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June 16, 2015

Reality Bites

Jim Gaffigan’s life — and appetite — take the spotlight in his new show.

Sarah Hirsch

Fans of Jim Gaffigan know the comedian for his clean, deadpan, food-centric humor, but soon they’ll know him for playing, well, Jim Gaffigan.

"He’s me heightened for, hopefully, entertainment,” the comedian says of his starring role in The Jim Gaffigan Show, which debuts July 15 on TVLand. 

“He’s closer to my stand-up persona. Though I think my stand-up persona is pretty close to who I am."

As with the comic’s books and stand-up routines, he and his wife Jeannie Gaffigan do all of the show’s writing (with guidance from showrunner and executive producer Jeff Lowell). “The idea of a stand-up comedian having a writing partner is really unusual,” Gaffigan says, “but in the context of a television show, it’s been invaluable. My wife is my hero.”

The characters are drawn straight from Gaffigan's life, with Ashley Williams as Jeannie taking care of their five children (the same number the couple has in real life).

Adam Goldberg appears as Gaffigan’s buddy Dave, a character constructed from several of his real-life comedian-friends, and Michael Ian Black as Jeannie’s pal Daniel, a combination of the real Jeannie’s friends, but with a “mother-in-law kind of view, where Jim is never good enough.”

The children, Gaffigan adds, are essential to the show. "You’re never going to watch an episode and go, ‘Where are their kids?’”

It could be argued that food is also a character, with an appearance in almost every scene, but one could say the same about the iconic sites used around New York City. And with some locations, like Katz's Deli, you get the best of both.

“I go to Katz’s,” Gaffigan says — in real life and in the show. “It’s big, it’s real, it’s authentic. In a way, it’s almost a set.”

Just don’t expect a lot of stand-up, if any. “I wanted the show to be what my life is like when I’m not on the stage, which is what it’s like 99 percent of the time.”

Indeed, the comedian seems happy to be doing something that’s truly in his voice. “I did a show [previously] where I played a character named Jim Gaffigan,” he recalls. “I pitched lines and the showrunners said, ‘I don’t think you would say that,’ And I was like, ‘But I’m Jim Gaffigan.’”

Photos courtesy of TV Land

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