Jim Gaffigan was having a hectic morning. His cellphone was self-destructing, he was an hour late for at least three interviews, and he was scrambling for a landline and a quiet spot in the two-bedroom apartment he shares with his wife and five children in New York.
“Yes, I’m at ground zero,” he said, beaten but unbowed, “and there’s always some chaos going on.”
The scene was fitting given that the stand-up comic’s best-selling book, “Dad Is Fat,” is about the bedlam and joy that come with raising a family of young children, ages 8 and under, in a very small space.
Gaffigan, who performs Friday at the Louisville Palace, has achieved enormous success as a stand-up comic who works clean. That isn’t unheard of, but it is rare. He said that his goal has been to write material that plays to everyone in the room, but for years he avoided jokes about parenting in deference to fans in their 20s.
“When I started stand-up, I remember seeing comedians talk about their wife and kids, or their husband and kids, and I was a single guy without kids,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m never gonna do that.’ So I kind of censored myself on how much I would put in my act when I started having kids.”
Gaffigan instead turned to Twitter as an outlet, and the material worked.
“In the end I am an observational comedian, so having five opportunities to go through pregnancy and go through delivery, there was plenty of opportunity to take a look at parenting,” he said. “There was also this transformation in my personal life where I realized that being a dad was obviously going to be the most important thing I did in my life, and it was also something that I enjoyed, in an exhausted, defeated manner.”
“Dad Is Fat” has Gaffigan’s name on the front, but he’s been open about the input of his wife, Jeannie Noth, a veteran comedy writer. They are, after all, raising the kids together. But it made more sense, comedically, for the book to be presented as coming from the perspective of an overwhelmed father.
A few comedy bloggers have wondered if the success of “Dad Is Fat” might mark a turning point for Gaffigan. One speculated that he may become a modern Bill Cosby, whose routines were heavy on family humor.
“I don’t know if it’ll define me,” he said. “The great thing about stand-up comedy is that I feel like I’m getting better at it, and the things that I discuss, whether it be food or laziness or kids, it’s always evolving. I’m more baffled about how much I talk about food than the influence of my kids.”
Jeffrey Lee Puckett can be reached at (502) 582-4160, email@example.com and on Twitter, @JLeePuckett.