The husband-and-wife team say their Catholicism — with its daily prayer, weekly Mass and rosary recitation with their five kids — is such a part of their own lives that not including it in their work would be dishonest.
Jokes about somebody’s religious beliefs are often … duds.
But jokes about your own religious beliefs somehow push the line between funny and offensive, making room for laughter and, occasionally, sharp commentary.
That’s the philosophy behind The Jim Gaffigan Show, a new series that premiered on TVLand on July 15 featuring Jim Gaffigan, the popular stand-up comedian known for his Comedy Central special and the books Dad Is Fat and Food: A Love Story, and his wife, Jeannie.
“It’s part of the story,” said Jeannie Gaffigan, an executive producer of the new show and Jim’s frequent collaborator. “We are just trying to portray our reality.”
That reality ends up looking a lot like an accurate portrait of American Catholicism. As portrayed in the series, Jeannie is a more knowledgeable and reverent Catholic than Jim. Their church’s pews are only about half – full, and many members of their parish are little old ladies waiting for a moment with a priest who was born in a foreign country.
In an episode titled Bible Story, Jim says of a Bible given to Jeannie by the pope for her tremendous service to her parish: “Catholics don’t read the Bible. That’s why they give us Cliff Notes on Sunday.”
That joke is a perfect example of the couple’s philosophy on what makes religion funny — or not. Jim is not making fun of Catholics, Jeannie said; he is making fun of himself as a bad Catholic. It is his point of view from the inside of the joke, not from the outside, that makes it work.
“It’s complex, but it’s also simple,” she said. “He is not being negative about religion, he is being negative about himself. The reason everyone thinks it is funny is they also have that lazy side.”