Comedian Jim Gaffigan comes to the Wilbur for two shows tonight, and to talk about his second book, “Food: A Love Story.” The book covers all of his favorite food topics (McDonald’s French fries: yes. Seafood: no.) with his trademark cheerful food-lover style. We caught up with him to talk about why he likes writing and whether or not people are still into that whole Hot Pockets joke.
Why do you like talking about food so much?
I don’t even know why I ended up driven to food so much. I think comedians do what they do and find things that work and I think I just found that food was a topic that I didn’t have to spend an enormous amount of time explaining what I was talking about, so there was a simplicity to explaining it and then I could have a strong opinion and everyone would be on board whether they agreed with me or not. Even if you say you don’t like lobster in Maine, people aren’t going to hang you. Well, I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. But there’s really just a shorthand with food.
Are people offended when you make fun of their town’s food?
Food is very provincial. There’s an identity with it, but if you have a reasoning behind it and you’re funny, in the end, it’s like, as long as you’re funny about it, that’s really what matters. It’s not that divisive. It’s not like I’m attacking the Red Sox or something like that.
You know better than that.
That wouldn’t be a good idea.
Did your writing process change for this book?
The process of writing essays is so different from standup. Standup is all about the shortest way to the funny, whereas essay writing, you really have to paint a picture, and you don’t have the advantage of vocal inflections or facial reactions. But for the second one, I thought it was gonna be a lot easier. They were so different, because one of them was how my life has changed by being the father of five children and this one was just presenting an assignment of, like, what is my point of view on crackers, and writing an essay on crackers.
What do you like about writing?
There’s nothing better than coming up with really funny bits or lines. My wife and I were working on TV scripts for this TV show, and there’s something about those moments when you’re writing and an idea comes to you and it just kinda comes out. There’s something really serious about a book that feels authentic. It’s like a trophy. … I like the solitary kind of craftsmanship of it. But the immediate feedback of standup is hard to pass up on.
Yeah, you get some instant gratification with standup.
With jokes, and with a comedy hour, you can kind of get done with it. But with an essay, even when I was reading the audio version, I was like, oh, I should change that. But you can’t. Whereas with standup, even if you’ve done it in a special, you can change it the next time you do it.
You talk a lot about working with your wife on the book. What are her contributions usually like?
There’s definitely some grammatical assistance that’s important. But comedically, there’s a collaboration that is really hard to define because sometimes it’s one line, sometimes it’s a paragraph and then other times she has an editorial position where she’s like, this is not working. So some of the assistance, particularly with essays, is she understands what I’m trying to say, and it might not be coming across.
Why are people so into the Hot Pockets joke?
I don’t know! I think a lot of it’s luck. It’s the timing of when I started to do it and it’s that I got to do it before other comedians did, but I don’t know. Who knows? I remember when the hot pocket thing first started taking off, I remember thinking, oh, this’ll go away, because I used to have jokes on the manatee, and people would want to hear jokes on the manatee, and I remember thinking, when the hot pocket thing started off, I was like, it’s just going to be like the manatee. It’s eventually going to disappear. Btu there’s still a lot of people, that that’s kind of their avenue into my comedy is the Hot Pocket thing. And there’s people coming along. I see in my Twitter feed, it’s like, have you seen this comedian’s joke on Hot Pockets?
Do people still yell Hot Pockets at you when you walk by?
Yeah, definitely. I did the “Today Show” this morning and I walked by and someone yelled it.