Review: Midwestern Sensibilities Drive Jim Gaffigan’s The Fun Tour

Full disclosure: I listen to standup to help me sleep. During these dystopian times, when I’m frequently unable to catch some ZZZs, I’ll play a comedy special on the bedroom TV. I close my eyes but can still hear the routine until I hopefully slide into slumber. It reminds me of dozing off while my parents talked in the other room, a bit of companionship and security, like falling safely asleep in the back of the Impala while Dad drove home from Grandma’s. My favorite soothing sleep aid is Jim Gaffigan, and he’s unknowingly rocked me to sleep with his comedy specials, including Beyond the Pale, King Baby, Mr. Universe, Obsessed, Cinco, The Pale Tourist, Quality Time and Noble Ape.

But there was no napping when Gaffigan played a three-show, nearly sold-out run of his new piece The Fun Tour at the Chicago Theatre last weekend. Frequent opening act Ted Alexandro warmed up the lively, appreciative Friday night crowd, and shared that he had indeed achieved his “quarantine 15” pounds. To lose that weight, he buys bagged salad at the store, which he suggests that the cashier throw directly into the trash after purchase, to save him the trouble of doing the same at home a few days later. He also talked about being a new dad with a younger wife, and notes that, as an aging guy, he now pees sitting down, sometimes wakes up injured, and has increased the font size on his phone.

Gaffigan then took to the stage for his hour-long set. Perambulating around the empty stage wearing a black sweatshirt, brown pants and white sneakers, the self-professed super-pale guy (as noted in some of his show titles), he confessed that he had polished off a Lou Malnati’s pizza the night before. Gaffigan was born in the Chicagoland area, and grew up in Indiana, so knows his pizza as well as how to integrate local delicacies and regional knowledge into most of his sets. He shared some bathroom antics in this show, from stories about Montezuma’s revenge to musings about why the toilet is also called “the loo … perhaps a reference to Lou Malnati’s?”

Before COVID and the tyranny of The Former Guy, Gaffigan was mostly, famously, apolitical, but now, due to the aforementioned dystopia, some liberal opinions are (gratefully) creeping into his act, and the audience welcomed his jibes at antivaxxers—“we all used to know one.” He and his wife Jeannie, co-writer and co-producer of his shows (whom he calls a “Shiite Catholic”), also shared religious-inspired material about the plagues that are currently visiting our planet, and he riffed about how the frog plague is the most pathetic plague. (Ed. Note: it is.)

He owns up to being “white trash,” admitting that he had a dirty beer can collection at age nine, and refers to Indiana as merely “the road from Chicago to Michigan.” But now he’s fancier, sharing that he “just took out a reverse mortgage to afford a new phone.” He echoes some previous material about carting his five young kids around the world, and updates viewers on Jeannie’s new swallowing disorder following her life-threatening brain surgery a few years back. He talked about merch tables at funerals, how golf trips might make men gay, and the perennial conundrum as to why bikers ride motorcycles and cyclists ride bikes.

Gaffigan is deeply funny and insightful, yet his charm emanates from his calm, reflective and world-weary everyman take on the everyday: family foibles, mass culture, and now, a wee bit more politics. Keep talking, Jim. Thank you and good night.

Along with his wife and kids, Gaffigan added a “Let’s Get Cookin’” series of videos to his YouTube channel during quarantine. His hourlong pandemic special Comedy Monster is currently running on Netflix, and his live, in-person The Fun Tour continues around the US throughout 2022 (Hot Pockets not included).

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Karin McKie

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