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Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013

Jim Gaffigan @ The Pabst Theater

Dec. 30, 2013

jim gaffigan pabst theater milwaukee new year
Photo credit: Sara Bill
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Jim Gaffigan has managed a heft of transcendent and eternally quotable comedy specials, in addition to film and television roles, along with publishing his first book, Dad Is Fat, which he released earlier this year. While the veteran comic’s body of work and his accessible brand of self-deprecating humor have rendered Gaffigan a noted name in the realm of contemporary comedy, many Milwaukeeans likely know him better as part of the city’s year-end entertainment tradition. Paying his seventh annual visit to his “hometown-in-law” in as many years, the funnyman treated his wife’s native city to his trademark food humor and other folksy musings Monday during the third of his four-show Pabst Theater residency to close out 2013.

Saying he’s “been here for 10 pounds,” Gaffigan wasted little time before launching into his edible-heavy routine. The self-anointed fat, pale and balding everyman alleged he hasn’t been hungry for 12 years and unleashed a diatribe against fruits and vegetables early in his near-90-minute flurry of quickly dispatched and relatable one-liners.

The Gaffigan staple of junk food monopolized the first half of his set. From questioning his spouse’s refusal to consider donuts an acceptable ingredient in trail mix (“I’m just on a different trail!”) to extolling the Southwestern U.S. delicacy “fried bread” and questioning consumption of ice cream during the day as an adult (“Shouldn’t we be alone in the dark watching Lifetime?”), the hungry humorist left no segment of the food pyramid unaddressed in his rapid fire traipse through well-known bits and new material alike.

Some rare departures from the realm of edibles found Gaffigan laying into wedding traditions, striking a chord with the packed and attentive audience with a tirade against the concept of gift registries, the inherent awkwardness of the receiving line and what happens to the garter after the wedding. Other exoduses saw him talking about bathing—with tangential mention of Cialis commercials—as well as the advent of body wash and what it’s like for a man to visit Victoria’s Secret. “You’re really buying a gift for yourself,” he said. “Hey, honey. I got me this. Here, I’m welcome!” He also touched on Milwaukee’s drinking and what it’s like to raise five kids.

However, Gaffigan re-opened the menu to cull more food commentary for the majority of his set. Besides a glowing description of Kobe beef, the foodie also made ample mention of dishes he didn’t enjoy. He likened the gluten-free movement to a form of terrorism, dismantled each variation of milk, and took kale to task. “They could find out that kale cures cancer and I’d still say, ‘I’ll just do the chemo,’” he said.

Seafood absorbed the brunt of Gaffigan’s uncharacteristic ire, though. He dubbed lobster “sea scorpions” and crabs “pistachios of the ocean”—then took hot dogs to task as well, saying, “Hot dogs are like strippers. Nobody wants to know the back story.”

He took a turn at religion (of course using food in doing so), with a bit about the last supper and Jesus’ physique. “Jesus was in amazing shape,” Gaffigan started. “Especially when you take into account he could multiply bread.” Of course, the frozen food connoisseur re-gifted his popular Hot Pockets routine, complete with singing variations of the brand’s slogan, such as “Bomb Pockets” and “Flush Pockets”—each delivered in his patented whispered tone. He capped off the crowd-favorite, saying, “Hot Pockets Sliders? That’s a little redundant.”

While Gaffigan’s material Monday arguably hinged too much on formulaic food-fodder and occasionally seemed to sleepwalk through longstanding material from past specials, Milwaukee’s adopted holiday-adjacent standard satisfied with non-stop jokes and an identifiable cache of self-effacing gut-busters that left attendees of all ages satisfied.

Gaffigan will perform a special New Year’s Eve show at Pabst Theater tonight. The doors open at 9 p.m. and tickets cost $55.