Monday, August 20, 2012

Jim Gaffigan's "Mr. Universe"




Hey look, it’s another album from Jim Gaffigan and, oh, look at that, what a shock, it’s AMAZING. As much as I love this guy and as big a fan as I am, it’s starting to get a little old, Jim. One stellar album after another after another after another? I mean seriously, does everything you do have to be so freakin’ hilarious?

To call Mr. Universe a “new” album would be stretching it, as it was released earlier this year on Gaffigan’s website for only five bucks, so fans like myself have been laughing our heads off at his latest collection of hilarious stories for some time now. The album is now getting an “official” release and is being made available through outlets such as  Amazon, iTunes, and the like. If you haven’t yet picked it up, then seriously and earnestly I must inquire... exactly what is wrong with you?

Gaffigan has honed his craft to pretty much perfection. The high-pitched and often soft-spoken Voice Of The Audience that used to be one of the main thrusts of his act has taken a back seat and, besides a quick appearance in the very beginning of his set, is virtually non-existent. Not that I ever had an issue with it, but usually if anyone had any sort of gripe about his comedy (and that was a very rare thing), that was it. Now that Gaffigan has removed it there’s no reason for anyone not to be on board.

Most people still identify Gaffigan as the “Hot Pockets” guy and that makes me a little sad. Not because that wasn’t a funny bit (it still cracks me up to this day and I honestly lost count of how many times I’ve listened to it), but because it was one of his earliest bits and he’s come out with so many equally funny premises since (although, to be fair, I am starting to hear references to “Bacon!” now...and it only took 4 years for everyone to catch up)

If you know Gaffigan, then you know that he finds much of his comedy through his favorite subjects: food, body image, food, family, and the preparing of food. He didn’t change his approach this time around and it pays off. Where he had catchphrases like “Hoooot pockets” and “Bacon!” in earlier releases, he doesn’t really have one this time around (although he gets close with his take on the Subway slogan, “Eeeeeat fresh”). Again, that’s not a complaint or a critique, but just a notation of how he has gently tweaked his approach to the craft.

In general, observational comics excel in zeroing in on the little things; those mundane moments that all of us picked up on without realizing they’ve been picked up on until someone else points it out. Where Gaffigan really stands out is in his focus not on the details, but the details. He has a great bit on hotel rooms and the sense of entitlement that comes with staying in one, but he doesn’t just make a remark or two and then move on. It’s as if he stood in the middle of the hotel room with a notebook and slowly turned in a circle, writing down everything he saw and making a comment on it. Nothing goes unnoticed: wake up calls, the in-room adult TV channel, the temptation to steal anything and everything, the pool, and the wonderful scent of bleach that permeates the premises if the pool is indoors.

From the wonderful world of McDonald’s French fries (at least for the first seven minutes) to the not-so-fresh feeling at the previously mention sub sandwich shop (“Ah, the smell of bread that was just baked in a dirty dishwasher”) to the horrible atrocity that is the Domino’s pasta bread bowl where the only thing missing is a suicide note, Gaffigan does not disappoint when it comes to his simultaneous love and disgust for American eating trends. 

His routine on the gym, staying in shape, and bodybuilders is nothing less than brilliance as, just like he does with the hotel, he takes on every aspect of the fitness club experience. Nothing is safe, including personal trainers, treadmills with televisions on them, and the people who attend bodybuilding competitions (“Yayyyy, clap for the monster or he’ll tear off our arms!”). His detour into what the world’s first Stairmaster salesman sounded like is a spot-on caricature of what we all imagine it really would have been.

As Gaffigan tries his best to juggle raising four children, find the perfect shoe, and wrap his head around the concept of vitamins (“They may be expensive but at least there’s no proof they work”), he barely has time to sympathize with whales, wondering if they have less control over their blowholes as the age (yes, that’s right, it’s the classic whale-geography-diarrhea joke).

With a running time of well over an hour, trying to summarize everything about the album that I enjoyed in one sitting is pretty much impossible. In reality, you probably stopped reading this some time ago. You know who Jim Gaffigan is, and you know he makes you laugh. You’ve enjoyed his YouTube clips your friends sent you and then you passed them along to others. I know he’s funny. You know he’s funny. Everyone else knows he’s funny. Why are we still here? Especially when there’s that killer bit on speedwalkers we could be listening to.



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