Laugh again with Gaffigan
Stand-up star will fill void of canceled Aspen Laugh Fest
You can watch any of comedian Jim Gaffigan’s specials from the past 17 years and find just about as many laughs as the day they were performed.
The great pale comic has steered clear of topical and political material, of just about any joke with an expiration date.
“I selfishly don’t want to do timely things that wouldn’t be relevant later on,” he said in December on “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,” explaining why he has steered clear of current events in his comedy. “That’s annoying. Also I think people don’t want to hear things from certain people, like big dorky white guys.”
But, of course, Gaffigan had to talk about the pandemic in his latest special. For an observational comic, what else has there been to observe in the past two years?
His “Comedy Monster,” recorded live in Minneapolis late last year and released in December on Netflix, opens with an extended section on pandemic life that’s self-deprecating and silly in Gaffigan’s signature style, but that also helps you laugh at the often joyless and grim slog of pandemic life.
“Remember when we thought the pandemic as over?” he opens the special. “Everyone was so happy. ‘We did it!'”
“We probably looked so stupid, everyone was paying themselves on the back,” he continued. “‘Well, I’m just glad I could help out the sick by staying.'”
He then pinpoints the absurd twists that COVID exhaustion can have on the psyche: “‘Oh, it’s not over? Well, I’m not gain back in. Sick people have to die.'”
Gaffigan digs deeper from there into the unending cycles of outbreaks in 2021, comparing the experience to a baby filling a diaper in the middle of the night and to a canceled television show being needlessly revived by Netflix
“I miss the early days of the pandemic, back when we thought washing out hands would protect us,” he says and picks on quirks of pandemic life like the notion of a “bubble” and how we defined “old” and what we meant by “commorbities” (the latter, he concludes means “all the fat asses are going to die.”)
He also briefly touches incisively on the cultural and political divisions born of the pandemic, concluding: “Everyone had that friend who came out as bonkers. It was like a gender reveal for insanity.”
And from there, Gaffigan jumps into the timeless material we expect, finding the absurd in his observations on parades and sunblock and vacations and the like.
He’s bringing a set of new material to the mountains this week as Gaffigan plays two shows at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek followed by two sold-out performances at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen on Saturday, Feb. 19 as part of his ongoing national “Fun Tour” that runs through May.
The Aspen shows shows were originally announced as a kickoff for the 2022 Aspen Laugh Festival, which was canceled last month due to the local surge in coronavirus infections.
IF YOU GO …
Who: Jim Gaffigan
Where: Wheeler Opera House
When: Saturday, Feb. 19, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.
TIckets: Sold out
More info: wheeleroperahouse.com
Gaffigan last headlined the Wheeler in February 2019. And if you’re going to count on one comic to fill the void of an entire festival with a dozen or more performers, Gaffigan is probably the best guy for the job.
Here in ski country, his takes on skiing and ski culture are oft-quoted favorites. He’s honed in on the gear and the cost and the utter ridiculousness of it all in various TV segments and on talk shows.
“Skiing was obviously a rich person’s idea,” he said in a 2018 “CBS Sunday Morning” segment. “Somebody probably looked at a mountain and thought, ‘Oh! That mountain’s beautiful. I’d love to ski down it. But can someone build a contraption that could carry me up to the top? … I want to be out there with nature, but halfway up the mountain, I’d love if there was a coffee shop.’”
The bit was inspired by Gaffigan taking his 5-year-old son – he has five children, often incorporated into his – for his first day skiing.
“Five-year-olds on dry land are not that pleasant to be around,” he says in between clips of the boy whining on a gondola and slipping off of a magic carpet. “Maybe I wanted to see how he behaves on snow and ice wearing boots roughly the size of milk crates.”
“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.