BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 24: Comedian Jim Gaffigan attends Saban Community Clinic's 38th Annual Dinner at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on November 24, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)
He’s famous thanks to a microwaveable snack food. Jim Gaffigan’s road from small-town Indiana to the big time is long and winding and lined with Hot Pockets: A routine about them propelled Gaffigan into the common vocabulary of college kids and made him one of the most in-demand comics. In 2012, Pollstar pegged him as one of the top 10 touring comedians in the U.S.
Gaffigan was born in Elgin, Illinois, but grew up in Chesterton. “The closest thing to the entertainment industry was probably that we had a marching band,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2013. The youngest of six, Gaffigan announced at age 5 that he wanted to be “an actress,” and a showbiz career was born.
He hit it big with the help of another pretty funny Indiana guy. Gaffigan moved to New York City to launch his comedy career, finding success on the Late Show with David Letterman.
He found love in the city. The comic met his wife, Jeannie Noth Gaffigan, when they literally bumped into each other at a late-night Korean market in New York. Before long, she was offering writing and editing help. Before longer, she was helping write everything.
He could live in your cellar if he really needed to. Gaffigan resided with his wife and five children—all under the age of 9—in a two-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor of a lower-Manhattan walk-up, in case you’re ever caught wondering if your basement is big enough. The high-volume, low-square-footage situation is in the past, but it did provide family-observational fodder for Gaffigan’s first book, Dad Is Fat. “You know what it’s like having a fourth kid?” he writes. “Imagine you’re drowning, and someone hands you a baby.”
Dad Is Fat was named for the first complete sentence his oldest son ever wrote. It debuted at No. 5 on The New York Times Best Sellers list and remained on the roster for three months. His second book, Food: A Love Story, came out in 2014.
Unfamiliar with Gaffigan’s work? Start by digging up that “Hot Pockets” routine on Youtube. (It’ll probably auto-fill if you type “Gaffigan” and “H.”) The shtick helped him get to a point where he can play Bankers Life. It’s also gotten him to a point where strangers shout the name of the microwaveable treats at him in airports. The routine’s a blessing, but, as he’s said, “I certainly don’t need more drunk college kids yelling ‘Hot Pocket!’ at me.”
Seriously, if you haven’t watched that video yet, do it now. We’ll wait. (Video below.)
You can play it around the children! Even before he began speed-producing babies in Manhattan, Gaffigan has long been noted for being a clean comic—in a world that doesn’t always look kindly on them. “Maybe I’m being sensitive,” the Catholic comedian has said in interviews. “I just want to be known as funny. I mean, when you hear about a family-friendly restaurant, you know it’s going to be horrible.”
The Jim Gaffigan Show just started its second season on TV Land. The first episode of Season 2 of this loosely fictionalized version of his real life premiered on Father’s Day, June 19.
He’s performed alongside some pretty big names. Last September, Gaffigan did a set at the Festival of Families, a giant Catholic event in Philadelphia that drew more than a million people. The bill included Aretha Franklin, Andrea Bocelli, and the Pope. Not bad for a guy who burned his mouth on some Hot Pockets.