The Jim Gaffigan program: “The History of the Bible”
Jim Gaffigan is nobody’s idea of a controversial comedian. His routines revolve around food, family, and food again, and he has gained a reputation for making clean, blasphemy-free gear. It’s the funny father in the carpool, the colleague who unleashes disarming gags around the conference table, the ordinary man whose broad appeal and relevant subject matter wraps around fine observations, seemingly spontaneous tangents, and that wacky falsetto he uses to vocalize the audience’s reaction. Billions of people have eaten at McDonald’s; Jim Gaffigan turned the experience into nine minutes of regrettable decisions, truth in advertising, and the Gregorian calendar’s inextricable connection to the Shamrock Shake. The routine doesn’t contain a bombshell of truth, but neither does it.
And it was the replica of the first season of TV Land’s The Jim Gaffigan Show, a dormant network sitcom that’s just beginning to cut the Big Macs of comedy programming – the multi-camera stars of yesteryear sandwiched and covered in obscene jokes – from its feed. Among his New York contemporaries, The Jim Gaffigan Show is less abstract than Louie, less adventurous than Big city. It’s simple, but it’s funny, especially when the fictional version of Gaffigan’s wife, Jeannie (Ashley Williams), or his taunting best friend from Gaffigan, Daniel (Michael Ian Black), are in the mix. And on this show, “funny” is pretty much the only focus.
But “The Story of the Bible” has bigger ambitions. Of the four episodes distributed to TV critics ahead of the series’ debut, the Half Hour stood out, a stylistic detour with a topical hook and a balanced look at the fog of indignation that settled in the borders of comedy circles in recent years. When Jim is pictured holding a Bible of absurd proportions, the episode ignites a heart-pounding worst-case fantasy, in which the protagonist’s attempt to fix things only results in further damage.
The spiral begins innocently enough: before a standing concert, Jeannie asks Jim to collect a gift from their priest, Father Nicholas (Tongayi Chirisa). He agrees to help, but is clearly distracted as he heads for the door. he can answer Jeannie. (Remember that song, because it will prove to be important later.) The faith of the Gaffigans is one of the most intriguing aspects of The Jim Gaffigan Show; their church attendance is as healthy and white bread as any part of the comedian’s character, but that puts these characters in the minority among TV families. In terms of contemporary shows, it’s pretty much the Simpsons and Gaffigans in the boat of fictional devotees who aren’t fully defined by their religion.
By extension, this places Jim in a perceived minority among artists, as he discovers when pictured with Jeannie’s gift from Father Nicholas: an antique Bible blessed by the Pope and large enough to serve as a side table. His friend Dave (Adam Goldberg) calls Jim “America’s sweetheart” after taking the snapshot, a sarcasm that turns genuine within hours.
The virality of Jim’s Bible photo makes it seem like an easy read of online publishing trends: “Entertainers of Faith” is a pretty bland headline from Huffington Post standards, especially when juxtaposed with Miley Cyrus’ feature film “Here, There, Everywhere — The Tongue That Simply Won’t Go Away.” But “The Bible Story” is already starting to take its hat off. There is no point in beating around the bush: the episode’s grand formal experience takes place between the raindrops of “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, a little bit of time that allows the character to mentally run through a “What if?” about bringing a Bible to the Gotham Comedy Club. It is a modest Sliding doors setup, exploring only one negative result – “The story of the Bible” is ambitious, but it is not “Corrective chaos theory” ambitious. But it’s still smart enough to start the descent into madness very early on, with the HuffPo mention, the comic-sized Bible, and Jim’s personal nightmare: Daniel got his own key to the apartment.
By exposing some of its seams, “The Bible Story” makes it easier to swallow what comes next: invitations to a prayer breakfast at the White House, advertising offers from a homophobic pizza chain (represented by H. Jon Benjamin, sneaking up on the loathsome sleaze), and the stranger who mistakes Jim’s frustrated expression for a prayer before the meal. Long before Jim looks us in the eye and notices “This can’t happen”, the episode plants that idea in our minds. Editing is a big help there, speeding up the chaos by further condensing time and allowing Jim to imagine momentary victories for himself. Before he meets Benjamin’s character, the scene switches from daytime in Gaffigan’s house to showtime in Gotham, where an unseen crowd is making bananas for Jim’s invisible set. Later, he tells Jeannie that he wants to set the record straight; cut to Jim doing his thing to Jon Stewart on The daily show. Things are about to get out of hand, but he still has a hand on the wheel, at least until the act breaks.
