizing a kid. You know, it's interesting because I was watching this thing last night. I think CNN had a thing on it, and it may me realize that, you know, for, like, the past 20 years, there has been this belief among the Catholic community - and this - I'm no expert, this is my opinion - that cafeteria Catholics are wrong. It's - you either - you know, follow all the rules or you're not really Catholic. And I think what Pope Francis is saying is that nobody's perfect, you know? And so someone like Joe Biden, you know, where - you know, when he was running for president, people were - there were some bishops that were like don't let him have the Eucharist. And Pope Francis is saying that's not the point of this, you know?

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  • When you say you're a horrible person and a lunatic, what do you mean?

    I mean that I'm somebody that - you know, I think stand-up comedy is this - it's this kind of indulgence and narcissism. And you're on stage and because stand-up comedy is one of the few meritocracies in the entertainment industry, there's some kind of - at least for me, there's some kind of idea of control. And my faith kind of keeps me in touch with the idea that I'm not in control of things. And when I'm in touch with the idea that there is a higher power and that there is, you know, other factors at work, it - it kind of quells my narcissism. And a lot of the teachings really kind of keep me grounded. But, you know, the reason I say I'm a horrible person is I don't want myself to be presented as somebody who's a great Catholic. You know, it's, you know - the idea of being a practicing Catholic, it's - for me, it's like - I need a lot of practice, you know what I mean?

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  • How do you deal with people who associate you with values that you don't share?

    Yeah. You know, I grew up in a Catholic family in the Midwest. And I knew people of different faiths and people that were atheists and people that were agnostic. And it really never came up, but I think that in present-day America, they're - you know, and I touched on it in the initial clip - is that we are in the middle of this culture war. And there's a quote in this episode where I say, I just want to talk about avocados. And some of it is - I do just want to do jokes. I don't want to be a divisive figure. I don't want to pick a team. I want to make people laugh and hopefully bring some - be humorous about the human experience, you know, whether they're people of any stripes of life.

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  • Were you uncomfortable with the audience or the press finding out that you were a practicing Catholic?

    Yeah. I mean, well, I - you know, my wife and I, we work together. And we wrote this book, "Dad Is Fat." And in the book, you know, I was encouraged constantly by my editor to be more personal and talk about more personal experiences. So we wrote about having five kids and bringing them to church. A journalist at The Washington Post wrote this article where the headline was "The New Catholic Evangelism Of Jim Gaffigan." And it was a bit terrifying. I spent most of my adult life essentially agnostic or an atheist. And I am somebody who - my path to my faith is very kind of individual, and I don't want to be lumped into the category of, you know, those Westboro Baptists. Like, my faith is very personal. It's not something that I want to project on other people. But some of my fear and anxieties surrounding it, I think, provides some good comedy for my act.

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  • What was the gradual realization or did it just hit you one day that you needed to end The Jim Gaffigan Show?

    As a parent, there’s always a balance you are trying to find between career ambition and being a responsible father to your kids. Jeannie and I realized after we finished the first season that we wanted to make adjustments to the show to ensure we weren’t neglecting our family life. Creating a show takes a lot of time and effort and what we found is that, because that show was semi-autobiographical, it was important for us to not have a show about us as parents while we were ignoring being parents to our kids in real life. So by the second year, we had tried different approaches but we were still working 14 hours a day. Doing the show was fun and rewarding but at what cost? I do stand up and movies but that doesn’t remove both parents. It might remove me for a week here or there but I can always be a dad first and foremost, which is the most important thing.

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  • You co-created The Jim Gaffigan Show with your wife Jeannie. How was the experience?

    We have always done everything together. Going back to when we were dating, I was on this short-lived show, Welcome to New York, and she was helping me there. She was always involved in the writing process but eventually, she was producing my albums and directing my specials. The partnership has always been there and it’s still there. It’s very important to me.

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  • Has the rise of parenting in stand-up caused you to change your approach to integrating parenting into your comedy?

    The thing I find interesting about being a father or a parent in general is you can’t realize just how much it changes every part of your life until you’re in it. I know so many comedians who in their twenties would look at comedians who were parents and say, “Why are they talking about their kids so much?” Cut to ten or so years later and those same comics are now dads and sure enough, they’re telling jokes about their kids. I’m not even talking about the guys you mentioned but it’s something I’ve seen with a lot of comics.

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  • Is funny is the only label that matters to a comic?

