On July 15, “The Jim Gaffigan Show” premieres on TVLand, but fans have been able to watch an episode online — click here to watch (hurry, it’s only available through May 29) — for more than a month now. But, “The Bible Story” is not the first episode of the show.
The show is a fictionalized version of the life of stand-up comic Jim Gaffigan (as himself), his wife, Jeannie (played by Ashley Williams), and their five children, all stuffed into a two-bedroom New York City apartment.
In the online episode, Jeannie asks Jim to pick up a Bible from their priest on his way to the comedy club. It proves so large that Jim can’t hide it from view, and he winds up being photographed holding it.
The photo goes viral, and when Jim tries to deal with the ensuing media firestorm, his constant fumbles cause him to anger people on all sides.
I recently had an extensive chat with the show’s executive producers, the husband-and-wife team of Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan. Click here and here to head over to my Pax Culturati blog to read now the Gaffigans think their show compares to the trailer of ABC’s midseason Catholic-family comedy “The Real O’Neals,” which was posted online at about the same time (hint: any similarities are purely superficial).
Here’s a taste from Jim Gaffigan:
[“The Real O’Neals”] is very broad. It’s shocking. It’s big on the page. It’s not my kind of comedy, but it’s the kind of comedy that a lot of people like.
The thing about the “Real O’Neals” is like, I want to be very clear here — I know people are upset about it, but we shouldn’t be surprised. That’s some of the price of being a Catholic for the last hundred years; it’s like some bad thing could happen. The only thing missing from that trailer is some nun hitting someone on the knuckles with a ruler.
We also explored why they picked “The Bible Story” to represent the show as a whole.
Our show is just inspired by the life that Jeannie and I lead. This is one episode; this is not the pilot episode. Our show is not just about that [fictional Jim] is paranoid about being outed as a Catholic, as a Christian. One of the the things that Jeannie and I touched on is that I’m a stand-up comedian. I live in New York City, downtown Manhattan, on the bluest island in the country, and 90 percent of my friends are devout atheists.
There’s nothing normal in our society about having five kids; there’s nothing normal about being Catholic; there’s nothing normal about going onstage and making strangers laugh. That’s one of the conceits of it.
We started this show because, in my stand-up, I’ve always been fortunate enough to have audiences with mixed views. I love the fact that, in my audience, there’s the Mormon family sitting next to the lesbian couple, and you know what? They don’t care that they’re sitting near each other, because in the end, they’re just going there to laugh.
We made a point that this show is based on our life. Jeannie and I executive-produced it. Jeannie’s amazing. … We live in an environment where we constructed this show where Jeannie is this devout Catholic, the “Shiite Catholic,” but to balance it out or deal with the kind of biases we live in, because that stuff happens today.
Just because she is a devout Catholic doesn’t mean that she’s not open to friends that are leading a different lifestyle. The show has been constructed on a lot of different, conflicting lifestyles — my lifestyle being a father of five, versus Adam Goldberg’s character, who we’ve described as aggressively single. Honestly, Jeannie and I have heard that some people are watching the show and saying they’re Adam.
As Jim calls me a Shiite Catholic, the more Catholic that I become, meaning I learn more about my faith — the more I realize that I’m a bad Catholic, you know? I should be better.
My prayer is mostly like, “Please, God, help me get through this day, because I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“The Bible Story” is one of our middle episodes, and it’s the direct feeling of this thing where both Jeannie and Jim’s points of view are very clear.
Jim is making fun of himself, as in his comic persona, about food and everything like that, about his paranoia about what people are going to think about him. His point of view is, “What’s the big deal?” When Jim is more worried about offending all of these other people, our point of view is that people are not afraid of offending Catholics at all.
Jeannie’s feisty in there. It’s not a sugar-coated comedy at all. It’s gritty, and husbands and wives fight. When Jeannie is totally offended by the fact that Jim doesn’t care when he’s outed as a Christian, he doesn’t care that Jeannie might be offended. He cares that all these people he doesn’t know might be offended.
That’s a real thing in our world. The things that are the most important to us, and the people that are most important to me, tend to take a backseat to what the social perception is of us.
Watch this space for more from Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan leading up to the July 15 premiere of “The Jim Gaffigan Show.”
Image: Courtesy TVLand