Comedian Jim Gaffigan goes to ‘Fargo’ so he can put his kids first

The well-known comedian and TV star shows us that it’s possible to practice what we preach.

Jim Gaffigan attends the 5th Annual Mario Batali Foundation Honors dinner on October 2016 in New York City. Roy Rochlin | Getty Images

Comedian Jim Gaffigan is joining the cast of FX’s strange, lauded comedy Fargo. It marks Gaffigan’s return to the small screen (if you don’t count his pretty hilarious Chrysler Pacifica commercials) since his semi-autobiographical show on TV Land—titled, fittingly, The Jim Gaffigan Show—was cancelled a couple months ago.

I’m glad the 50-year-old Gaffigan is returning to television, even in what may be a fairly smallish role. I liked The Jim Gaffigan Show, and I was bummed when it was cancelled. Judging from the outpouring of grief on social media, lots of other people were, too.

But we Jim Gaffigan fans couldn’t just blame TV Land for the show’s demise. We were stuck pointing the finger at … Jim Gaffigan.

“After months of discussion [my wife] Jeannie and I have decided to make Season 2 of The Jim Gaffigan Show the final season,” he wrote in a post on social media. “We realize this may surprise some and we don’t make this decision lightly. It is hard to say goodbye to this highly personal passion project, which we have nurtured and poured our hearts into for over five years.”

Gaffigan’s comedy is rooted in the three things that seem to matter the most to him: faith, family and food.

But as the rest of the post on Whosay made clear, the show wasn’t the only thing that Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan were pouring their hearts into. Gaffigan writes: “As many of you know all the episodes this season were written by Jeannie and me. Jeannie was the showrunner and I acted in virtually every scene. In one way it was a perfect scenario. We worked with an amazing cast and crew, learned tons and laughed so much. However the time commitment to make the quality of show we wanted was taking us away from our most important project, our five children.”

We probably should’ve seen it coming.

Gaffigan’s comedy is rooted in the three things that seem to matter the most to him: faith, family and food. His Catholic beliefs are a regular source of material. (In the first season of his TV Land show, he calls his wife a “Shiite Catholic.”) He loves eating so much that he published a book called Food: A Love Story. But his family is the focus of most of his ribbing. Like most of us, he kids because he loves.

Guilty or not, he and wife Jeannie came to realize that something had to change for the good of those five kids.

But in a June guest column on parenthood for Wired, titled “I have So Many Kids, I Don’t Have Time to Write This Essay,” the strain of raising a family and producing a sitcom was beginning to show.

“Sure, you’re gonna have some guilt,” he writes about being a parent. “Just ignore it. Don’t get worked up about how screens are neglectful, how not playing flash-card games with them is neglectful, or how neglect is neglectful. And definitely don’t feel guilty about that time you missed the father-daughter square dance because you were working on your TV show about how crazy it is having five kids and being a stand-up comedian. Definitely don’t feel guilty about that.”

But guilty or not, he and wife Jeannie came to realize that something had to change for the good of those five kids. They made the decision to give up a show they loved to be real parents to the children they loved more. And there’s something cool about that—even if folks like me are sorry to see the show go.

In the end, it’s really about these children that, not to get all Kahlil Gibran, but they’re on loan to us, right?”

“I do want to be clear, I think it’s very flattering when people on Twitter and Facebook say ‘Bravo to you doing the right thing,’” Gaffigan told The A.V. Club. “It’s not a brave thing that we’re doing. It’s literally both parents were unavailable. So in other words, we’re doing the only thing we could do for our five kids. Even if we were nominated for a bunch of Emmys, I think we’d be having the same conversation. In the end, it’s really about these children that, not to get all Kahlil Gibran, but they’re on loan to us, right?”

A lot of celebrities say that their family comes first. Heck, a lot of us say that, too. But do our actions always match those words? I don’t think mine have all the time. I’ve missed school programs to hit deadlines. I’m not always as good as my word. So it’s edifying to see a couple of parents say that their family comes first … and show us that they mean it.

Paul Asay
Paul Asay
Paul Asay is a movie critic for Plugged In and has written for a variety of websites and publications, including Time, The Washington Post and Beliefnet.com. He’s authored or co-authored several books, including most recently Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet.

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