    Yeah. Of course, being a dad is a huge influence on my work and I’ve said it’s the most important thing I’ll ever fail at. It’s a major element of my point of view but I wouldn’t want anyone who doesn’t have kids to think they couldn’t connect with my work. I don’t think it’s essential to be a dad or mom to like my stand-up. The appeal is that I’m funny.

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  • You’ve pushed back against labels like “clean comic” or “food comic.” Are you similarly resistant to the idea of being labeled a “dad comic”?

    I think that comedians only want to be described as one adjective: Funny. So when people start ascribing any adjective to a comedian other than “funny,” there is a natural reluctance. There’s a frustration because you don’t ever want to set a limit to who can enjoy your comedy. Most women who do comedy don’t want to be called a “female comedian.” They want to be called a funny comedian.

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  • Before Chappaquiddick, you hadn’t done many dramatic roles. What drew you to this part?

    I’ve always wanted to do dramas. I’ve done a few here and there, but nothing on a consistent basis. I do think there is a stigma where anytime people see me doing something serious, they get confused. Even when I did a Law & Order episode people said, “What is he doing in a show like this?” But I’ve always been interested in doing work outside of comedy. Part of it is also traveling. When I was presented with this part, I immediately loved it but I wasn’t sure it was going to work with my schedule. I knew the movie was something I wanted to be a part of and fortunately, they adjusted the schedule so I could do it. And I really enjoyed doing the part.

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  • Jumping on this point you've made about comedy being a conversation, what's your favorite?

    I think my favorite is definitely performing in a theater with people who know my point of view. Let me put it this way: People are funniest around people who think they're funny. At least that's how I see my comedy. So if I'm around people who think I'm funny, even if I'm making my wife laugh or my children laugh, that is a source of energy for me. When I'm doing a theater show, it doesn't matter the city, and I'm improvising on a topic and they're laughing at it, that's the fuel line to the topic in the joke. Any comedian will tell you that that's the magic moment when you're on stage discussing something and people are laughing.

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  • I would be remiss if I did not ask you about the high-pitched character voice you're famous for using. Is that something you consciously work with when you're writing, or is it more of a knee-jerk reaction to the material?

    It has evolved over different specials. I call it the "inside voice." It's something I actually did as a teenager, just to diffuse the situation by talking to what other people were thinking from my point of view. There have been different approaches to it, and I don't want to lean on it too often. I'll develop material, and as you develop material over a few months, the voice becomes an additional point of view. So, if I have a point of view on anesthesiologists, I can throw in an opposing point of view. Or in Noble Ape I know there's one point where I take a stab at optometrists and say "for the nerdy optometrist," and then the inside voice will ask, "Why would you go after optometrists?" The lesson that I've learned with the inside voice is that it's more partial the more sparingly you use it. It adds an improvisational quality to it. It's also kind of playful, so it keeps the material fresh and lets the audience know that I'm hearing them because stand-up is very much a conversation. Comedians are always interpreting all the laughter from the audience. That's why I think most comedians view applause breaks as disruptive. It's like you want laughter, you want to hear different types of laughter for different types of jokes. Hearing things from the laughter can inspire different reactions. It's like how you would drive a car. You listen to the motor if you're driving a stick shift.

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  • What are your thoughts on vinyl coming back in the last few years, and including a link for a downloadable digital version, too?

    It's so smart, right? It's not mutually exclusive. I think it's fun because when I started stand-up there were wooden microphones. [laughs] No, when I started stand-up there wasn't this. Sure, George Carlin was doing a special every year, but that was confined to a legend. And now there is an appetite for it. It's not just comics churning out so much on their own. There's an appetite for it. People understand your point of view, they know that you're going to deliver a certain quality and there's that appetite for it. I never expected that I would be touring around the country doing theaters, but I don't know. It all comes down to one of the greatest professional joys I've felt, which is coming up with a new joke. It's just an amazing experience.

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  • What are your thoughts on Noble Ape not being on Netflix?

