“I think people in Seattle care more for substance than the fancy trends,” Gaffigan said. He brings his “Noble Ape Tour” to KeyArena on Sept. 16.
Seattle was an early friend to comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan.
For years, his nasally Midwestern snarl was a stalwart of the “5:20 Funny” segments on the now-defunct KMTT, better known as “The Mountain.”
When the segments came alive onstage at the annual “5:20 Funny Festival,” Gaffigan was the guy. The headliner. The star.
Jim Gaffigan: ‘The Noble Ape Tour’
8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, KeyArena; $31-$81; (800-745-3000 or ticketmaster.com).
So it was a low-risk move to book the 17,000-seat KeyArena for his “Noble Ape Tour,” which comes to Seattle on Sept. 16.
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“Touring around, doing clubs and theaters, you develop a relationship with certain cities,” Gaffigan said the other day. “I’ve not connected with many cities the way I have connected with Seattle. I don’t even want to categorize it because I don’t want to diminish it.
“It was the first place I ever did a theater,” he remembered. “My manager said ‘You should do a theater’ and the idea was to do it in Seattle. I thought it was pretty insane. At the time, Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy were the only ones doing theaters.”
He arrived to find the place packed with fans eager to hear his consistently clean material about his appearance (“extremely pale” and slightly overweight), his kids and his absolute obsession with food — including his signature snack, Hot Pockets.
“There is something about Seattle,” Gaffigan said. “Maybe it’s the sensibility. People in Seattle are similar to my stand-up. We curse in every day life, but probably not in front of 3,000 people.
“I’m considered a substance comic rather than a flash,” he added. “And I think people in Seattle care more for substance than the fancy trends.”
Gaffigan is getting fancier by the day, having completed several feature films that will be released over the next year: The comedies “You Can Choose Your Family” and “Drunk Parents”; the animated family picture “Duck Duck Goose”; and the drama “Chappaquiddick,” in which he plays Paul Markham, the U.S. attorney who was with Ted Kennedy the night he drove his car into the water, killing campaign staffer Mary Jo Kopechne.
Until last year, Gaffigan starred in two seasons of the TV Land series “The Jim Gaffigan Show.” But he and his wife and writing partner, Jeannie, ended the series (she was the showrunner) so they could spend more time with their children.
Earlier this year, Jeannie Gaffigan learned she had a brain tumor and underwent a nine-hour surgery.
Chef and friend Mario Batali sent meals to the Gaffigan home, and for the couple’s 14th anniversary in July, created a seven-course liquid meal (Jeannie can’t eat solid foods just yet) that he served them at his restaurant, Del Posto.
“It’s weird,” Gaffigan said. “Unlike other things that people deal with, like going to the dentist, you have surgery on your brain and the recovery is months.
“We’re out of the woods,” he said. “She’s pretty much back. She’s like a pin cushion, but she is also a tank.”
Their five children — they range in age from 4 to 13 — consume his life, but not his comedy.
“I remember being 27 years old and hearing comedians talk about their kids and thinking, ‘I don’t have that.’ So I am mindful of that.
“That being said, you write what you know, and what I know is my kids. I’m either doing stand-up, eating or with my kids.”
Politics may not make it to the stage, Gaffigan said. The subject has just never been part of his act. And yet, it is so much a part of daily American life right now that he can’t ignore it. He seemed to be sorting it out as we spoke.
“I have always been a comedian who was a break from politics,” he said. “But when the election happened, the world that we live in … Is it irresponsible for me to not talk about it? But do people need a break from it?
He paused. “I think we do need a break,” he decided. “Because it’s a daily crisis of panic that we live in.”
He might make fun of our own behavior around politics, though.
“We are so divided that if anyone has a different opinion,” he said, “we don’t want to talk to them ever again.”
He remembered taping his last and fifth stand-up show — the aptly named “Cinco” — and worrying that he had nothing more to say.
“There was a bit of a panic,” he said. “And I worried, ‘Is that all there is?’ and asking myself what I cared about, what I was frightened of.”
Then the family got a dog. He had to go to the gastroenterologist. And his wife’s brain tumor was discovered.
“You would think it’s not funny, but I’ve been doing stand-up a long time,” he said.
And don’t worry: There will be Hot Pockets.
“I wouldn’t do the KeyArena and not do ‘Hot Pockets’ as an encore,” Gaffigan said. “Because there are going to be 12-year-old kids who want to hear that.
“I am a totally food-obsessed guy,” he added. “But when I come to Seattle — unlike Kansas City, where I think, ‘I’m getting barbecue’ — I love it. I would love Seattle even if I didn’t have a food fetish.”