Within seconds of appearing on stage at First Niagara Center Tuesday evening, just as the applause started to die down, comedian Jim Gaffigan speculated aloud what the audience must have been thinking: How fat is this guy?
“The answer is fatter,” he said, “because I’m good at getting fat.”
With that began more than an hour of laughter about his girth, not to mention at the expense of weather, traveling, restaurants, Jesus, hiking, binge-watching and of course, Hot Pockets.
This was the first time Gaffigan played in Buffalo’s biggest room, joining comedians Amy Schumer and Kevin Hart on a short list of non-music performers who can handle a venue that size. He didn’t come close to filling it – the upper deck was empty as were all the seats behind the stage and most of the seats in the lower bowl opposite it – but the thousands who came out laughed loud enough to make it sound full.
Gaffigan’s continuing appeal is a result of some of the best observational humor this side of Seinfeld mixed with his hilarious self-deprecation, mostly about his broadening.
“These pants are tight, but that’s a gift for the ladies” came right before “My belt looks like it got tortured on ‘Game of Thrones.’ ”
Gaffigan, a best-selling author, new pitchman for Chrysler and the star of an eponymous show on TV Land, is also on the road doing standup. His wife Jeannie – his co-writer and executive producer of his TV show – and five children are staples in his routine, and a huge part of his life. They travel with him when he is on tour. He posted photos and video on Twitter Tuesday of their visit to Niagara Falls.
His gift is mining laughs from topics that seem too mundane to be funny, while delivering a show clean enough for his 3-year-old to hear.
He said he felt a special kinship with Buffalo because as a native of Chesterton, Ind., he grew up around Lake Michigan. He remembered being raised to love summer as a boy because he knew “Winter is coming to kill us!”
He said he once asked his father why they lived in a place with such severe weather and his father responded that it would make him appreciate nice weather.
“It was at that point that I realized that my father was an alcoholic,” he said.
He bounced around a series of topics, each drawing raucous laughter.
His hatred of hiking: “I wouldn’t hike to escape the Nazis.”
Pickup truck drivers: “Every guy I know who owns a pickup truck is not picking anything up.”
His own looks: “I’m a character actor, which is code for ugly.”
Dangerous carnival rides: “Sometimes I’ll just let my kids go on. There’s no sense in all of us dying.”
At the very end he revisited the bit that made him famous: the unusual culinary appeal of Hot Pockets. The one part of that routine that never fails to resonate is his line about the vegetarian hot pocket, “for those of us who don’t want to eat meat but still would like explosive diarrhea.”