    It's interesting. There have been a couple of interviews where, about halfway through the interview, I realized they thought that the special was going to be on Netflix. In some ways, what I'm doing is not that revolutionary of an idea, but because so many specials have been going to Netflix now, it's the foregone conclusion. But to answer your question, people asking about it is weird because I've been doing stand-up for a while. My first two specials were on Comedy Central, and then I sold one on my website. The last two were on Netflix. I've witnessed the distribution model's changes firsthand. It's not necessarily the distribution model, but rather the changes to the consumer's appetite, and figuring out what the best way is to get your material to people. I love Netflix. Netflix has been very good to me, but there is something very appealing about having a special that is available to people to stream on everything from their Xbox to their computer to their TV. They can do it on On Demand, but also they can buy the album and listen to it in their car. When you go to Netflix, the album is kind of removed from it. I've had a lot of people who have discovered me through audio streaming services or satellite radio. I just didn't want to limit that. It was an attractive offer that Comedy Dynamics gave me, but it was also the appeal of going through a different platform where there's some freshness to it.

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  • Even with that authenticity, is there a fine line you're not going to cross?

    Yeah. It's weird because I've been doing stand-up so long and there's this belief that you can make anything funny. At one point, the tumor was being described as being the size of a pear, and it bummed me. Even when the surgeon said it. Making that humorous did not really come to me as an obvious conclusion immediately. I would say that my wife came out of a three-hour MRI and the first thing she said to me was, "Write down these ideas I have on how weird MRIs are.

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  • Jeannie and your kids have always been a part of your stand-up, but considering her medical scare, which you talk about in Noble Ape, did that working relationship change at all?

    It was pretty much all the same. I mean, obviously, I wouldn't discuss it. It's a fine line because you want to be respectful and everything is okay. She's not 100%. She's not who she was before, but we're out of the woods so it's safe. I've been able to enjoy my comedy, but I wouldn't joke around about something like that if she was still in peril. My comedy isn't constructed on throwing anyone under the bus. Plus, she had a hand in some of the jokes and the material for Noble Ape. She gave her blessing to me discussing it on stage. Stand-up comedy is very much a conversation. If I didn't address it in shows after people had gained knowledge of it, it would be inauthentic. Authenticity is kind of important for comedy. So I had to address it on some level, and being subjected to this medical crisis, we were just living in that hospital world with a recovery period and all that. Material is going to come up. You can't spend three weeks in the hospital with your spouse near death without observing the hospital from a lot of different angles.

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  • How long have you and your wife collaborated on these specials?

    We've been writing together unofficially or officially together that entire time. I think on King Baby and Beyond the Pale, too. She's not listed as a writer with me, but she had a big hand in all of the directing. Even designing the opening of King Baby. As we've gone along, at one point she said, "I'm essentially directing, so I'm going to say that I'm directing.

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  • You simply announced you before you came out. There wasn't an opening skit like in Cinco. Was that a conscious choice?

    It's interesting because Noble Ape is released everywhere digitally and there's going to be DVDs and on iTunes and as an album. It was directed by my wife and she filmed an opening for it, but the opening was not ready for when we delivered all the materials. So we delivered the materials in February, but there is an opening for it.

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  • Do you think the conversation just seems louder than it is because it’s on the Internet?

    I think that there’s, you know, tone and point of view are not something that necessarily comes across [online]. There’s anonymity of the Internet, and there’s an equality on the Internet. We might see a topic trending in New York that you’re like, oh wow, that’s a big issue. When you break it down, maybe 3,000 people are talking about it out of 260 million. It’s not necessarily a true representation. I think that, yeah, you can slice and dice a lot of things, and find things problematic when it might not be. I remember even in the 90s there were these 80s comics that couldn’t make the shift to the new decade. What they were saying is no longer true. In a lot of ways, it comes back to authenticity, and that concept of authenticity is constantly changing and being reevaluated. Even what we consider the concept of liberty today, is different from what it was 10 years ago.

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  • Are there weird expectations now for people to bare all, especially in comedy?

    Yeah, and by the way, then it shifts again. It’s going to shift. We’re dealing with this era of where there is, you know, some people view it as censorship, some people view it as a greater level of enlightenment. I mean, it doesn’t really affect me because my comedy is not constructed on a flame thrower. I also think that there’s nothing wrong with tweaking words so that they don’t piss someone off or make someone feel bad. I would hope that I would be like that no matter what. In the same thing, I would defend the comedian’s right to not be censored. If I had two friends sitting next to me right now, one of them would agree with what I’m saying, and the other one would be like, you know, there is this wave of censorship that is kind of consuming comedy. I don’t necessarily agree with that.

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  • Do you use same jokes if they are still funny to you?

