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The Jim Gaffigan Show: TV’s Funniest and Best Depiction of Stand Up Comedy

With Veep‘s season over (please Silicon Valley people be quiet – SV is a very good comedy, but it is not in Veep‘s league), my binging of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt long over, no more OJ-themed TV shows on the horizon and Game of Thrones 10-500 months away from its seventh season, there was a major hole in my TV roster for great comedy and/or must-watch-TV.  However, those vacancies have been filled admirably and surprisingly by the 2nd season of The Jim Gaffigan Show, which to me, is the best and most satisfying depiction of stand up comedy that I have ever seen.

As far as depictions of stand up comedy (calm down Seinfeld people – that show featured a stand up comedian, but was famously a “show about nothing”) in my memory I can think of Louie, which before I gave up on it had glimpses of greatness (the episode featuring Dane Cook still stands out as the best one and his season 1 episode going to Birmingham was incredibly authentic and funny, and not just because I too got heckled at a large room in Birmingham) and Funny People – the bait and switch 4 hour movie by Judd Apatow that was “about stand up comedy,” but turned out to be another rom com that was too long that happened to have some scenes at stand up comedy clubs.  I may be forgetting other things, but for me that is irrelevant because TJGS has been brilliant in its humor this season and specifically in its simultaneous depiction and parodying of stand up comedy in 2016.

Season 1 of The Jim Gaffigan Show was very good, but it felt like more of a focus on the family and personal life of Gaffigan. It made me laugh and was a pleasant diversion from life, exactly what most would want from a 30 minute sitcom.  The cast was excellent, especially a longtime favorite of mine, Adam Goldberg, in what I think must be some sort of amalgamation of different comedians Gaffigan has been friends with (I always thought it might have been Greg Giraldo, but the character, Dave Marks, is too much of a quasi-loser, underground figure to be an exact parallel). At the end of season 1 I thought, “I hope that show gets renewed.” And it did.  And even though Gaffigan and Louis CK have different sensibilities and styles, I thought TJGS was more of what I hoped Louie would be. Instead, Louie morphed into a largely unfunny (to me) homage to Woody Allen movies.  Fortunately, season 2 of TJGS is not a Kubrick-esque exploration of art and family, but instead has turned into a brilliant depiction of stand up comedy that combines accuracy and parody seamlessly.

Whether the show found its voice more clearly, hired additional writers or if simply this was its natural progression, season 2 has been one of the 3 or 4 best comedies I have watched on TV all year (I would have to imagine ABC which, given Gaffigan’s clean and widespread appeal and well known family of 7, would have seemed to have been the ideal landing spot for TJGS. Instead it is on TV Land).  And the main reason to me is the brilliant direction the show has gone with stand up comedy in particular.  The last two episodes (pardon the recency bias) have mocked the alternative scene (“Union Hall is actually a mainstream alternative room”), the idea of road comedy (“I do theaters,  I don’t know if that makes me a ‘road comic'”), the obligations to your friends in comedy (“You gotta have your buddy open for you”), seeing your friends not help you out in comedy (“Oh THAT Q.E.D”) and portrayed the struggles of a non star comedian with tremendous humor and accuracy (“I might have to get a day job”).  What makes this more impressive is that Gaffigan’s actual career is far removed from the professional struggles he portrays.  That is either a credit to his mind and memory, a credit to the writing staff, or both.

There are literally too many moments from the last two episodes for me to recall all of the jokes that hit so well on truths in stand up comedy, but the tight rope of parodying something, while still accurately depicting it is really impressive.  Perhaps stand up in 2016 has already become a parody of itself and TJGS is merely reflecting it, but to anyone out there who wants to laugh and wants to see something that really and truly depicts the world of stand up comedy, set your DVR to The Jim Gaffigan Show.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free! And look for J-L’s new stand up album ISRAELI TORTOISE in August 2016.

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