Funny Because It’s True

Jim Gaffigan tells jokes for a living and, lucky for him, he’s really good at it. (See the embedded video at the bottom of this post.)

He’s also Catholic and has five kids, which led Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post to ask, “Is comic Jim Gaffigan the Catholic Church’s newest evangelizer?” (h/t New Advent):

Gaffigan seems to effortlessly embody the idea the Catholic Church and other denominations are desperately promoting: You can be a devout member of mainstream American life. You don’t have to leave God in order to live in the regular world. With many Americans bailing on organized religion, the long-popular Christian maxim to “be in the world but not of it” is being argued a bit less strenuously.

GaffiganWhile Boorstein gets the new evangelization backwards (she seems to think it has something to do with downplaying, rather than emphasizing, the Christian difference), she’s definitely on to something. Gaffigan is endearing. And disarming. And shoot-soda-out-your-nose funny. And in his own way, he’s evangelizing the culture.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of him before, Gaffigan is one of the country’s best known and funniest comics. His standup material is basically PG (a rarity at the top of his profession), and while his Catholic faith isn’t the direct focus of most of his comedy, it colors the background for much of it. His large family, especially, gets noticed. As he recently told an interviewer on NPR (cited by Boorstein):

Well, why not? I guess the reasons against having more children always seemed uninspiring and superficial. What exactly am I missing out on? Money? A few more hours of sleep? A more peaceful meal? More hair? These are nothing compared to what I get from these five monsters who rule my life…each one of them has been a pump of light into my shriveled black heart.

Our world is so convinced that accepting God means losing ourselves—and hasn’t that been the Big Lie since the Garden of Eden?—that for all the good of creation we easily forget the Creator. We reject grace in a feeble attempt to possess nature, as though heaven and earth were opposites. Our world has forgotten—or more likely never learned—that all of reality points to the glory of God.

Indirectly, almost indiscernibly, he’s narrowing the perceived gap between the world of nature and the world of grace. In this sense, it’s not a stretch to say that Gaffigan represents a subtle antidote to a particularly distorted, and distorting, dualism which makes a sacramental view of reality impossible.

To be clear: Gaffigan tells jokes because they’re funny, not because they nudge the metaphysical scales back towards sanity. But that’s the whole point. Most people aren’t interested in a lecture on metaphysics (least of all those most in need of hearing it), but they’ll pay money to hear Gaffigan tell jokes. However indirect a role his Catholicism plays in his comedy, it’s undeniably there. His audience picks up on that and absorbs it as if by osmosis. Gaffigan is implicitly making the case for the reasonableness—and, truth be told, beauty—of the Catholic view of family.

Heck, even NPR and the Washington Post have taken notice.

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Categories:Culture Humor Media

13 thoughts on “Funny Because It’s True

  1. l says:

    CBS Sunday Morning also highlighted him at home, complete with Crucifix on wall. And, they asked him if he wanted more children.

  2. Robert says:

    Your article is (on the whole) correct, which is why I wish it were headlined “Funny AND it’s True.”

  3. Michael says:

    I think Jim might have undergone some conversion. He may admire his Catholic faith and need ongoing conversion. I’ve had stages of conversion in my life.

  4. Jon says:

    Regarding the YouTube video- from Joshua’s comment: see also at 1:28 the Catholicism for Dummies book!

    1. Kris Kelly says:

      Grow up!

  5. Eugenia says:

    “Devout member”? The same Jim Gaffigan who plays a gay bed and breakfast co-owner on Portlandia and lip-kissed his partner on the show? That one?

    1. Alex says:

      Yes, that one. Simply answer to a ridiculously hyped-up, knee jerk question.

      1. SLCMLC says:

        Eugenia, you realize that actors are often playing fictional characters, right? Leonardo Dicaprio does NOT favor owning slaves (despite his role in Django Unchained), Anthony Hopkins is not a serial killer (Silence of the Lambs), and Denzel Washington, to the best of my knowledge, isn’t a drunk pilot (Flight).

        1. Margo says:

          I do think actors, especially those who claim to be devout Catholics, should be discerning when it comes to what roles they accept. Granted, the roles are fictional, yet, the actors should consider the effects of the fictional character. For example, if an actor plays the role of an antagonist (bad guy), does the role glorify the bad or does the role show why the bad is bad and should be avoided.

          If Jim Gaffigan did portray a gay character (I’ve never seen/heard of the show Portlandia), then it would be wrong if the show treated homosexuality as perfectly acceptable/normal. However, if he played a character who struggled with same sex attraction, but remained chaste, then there would be no problem.

          1. Kris Kelly says:

            Margo – judge not, lest you be judged.

            Sound familiar?

          2. Sarah Taylor says:

            Margo- Yes he has made some mistakes in his life in regards to roles he chooses, but I have listened to interviews of his and he admits that he has room to grow in the Faith. So he is very humble in admitting that he isn’t the authority on the Catholic Church. At the same time, we are all in a different part of our path of conversion. He is definitely still trying to live out his Faith and actively grow closer to Christ. And he is being courageous in trying to live it out in the midst of his fame. It is definitely making an impact on our culture and subtly evangelizing them back to the Catholic Faith, which is definitely positive. So while he has room to grow and makes poor choices sometimes, we ALL make poor choices sometimes and have room to grow so I think it is a great thing. He is meeting the culture where they are at and showing them the beauty of the Church just through the witness of his own faith journey coming out in his work. Best of luck to him on that beautiful journey closer to Christ and to his family!

    2. James says:

      For the record, no. I think he’s speaking of the same Jim Gaffigan who plays a gay food-cart co-owner on “Portlandia.” He plays an absurd food-cart co-owner, who laments that he cannot sell more stew, and comes of as an eccentric loser. I would be surprised if the intention of his character is to glorify, or even to normalize a “gay lifestyle.”

  6. Joshua Mercer says:

    Check out this funny video of Jim and four of his children at his house. And notice the statue at 1:08.

    http://youtu.be/UHf1y4045VM

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