    The thing about Seinfeld which is so impressive is Jerry Seinfeld is 65 years old. Being a great comedian is not just creating material. You know, George Carlin created tons of material, but it’s also the evergreen nature of it. The most impressive thing about Jerry Seinfeld, whether you’ve heard these jokes he’s done for a while, what I would say is he’s expanding the materials. His chunks aren’t very long. They’re four or five minutes on a certain topic. I think the most impressive thing is that Jerry Seinfeld is 65 years old. Granted he is famous, but what’s amazing is that he kills today after he gets the applause because of Comedians in Cars, Seinfeld, and Bee Movie and all that. He kills consistently, at the age of 65, that he did when he was 40, so he’s spanning different decades. Like, Bill Hicks is a genius. When we watch Bill Hicks’ material if feels homophobic at times, it feels mean. The thing is, what Jerry has done and subtly over years, because we’ve become much more of a voyeuristic and an exhibitionist culture, is the Jerry of the 70s, of the 80s, provided no information about his life. He’s provided more autobiographical point of views stuff. He would hate me for saying this, but you can just be observational like in the 80s, but in this day and age you have to, and maybe it’s a result of the Kardashians or whatever, but you have to open up a little bit. Jerry is much more open than he was in the 80s, but that’s just me being a nerd.

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  • You’re always looking to evolve as a comedian, so how have you wanted to evolve with your most recent stand up?

    You know, here’s the thing is that standup comedy is very much, is self-assignment. I have this friend of mine, Todd Glass, and when you get comedians together, they talk a lot about comedy philosophy. One of the things that Todd Glass and I always talk about is that there’s a responsibility similar to a friendship. You want your friend to tell you when you’re being out of line. You want your friend to challenge you. Even though you might sit there and go, oh my gosh, this one friend, all we talk about is the same thing, or like we have the same memories. The reality is, you have to evolve. You have to use that shared experience to build on it. Like [my] Philadelphia story [from Noble Ape], that’s like, all right I’m going to tell a story, I want to tell a story. People that come to my shows are not thinking, when’s Jim going to tell a story? The audience doesn’t necessarily want to hear me bring up new realities that we all deal with, like hospitals in our lives, and medical crisis, and in some way,s we don’t want to hear about it. There’s also, I believe, a shared kind of acknowledgment of how lost we all feel in that kind of scenario. That’s where the whole challenging your audience is similar to how some of your closer friends will challenge you on your beliefs. When you do jokes that challenge your audience or have conversations where you challenge your friends, it makes your relationship evolve. I mean, that’s some of my philosophy. It’s like, should I just do jokes about food the rest of my life? Possibly, but wouldn’t be that fulfilling for me, and it also probably wouldn’t be that fulfilling for some audience members.

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  • Even though you’re servicing the story or a moment, do you ever feel like you want to bring some of that showmanship or crowd-pleasing skills from stand up to a role?

    That’s interesting. I wouldn’t want to say that because I’ve been asked this many times, and particularly, I think a lot of comedians have a tendency towards… People say, “Oh, I’m going to be with a comedian — whether it’s male or female — and it’s just going to be hysterical.” They’re kind of introspective people. There might be moments where we’re these exhibitionists, but comedians are to be stripped away. They’re probably much more sincere introspective people that would work better in a dramatic setting. I don’t know if that sounds like I’m kind of twisting a scenario.

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  • Are you just naturally comfortable performing on a set?

    I would say there is a different task, but I would also say that there are some skills in stand up that are necessary, that you can utilize in acting. Even if you’re in a scene where you can improvise a line or not, there is a level of concentration that you might not need in stand up. Stand up, you’ve written it, and it’s also an ongoing conversation. Whereas in a film, you’re servicing a story and the moment. There’s a level of concentration that might not be obvious.

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  • I imagine you have the freedom to turn down a lot of roles. If you don’t want to do a movie, you can just do a few gigs, right?

    Yeah. No, it’s very much a… I also have five children. I have to turn to my wife and go, “I’m going to be gone for this amount of time.” You know, I’m leaving her with five kids. It has to be worth it. There’s no money in acting at my level. She’s a creative person so she understands the value of it. I’m not like a single guy that can do everything, you know? It has to make sense because I do travel a lot doing stand up, so it has to be worth the time away.

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  • How does a role like Frank read to you on the page? He’s such a frustrating, not always comically, character, so do you see him as a challenge to play?

