Late on Monday night, July 13, Jim Gaffigan landed in Los Angeles to do press for the Wednesday, July 15, 10 p.m. ET/PT, premiere of “The Jim Gaffigan Show.”
The half-hour comedy is a fictionalized version of the life of the food-loving Catholic comedian, who, together with wife Jeannie (Ashley Williams), is depicted raising five kids in a two-bedroom New York City apartment.
Using the Twitter app Periscope, Gaffigan was streaming his trip across the quiet streets of Los Angeles on the way to his hotel (by the time I joined in, it was well past midnight) all the while chatting with Twitter followers and his patient limo driver, Lee — or at least that’s what the limo company calls him.
(And if you’re wondering what I was doing up at that hour, I had just come home after spending the evening watching CBS fall pilots with two Catholic pals. I do this so you don’t have to. They weren’t great, but they weren’t horrifying either — and that’s saying something.)
During June, previews of selected episodes of “The Jim Gaffigan Show” have been made available online and on TV, but Wednesday is the official bow, so we want to everyone to tune in. It’s not not every day that you get a family sitcom written by and produced by a faithful Catholic couple.
But you might not know all of this if you read Vanity Fair‘s (you know, the magazine with the big Jenner cover) profile of Gaffigan and his real wife Jeannie, who’s also his writing and producing partner. Titled “Comedy’s Quietest Power Couple Comes Front and Center in The Jim Gaffigan Show,” it manages to trace the Gaffigans’ lives and careers, and the development of the show through stints at NBC and CBS, without ever once mentioning the word “Catholic.”
I guess the big Bible/Catholic storyline in the first episode posted online eluded VF completely. Mysterious.
Anyway, in late May, I had an extensive chat with the Gaffigans and published sections of it before — click here and here for those posts — but with the premiere upon us, I’d like to turn to the section of the conversation having to do with Catholic fathers (and a Father).
One thing that Jeannie wants to come through in the show is the importance of faithful dads.
“I just want to say this,” she said, “that it has been totally proven in families, that if the father is the leader, the spiritual leader, of the family, it’s much longer lasting in kids. It’s not just a stereotype. … But we can’t judge all these other families. All we can talk about is what’s happening in our family, and if people can relate to it, that’s terrific.
“What’s happening in our (TV) family is that Jim has a deep faith in God, but he keeps much more quiet about it than Jeannie does. It’s a different setup. Actually, when I was on a retreat with my son for his first Holy Communion, and even the leader of the group was talking about how he feels embarrassment here while praying out loud. He could only say the rote prayers out loud, but he didn’t want to say the prayer where they’re thanking God just from their heart. He is really embarrassed about it, and this is a really devout guy.
“People can relate to this. We’re not trying to buy into a stereotype. Jeannie and Jim have a different way of expressing their faith. Jim is learning through these episodes.”
One way Jim is learning is with the help of the family priest, Father Nicholas Ngugumbane (Tongayi Chirisa).
Said Jim, “That was, again, intentional. I know there are those stereotypes of the dad reading the newspaper while the rest of the family goes to church, but some of it is, we wanted (the family’s) influence to be part of the arc of Jim, and the priest becoming Jim’s counselor.
“The priest is also somebody who comes from Zimbabwe. When Jim complains about materialistic things, the priest puts it all in perspective.”
Click here to see the rest of the conversation on my Pax Culturati blog at Patheos.com.
Here’s a sneak peek:
Images: Twitter screenshot; courtesy TVLand