It may not be very hard to convince cable news pundits that they should be spending more time on TV, but the sheer volume of talking heads haunting Jim from his bedroom TV is testament to the great popularity of Gaffigan. It crosses the aisle and divisions that separate the world’s telecommunications giants, as “The Bible Story” continues Stewart’s cameo with appearances from Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Nancy Grace, Glenn Beck, and more. (No one from Fox News, however, there are hellish levels that “the story of the Bible” dares not subject its protagonist to.) Nothing more than a candid post-show snapshot – through a game. phone journalist that ends up painting his subject as a hypocrite pushing the agenda that clings to his life raft from a Bible while openly cheating on Jeannie with Daniel. No one is contacting Jim for a comment, although that would probably make matters worse; instead, they interview his fellow comedians (including Dave), who are quick to turn on Jim. Lizz Winstead calls the five Gaffigan children an affront to women’s rights, before Dave and Judy Gold insinuate that Jim is an anti-Semite.
Forks are drawn, but they’re not literal pitchforks until Jim is kicked off the Gotham scene and stalked the streets. And it’s important that “The Bible Story” reaches that cartoonish climax, as cable news editing comes dangerously close to indulging in the kind of perspective that has made every comedy conversation over the past few years absolutely unbearable. In Jim’s worst-case scenario, he’s humiliated by people with stages taller than him and yelled at by faceless audience members. He just wants to talk about lawyers, but people don’t listen to him. They hear the Jim that exists in the context of a single disproportionate blunder, like the #CancelColbert crowd and Stephen “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong” Colbert.
And when the question of who decides what is overdone comes up, the conversation becomes harder to navigate. In the actual clashes of identity politics and comedy, the comedy side can be quick on the defensive, explaining its intent and trying to provide context. But the context doesn’t matter when the emotional offense is taken, and so the two sides clash with each other with whatever weapons they choose for a few minutes, hours, or days. The culture war has no winner; the best possible outcome is that one side gains a little more empathy for the other. And in “The Bible Story”, Jim fights against three other camps: the clerics who believe he has insulted their beliefs, the atheists who think he is trying to make everyone believe the same thing he believes. , and the homosexuals who take his denial of a relationship with Daniel as repudiation (there’s a word practicing tonight) at the level of Pizza House bigots.
And so The Jim Gaffigan Show chooses to abstain. “The Story of the Bible” pushes Jim into a corner, casting shadows of his new enemies on his face as they growl, mock and wave “GOD HATE JIM” signs towards him. The showdown sequence is a good horror movie in miniature, as all of New York suddenly turns on Jim, who manages to stay a few steps ahead of the crowd until he’s finally surrounded. Fighting hasn’t gotten him anywhere before, so the only way out is to give up, until the familiar sound of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” pulls him out of his reverie. Back in the Gaffigan lounge, our suspicions are confirmed: none of the previous 20 minutes actually took place. There was no giant bible, no monster, no thing called “Gaffigan” to follow.
“It was all a dream” gets a bad rap for good reason, but I don’t think the bad rap applies here. The ending of “The Story of the Bible” does not take anything away from what came before it – on the contrary, Jim honors this insane series of events by renouncing the favor, which is just as good because it is not. It’s not urgent and Jeannie can just pick up the Bible tomorrow. Jim’s decision is sort of a stroke of the dick, but it’s neither here nor there: story-wise, it’s okay.
It also matches the headlining personality of the show. In last week’s episode, “Superdad,” Jim and Dave argue over the value of edginess in comedy. “Stay safe,” Dave tells his friend as he walks towards a subway station. “Oh, who am I kidding?” It’s your whole existence. But the formal risk of “The Bible Story” shows that Gaffigan is also functioning quite well outside of his comfort zone. And it also gives insight into why he chooses to regularly stay away from the more delicate and controversial things.
- Hey! Thanks for reading this review tonight Jim Gaffigan Show, which appeared on the site without notifying you, the AV Club reader! As mentioned above, the episode really hit me when I first watched it, and the rest of the series was such a lovely summer treat that I thought it was about time. to get back to Jim, Jeannie and the kids. And depending on how many people read this review, maybe we’ll do Jim gaffigan weekly reviews come season two.