Review: Jim Gaffigan, “The Pale Tourist” (Amazon Prime Video)

It’d be both easy and a gross oversimplification for me to merely say, I enjoy Jim Gaffigan’s older stuff better, as if I’m a hipster employee in a record store in the 1990s.

So I’ll focus on the positives and play up the things that make Gaffigan’s 2020 double-special for Amazon Prime Video significant. He performed separate sets in Canada and Spain, specifically written for those audiences. To wit:

Back when we enjoyed live comedy in clubs and theaters, most touring headliners would try to soak in enough of the local culture and news to drop one or two hyper-specific jokes at the top of the set to ingratiate themselves with the paying audience each night. And comedians who worked corporate gigs similarly were tasked with learning details about company executives so they could rib them accordingly in front of their coworkers.

But this? The idea of performing a full 45 minutes to an hour specifically about a scene that’s completely foreign to you, making fun of the audience’s culture and traditions, is relatively unheard of, at least on documented recording.

Eddie Izzard ambitiously performed his set in French and German to those audiences, but he was still doing the same act.

What Gaffigan did was an even higher-wire act. And sometimes the daredevil doesn’t complete the jump. Back in June, Gaffigan released the half-hour he performed in Seoul, South Korea (Asian American) that didn’t make the cut for Amazon. It’s a quiet performance, and perhaps the Koreans were just more reserved, perhaps the jokes didn’t hit them in the gut, or perhaps it was because this was actually Gaffigan’s first-ever attempt at this experiment. But the fact that Gaffigan put himself out there, both onstage and on film, is remarkable.

Read my full review of Gaffigan’s “The Pale Tourist”

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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