On Maui, we see our fair share of pale. It appears in aloha shirts, plastic lei and various shades of sunburn across the isle. But Jim Gaffigan has taken his whiteness to greater heights.
In addition to his popular stand-up routine, Beyond the Pale—now on CD and DVD—Gaffigan is the co-creator and star (along with Conan O’Brien) of Pale Force, a darkly comic and sometimes just gross animated series about two pigmentless superheroes. It appears regularly on the Late Night with Conan O’Brien show. This year Pale Force was nominated for the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Broadband Program. Yeah, I didn’t know that was a category either. But it totally should have won.
Anyway, Gaffigan talked to me by phone a couple weeks ago, from his home in New York City:
MAUI TIME WEEKLY: Have you been to Maui before?
JIM GAFFIGAN: No. Hawai‘i a couple times, Kauai for my honeymoon, the Big Island for a corporate event. Anything as an excuse to come to Hawai‘i. When we stayed on the Big Island, there was all this stuff we don’t have in New York City—my daughter went swimming with sea turtles.
I like that you talk about food a lot in your stand-up routines. You’re even photographed eating on the back of your CD, Beyond the Pale. Are you a foodie?
Totally. I’m a big fan of food. And it seems everyone eats it. That’s kind of how that special played out. Obviously I have new material, but I keep going back to food because everyone seems to enjoy it.
How did you join forces with Conan O’Brien?
It was really kind of… it was my brother-in-law’s idea. We would go and do Conan every couple months. He would come and watch Conan and I talk about how pale we were. He came up with the idea of superheroes who fight crime with paleness. We kind of brought it up—animation is expensive, but they took a risk on it, and it gained momentum.
Which Pale Force episode are you proudest of?
Well, which ones did you see on the website?
I saw Pale Force the Movie, Pale Christmas and Law & Order: Pale Force
There’s a bunch more, because legally I can’t put all of them on the website. We’re getting ready to do another season of them. It’s really fun. I do them with my brother-in-law and my other brother-in-law does music—my wife has a hand in it all. We literally just show up and they play them. They’re not all up in our grill or anything. It’s a fine balance. We don’t want to be all proud—it has to remain self-effacing, funny, we’re making fun of Conan without being too disrespectful.
What is your personal philosophy of what is funny?
Creativity is connecting two unrelated ideas. I’m an observational guy. If there’s a room of 100 people, they’ll enjoy the material—you know, I feel like the human desires we all respond to are lust and hatred. Somebody can sit there and bash [George W.] Bush and that might get people on board, and some people will be like, “Somebody’s bashing the president!” And everyone might be sick of Paris Hilton. So I’m talking about Hot Pockets and pie.
Making the jump from finance to comedy and acting must have been scary at times. What do you think is the secret to your success?
I grew up in a family where success was wearing a coat and tie. I was very cautious about taking steps. In the entertainment industry, there’s ways to do something and get paid. Because there’s so many people that want to do something like that. I’ve been around a while. I kept my day job around so that I could stick to what I consider a quality thing. I didn’t want the quick fix. When I started stand-up there were plenty of guys—my friends—that did horrible rooms in Jersey to make money. You become a product of your environment, working for a bunch of knuckleheads… I didn’t get caught up. It’s really a patience kind of thing.
You’ve done a lot of acting and your roles are quite varied. What would you like to do next with that?
The acting thing is something that I really have fun doing. It’s such a separate thing from stand up. Acting is such an insane pursuit—trying to get a job—you might as well try to get into Oxford. But it’s so fun and fulfilling. Stand up is fun ‘cause it’s so immediate. I guess I have a split creative personality. I really like the idea of “serving the scene” in acting. I probably should live in L.A. I would love to do indie movies. I’m not dying to be famous. I’m dying to have creative fulfillment. I get fulfillment from doing Sierra Mist commercials! But the perception is, as an actor, you’re not supposed to do those. I think as an actor you have to show people what you can do.
For more info or to check out Pale Force episodes, visit www.jimgaffigan.com. MTW