    I love the challenge that Frank is kind of a prick. Then, over the course of the film … For the film to work, maybe you don’t like Frank, but you emphasize with his choices or his decision making. That was a very appealing part of the script. Look, I’m thrilled to get acting roles, but it’s like, is there real acting involved, or is it just me going in a room and insulting someone? I like comedy, but I’ve turned stuff down that I think other people would say would help your visibility. I’m not dying to increase my visibility. I’m more interested with each film that film people see it, and hopefully they can go, “Oh, he can do it.” Therefore, you have to show other things that you can do. See what I mean?

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  • You have full control when you’re on stage, but then you have to completely let go when you act. Did that take a while to get used to?

    Oh yeah. No, that’s a big thing. Generally, particularly with someone with not the greatest self-esteem, you have to get over the fact just seeing yourself. I’m not somebody who spends a lot of time in front of mirrors generally. I would say you got to relinquish control. There’s so much control that you give up in the acting world, anyway. It’s like the process of getting the job is not something you can control, and then which takes they’re going to use, you don’t have any control over it. Also, it’s very rewarding. It’s fun being part of some larger storytelling. I did one of the films, and the female lead and I, she didn’t even go to the screening. She’s like, “I’m not going out of my way to see myself act.” But there is a certain curiosity on what they’re going to do with it. It is so difficult to do a good film. You’re friends with these directors and producers, so you’re rooting for them. In the end, you want it to succeed. There are times where you’re like, wow, that really worked together, and then there are times when it’s better than you thought.

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  • What is comedy all about, according to you?

    Half of the task [in standup and comedy] is finding that point of view, and it’s very much a collaborative experience with the audience. Because standup is very much a conversation with the audience, so you’ll find out things about yourself and you’ll learn about how you come across that might surprise you. But some of it is transferring that personality that makes you funny in everyday life onstage and making it accessible to broad swathes of people. For me, it took a while. I had stage fright, but I also think that the vulnerability is important for the audience to like someone and to be interested. If I’m not hesitant or vulnerable up there, I don’t think people will be interested. It’s like any good friendship: You like the friend that is reliable but also challenging and surprises you. I think that is a key element of a relationship a comedian can have with an audience.

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  • How do you stay motivated by living up to your own expectations?

    It’s amazing how little navigating the entertainment industry has to do with acting. It is this strange, ever-moving—there’s no rules. It’s fluid, so the rules that work for one person might not work for another person. I think that for me, I had to just really look at why I was doing anything and not getting caught up in other people’s expectations. Which sounds corny, but at the time, I remember I loved doing standup, I loved [that] the limited amount of acting that I could do was a success. Not by anyone else’s standards, but I enjoyed what I was doing. So, not getting caught up in other people’s expectations was a pretty important realization.

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  • Do you think that the hardest part of succeeding is risking it all?

    I think for me, right now, the hardest part is to—I said it was all about self-assignment, but it is also about challenging yourself, because it’s so terrifying at the beginning, and you’re really trying things out. Continuing to take the risk of new material is where the reward is. I feel like I have the benefit of [having] children, so I see that they are taking these risks all the time. Whether it’s the first day of school or trying a musical instrument. And I think as we get older, we become risk-averse; we’re like, ‘I don’t want to try that, I might make a fool out of myself.’ The continuing-to-challenge-yourself is the hardest thing.

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  • Are you drawn to complex characters?

    I don’t really look at it as the difference between the dramatic role or the comedic role, it’s just how complex and interesting the character is. I would say that generally, a lot of the comedic roles I’ve gotten, whether it be TV or film, it’s usually a broad stroke of a character. So, it’s like, ‘Matthew McConaughey’s friend,’ you know what I mean? (Not that I’ve played Matthew McConaughey’s friend.) But the comedic roles are usually a little bit less to feast on. Whereas a nuanced, complex dramatic character is just so fun because you can build it, you can have different motivations for why he does anything in the movie. Unlike a television show, you know where he’s going on this hour-and-fifteen-minute journey, so you can build from a certain place.” Like in ‘American Dreamer,’ I really wanted to establish that Cam, who I play, he’s this ride-share driver, and I really wanted to establish his humanity—he was this guy who is doing a job in this gig economy, and people are relatively dismissive [of him]. And so I think people will empathize with him. That was something fun to track and keep track of.

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  • Why did you choose to star in “American Dreamer”?

