As Carrot Top once taught us, comedy often has the potential to be very, very unfunny. From the screaming, arm-flailing antics of the Dane Cooks of the world, to the spoken-word art of former musician Henry Rollins, comedians spend their entire lives attempting to perfect a personality and role on stage that connects (or polarizes) the audience. Perhaps this is why comedians can run the gambit from highly refined to, well, Dane Cook.
While I often found Jim Gaffigan to be somewhere in the middle (between funny and hokey), I recently had the chance to experience the set from his brand new special, Obsessed, when his recent tour stopped by Erie. Having seen Mr. Universe as preparation, my girlfriend and I embarked on a journey to the Warner Theatre with hopes that our first “comedy date night” would be a success.
I suppose this goes without saying, but the Warner Theatre is an absolutely gorgeous building. I’m not sure I visited since my freshman year of high school, but my return only validated its elegance, which proved the perfect setting for a fairly popular comic such as Jim Gaffigan.
We took our seats (within the first ten rows) in the large theater complex and people-watched as we anxiously awaited the arrival of our host for the evening. Once the lights dimmed, Gaffigan wasted no time delivering (ironically) the one thing I never enjoyed about his act— the high voice.
I get it; I swear I do. This just always happened to be the part of his act that I found more hokey than hilarious. Alas, his use of falsetto died down as the show went on and Gaffigan touched on some surprisingly serious topics (the span of which usually only consists of cake and pale skin). Dare I say, Obsessed contained some of Gaffigan’s funniest (and most mature) material yet, ranging from fatherhood, to what it’s like not having family on the road (“My son called me and told me he just wanted to hear my voice; I told him he could buy my last album”) to religion and, yes, food.
That’s not to say he was without his staples. As a fellow employee here at Admissions had warned me, Gaffigan would end with the infamous ‘Hot Pocket’ bit, and he did- verbatim from the first time he performed it; and it was just as mediocre as the first time I heard it. This could very well just be my own cynical view, but everyone who hollered like they hadn’t seen, heard, or watched YouTube clips of the joke before seemed to make me like it even less. The problem doesn’t lie with the joke’s content, but rather a point I addressed earlier; that frustrating high voice just doesn’t do the trick for me. Then again, I don’t like Dane Cook, so what do I know.
In the end, “comedy date night” was a success (especially given the Texas Roadhouse visit with ribs I encountered afterwards), and I left feeling more respect and admiration for Gaffigan and his peers (one of which, Mike Birbiglia, remains a personal favorite of mine).
When you open yourself up to new experiences you can often be surprised by how they turn out, and seeing a live comedy event for the first time was no exception. I’d highly recommend the show once it hits Netflix later this month, as well as catching Jim Gaffigan the next time he stops by our great city.