Review: Everyone’s in on the joke at Gaffigan show

Gaffigan likes tall ships.

Jim Gaffigan took a diverse crowd tonight and made it do the same thing: laugh.

A lot.

The comedian performed to the approval of 1,991 spectators ranging from preteen to the most senior of citizens at the DECC Symphony Hall.

Gaffigan next takes his White Bread Tour to Green Bay for two shows today. The Midwest-raised comic’s set began with a riff on Lake Superior and the Tall Ships Duluth festival, which he wandered around earlier in the day.

Naming the body of water you live next to “Superior” is “a little elitist,” he said, adding that apparently it wasn’t good enough to be one of the “great” lakes. He said he thought it was neat for sailors to bring their ships to a town and let its residents throw a party onboard.

His set lasted 74 minutes, which felt like 90 minutes (in a good way) in regular-comic time. Gaffigan packs his jokes with tags and commentary, leaving little room for a pause. At times it was tough to hear some of the tags because they’d come during what the audience anticipated as an applause break for a previous line. For much of his commentary, Gaffigan is famous for acting out a voice onstage meant to represent a puzzled crowd member.

“That’s something that has been part of my personality for a long time,” the Indiana native told the News Tribune on Thursday. “Like as a teenager I would talk for someone else I was in the presence of as a way of disarming them. I had done it with some success pretty early in my stand-up. Some of it was an effective way to keep talking.

“I’m a slow-talking Midwesterner living in New York. Comedy clubs have changed; it used to be much more combative, and thank God it’s not — it was stupid. If I stopped talking, some knucklehead would say something. If I talk in place of the knucklehead, they don’t get a chance to say anything.”

Tonight was heckler-free, thankfully. Signs posted at the entrance warned show-goers not to take photos, record videos or heckle. An absence of the latter allowed for an enjoyable performance that flowed smoothly.

Some of the most-popular topics from Gaffigan’s set included jokes about hygiene, babies, family and, of course, food. He even added new jokes to his best-known bit: his feelings about Hot Pockets. The mere mention of the meat-filled pouch was all the audience would need to erupt into a combined roar of laughter and booming applause.

Gaffigan’s everyman look and perfected brand of family-friendly comedy make him one of the best comedians in the business.

Tom Shillue, who has appeared on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and “Comedy Central Presents,” opened the show with a funny 15-minute set highlighted by an impression of slow-motion golf instant replays; having a scary dad who reminded him of Darth Vader; the Frito Bandito and other ad campaigns from the 1970s.

Jimmy Bellamy is a News Tribune multimedia editor. He can be reached at