    I read the script, really thought I could do something different with it, [and] I was also excited because as an actor, you have to show people exactly what you can do. So I knew that if this movie came together, which it did, then I’d hopefully be able to show other directors and producers and writers that I could do this type of thing. Because the entertainment industry puts us in buckets, you know? You have to show them everything. They don’t trust you. It’s incredibly risk-averse.

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  • Do you think you are fairly prolific, even if you don’t get your one hour a year that other comics are getting?

    Right, but I have to. I love it, but I have to. I’m constantly touring and there’s an unspoken arrangement that the comedian has with the audience that you’re going to bring new stuff. Otherwise they are not going to come back. I want people to leave one of my shows thinking, “I’m definitely coming back.” So new material is pretty important, but it’s also really fun to come up with. There’s nothing better than coming up with a new joke. Nothing.

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  • How long did it take to write "Obsessed"?

    Maybe a year or a year and a half. I feel like this one took less time than the others. I know Louis does an hour a year and the British comics do an hour a year. Jake Johannsen has done a new hour of comedy for like 20 years. 20 years! That’s insane! Different topics take different amounts of time, though. Cheney shoots somebody and then a social satirist gets ten minutes. For me, it takes longer to write an hour and because my topic isn’t based on the news cycle, I would rather spend time with the material and make it really good.

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  • Do you think your topics aren’t going to get dated?

    It’s weird, and again, none of this was intentional — none of it — but I feel like I got lucky. My special Beyond the Pale still sells and it’s because the topics are still relevant. I mean, I’ve definitely written my fair share of jokes about answering machines that are not relevant, but there is something about the topics that still work. If you look at the track names on my CDs, you’d be like, what is that, a shopping list? I love what I do, but there is something about what I do that — there’s not a sexy angle. I’m not talking about stories of me with hookers — I’m talking about doughnuts. There’s an absence of a dynamic taboo breaking.

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  • What are your thoughts on comedy once being transgressive is now commonplace?

    Right, look at Richard Pryor! You look at him and a lot of his material — I wouldn’t say ripped off, but a lot of his material has been bastardized by a lot of comedians. You look back at his material and say, “Oh, that is where the joke started.” Something about my material, though, is that I don’t deal in irreverence. “Irreverent” is like liberty or your concept of freedom — it’s constantly shifting. What is considered irreverent today isn’t going to be considered irreverent in ten years. It’s constantly moving. Dealing with nuts and bolts and observational comedy, there is some longevity in it. That’s why a Bob Newhart CD is still funny, but some topical stuff can wear thin.

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  • Lenny Bruce took his comedy all the way to the Supreme Court. Your comedy probably won’t end up there?

    My comedy isn’t even going to end up on the People’s Court. It’s interesting doing these interviews. I do a special every two years and do a round of interviews with them because you forget… standup is so great, because there’s an honesty to the conversation. You know exactly how you come across. It’s a great opportunity to learn who you are in the context of other comedians or the entertainment industry. I don’t think about myself as clean — we have a tendency to categorize things, and I think the clean thing is kind of silly. It’s not like we live in a culture where someone not cursing is that exceptional. It’s not like people are saying, “Unbelievable, go see this comedian who doesn’t curse for an hour!” That’s not what is going to drive people into a theater. It comes down to funny or not, identifiable or not.

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  • You tend to be a very “clean” comic. Is that your default setting?

    I’m not the kind of person who feels comfortable cursing or talking about some intimate sexual experience in front of strangers, but I curse in everyday life. I think some of it is the topics that I discuss. What’s wrong with your life if you’re cursing about bacon? Do you really need to curse when you talk about doughnuts? But it’s great when some comics curse! Who would want Lewis Black not to curse?

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  • You’ll make fun of yourself with your pale skin and sun allergy, but won’t make fun of anyone else’s?

    I think everyone can relate! But it’s not some sort of elaborate plan — it’s just what works for me. I think comedians get so much credit or criticism for the time of comedy that they just do. It’s just how it comes out. Like Bill Burr is doing the exact right kind of comedy that he should be doing and so is Chris Rock. It’s not like they are both sitting at home thinking, “If only I was a little more angry.”

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  • Are there things you would never make fun of?

    As a comedian I have a core belief that anything can be funny, but I am not built in a manner where I need to figure out a way to make abortion funny. There are comedians who are great at that stuff and I’ll leave it to them. I kind of want my comedy… I don’t want anyone in the room to feel uncomfortable. I am not really into “us vs. them” comedy where it’s like, “How ‘bout those idiots?”

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