Over the years, Jim Gaffigan has used three major themes in his stand-up act: food, his appearance and what he describes as the “inner voice.” These tools and the way in which Gaffigan fashions jokes from them have made him one of the nation’s most popular stand-up comedians, consistently selling out theaters and popping up in commercials, TV shows and movies.
In Beyond the Pale, Gaffers proves there’s no reason to alter the formula. He spends 80 percent — if not more — of his set at Chicago’s Vic Theatre talking about food. Throughout the set, he also peppers riotous comments about his appearance — he’s getting fat; he’s totally pale — usually in the character of “the inner voice,” a slow-paced, high-pitched breathy aside spoken from a female audience member’s perspective. Examples: “He’s the fattest crackhead of I’ve ever seen” and “This guy talks a lot about food.” The results are hilarious.
He does grace us with some newer material that kills. He likens the act of putting up a Christmas tree to something a drunk man would do. “We’re gonna decorate it for Jesus!” he exclaims. He also expounds on receiving odd birthday gifts, like a flask: “You seem like a drunk on the go” or a bathrobe: “What, are we about to shoot a porno?” And he amusingly barbs people who give verbal “birthday alerts” to co-workers and friends.
Dedicated fans should also know that there’s plenty of material on Hot Pockets, spiced up with new flourishes and variations. For those less familiar with Gaffigan, his act generally features more than a few minutes of material about Hot Pockets, which he considers both vile and delicious. He calls it “a Pop-Tart with nasty meat” and sings the Hot Pockets jingle as a slow, creepy and side-splitting refrain throughout his performance.
Beyond his stellar stand-up documented in Beyond, most of the DVD extras are worth a view. In “Mr. Chicago,” Gaffigan tours some of the city’s famous sites, each time trying to convince locals that the Indiana native and current NYC resident is a Windy City celebrity. Also, one should not miss “Eat Dinner with Jim,” a kind of faux-interactive segment in which “Jim” makes awkward dinner conversation with you while he dines on — you guessed it — a