Bacon joke-off: Denis Leary vs. Jim Gaffigan

Denis Leary appeared on last night's edition of Late Show with David Letterman (though taped on Monday), and after some funny banter from Leary ribbing Letterman for waiting 23 years before getting married to his girlfriend, Leary explains that he looks as good as he does at the age of 50 because of bacon. It's a joke. Fine. But then, almost six minutes in, Leary decides to extoll the many virtues of bacon:

And, well, then we have to revisit the perennial stand-up comedian debate about whether comics who talk about the same things are stealing from one another or merely following parallel thinking about a common topic. Bacon certainly is common enough for anyone to love and joke about. And yet. Leary's history and reputation make one pause. His examples here also are suspect. Jim Gaffigan has covered this topic famously over the past year, not only on his new CD/DVD, but also last year in detail on Letterman's stage. Here is the finished product from Gaffigan's special:

I always want to give comedians the benefit of the doubt, particularly when you're considering topics such as current events or popular everyday items. That's one reason why some argue about the importance of having POV and referencing your own point of view, or taking it a step further and making the material about your life experiences (which audience may relate to on a general level but are all your own and can never be subject to joke theft).

So I'm asking you, I suppose, is posting this all much to do over nothing, or should we continue to showcase occurrences like this in the world of stand-up comedy? Is this a healthy debate to have? Or has technology made us all too aware of what everyone else is doing onstage, to the point where it's stifling creativity?

UPDATE: My thought, upon further reflection, is that this isn't quite as controversial as the longstanding beef the comedy community has with Leary regarding Bill Hicks, nor the revelation that Leary's first big song was inspired by a Louis CK routine. This feels more like an unnecessary diversion to make Leary's "panel" with Letterman funnier.

P.S. I'm also fully aware that in Gaffigan's special, he has a line about what to do in the event of a bear attack, a topic that's also covered by Eugene Mirman and Mike Birbiglia. That's always just struck me as odd.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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3 thoughts on “Bacon joke-off: Denis Leary vs. Jim Gaffigan

  1. Uh I think Leary’s proven past as a joke theif warrants this discussion. I’m just surprised he thought he;d get away with it. Everyone knows all Jim Gaffigan talks about anymore is bacon.

  2. Gaffigan’s bacon material isn’t groundbreaking – it’s just gushing. Comics have been baconing it up forever… Now if Leary had gone on about Hot Pockets…

  3. I noticed it as well, not only because I was familiar with the act, but because Comedy Central had played Gaffigan’s special days before. . .

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