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John Lamb, Published March 18 2012

Return of the pale writer: Comic Jim Gaffigan back in Fargo tonight

As a stand-up comic and actor, Jim Gaffigan makes a living by what he says, most notably poking fun at his pasty-white complexion and his taste for Hot Pockets and bacon.

With his upcoming release of the comedy routine “Mr. Universe,” the funnyman is putting his money where his mouth is.

Instead of going through a label or standard physical CD/DVD distribution routes, Gaffigan paid for the production of the special and will post it on his website, www.jimgaffigan.com, on April 11. “Mr. Universe” will be available for download for $5.

That material will be similar to the new 75-minute act he brings to the Fargo Civic Center tonight at 7.

Behind the laughs, though, there is a serious cause. Twenty percent of each digital download, or $1, goes to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which provides resources and support to injured service members, veterans and their families.

The comic met Woodruff, a TV journalist who was injured while covering the Iraq War, while performing at a fundraiser.

“I saw that there was really no bureaucracy and their motives were very sincere and simple,” Gaffigan says of the foundation.

The comedian follows a model set up by GQ’s 2011 comic of the year, Louis C.K., who directed and independently produced his own comedy special, “Live at the Beacon Theater.” That show was released on C.K.’s website for $5 on Dec. 11. Within 12 hours he recovered the $250,000 in production costs. Within 10 days he said the show grossed $1.1 million, of which $280,000 was donated to a number of charities.

“I think it works out for everyone,” Gaffigan says about being able to give back to a good cause while simultaneously giving his fans a quality product at a low price. “The ambition is not to get rich. The last thing I want to do is treat people who enjoy my comedy as customers. The idea is really to get it out there without the corporate bureaucracy. For me, as long as I don’t lose money and get some new people to come to the shows, that’s my expectations.”

That doesn’t mean fans should expect a more serious set from Gaffigan than the one he delivered at the Fargo Civic nearly three years ago. While he’ll be working with all new material, Gaffigan will still break out some fan favorites, like his popular take on Hot Pockets.

“People want the new stuff, I feel,” he says. “But my objective is for people to have the best time they can, so if they want to hear the Hot Pockets thing, I’ll definitely do it.”

One of Gaffigan’s favorite topics has taken a public media beating lately: A study was released announcing that the regular consumption of red and processed meat, including bacon, could shorten life expectancy. Commercials for Gaffigan’s Civic show include his line about how bacon frying sounds like cheering.

“I think we’re all intelligent here. We all know you can’t eat that much bacon,” he says. “Is that really news that bacon is bad for you? Were we really surprised a study came out that said smoking is bad? Do we need to be even reminded of that? I think it is news if we found out bacon was actually good for you. It’s like when people say, ‘Fast food is bad for you.’ Well, it’s not as if people say, ‘Well, I am on the new Wendy’s triple diet.’ We know it is all crap, right?”

In an interview that ran Wednesday in the Des Moines Register, the comic said he doesn’t eat at a lot of chain restaurants and said he sometimes uses Twitter to get suggestions on local places to eat.

“I definitely enjoy a regional specialty. Like in Fargo, there are a lot of Norwegians. You’re supposed to get the lutefisk, but I didn’t try that,” he told the reviewer, referring to his 2009 visit.

Since then, Gaffigan has appeared on the TV shows “Bored to Death” and “Royal Pains” and in the movies “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” and “Going the Distance” – which featured him eating a sandwich at a table while a couple began using the table for, uh, foreplay.

Even with memorable scenes like that, Gaffigan’s biggest recent productions have been the additions of his two children.

While Gaffigan’s act is family-friendly, he’s not necessarily tapping the new family additions as material for jokes.

“I don’t know if it correlates, but I’m learning to exist on a lot less sleep and a lot less free time. I’m getting better at pick-ups and drop-offs of children,” he says as he gets ready to drive his son from school to soccer practice.

The funny man is spending a lot more time with his family. His current tour coincides with the kids’ spring break, so he’s bringing all four children and his wife on the tour bus with him. After tonight’s show the tour continues to Rapid City, S.D., and Gaffigan is looking forward to visiting Mt. Rushmore with the kids.

“This way I don’t have to be away from them to do standup,” he says. “Because, obviously, with four kids I can’t bring them everywhere when I usually do shows.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533