Arts Watch: Talking “Real” New York With Jim Gaffigan
This story was first published in our June 2015 magazine, now available at locations throughout the Lower East Side.
We checked in with funnyman Jim Gaffigan while he was shooting a scene from his new series, The Jim Gaffigan Show, on location at the Bowery Ballroom this spring.
The show, co-written and executive produced with his wife, Jeannie Gaffigan, doesn’t stray far from home; it’s about a stand-up comedian living in New York city with his wife and raising five children in a two bedroom apartment. As is true with his stand-up, there are plenty of jokes about his insatiable appetite and his Catholicism.
Gaffigan “& Co.” have lived downtown, first in Little Italy and then on the Lower East Side, for years. “I moved here for the neighborhoods. I like the charm of a neighborhood and I like the convenience,” he said.
Gaffigan moved to Mott Street in 1990. “It was crack whores along Houston, and that was it,” he explained. “And that’s when they first started the construction on Houston,” he joked. It seems like it’s been under construction ever since.
The tale of how Jim and Jeannie met couldn’t be more of a New York story: “I lived across from St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral and my wife lived down the block, she lived on Mott, and we met at our bodega,” Gaffigan said.
New York City is a definite character in The Jim Gaffigan Show. They have been shooting in numerous locations around the neighborhood, including Katz’s Deli, Veselka, Babycakes and the Church of the Most Precious Blood on Mulberry Street. “Some of the places we chose is because they [represent] ‘real New York,’” he said.
Another “real New York” establishment Gaffigan misses is the old Bowery Poetry Club, where he used to practice stand-up during his early years in NYC. “I feel like even as a comedian there wasn’t always a certain kind of open mic place for oddballs. The Bowery Poetry Club was the last of it,” he says. “There was something so comforting about that place.”
Of Katz’s — one of the most famous spots in the area, Gaffigan says, “There’s the cliche from Harry Met Sally, but the personality of that place is so strong and it’s such a great location – even the people who work at Katz’s – they’re so ‘real.’ I’m not a big food tourist guy, but I love the fact that there’s a picture of me and my son on the wall at Katz’s next to five other people I’ve never heard of, you know? There’s an authenticity there that people attempt to recreate everywhere else.”
“I was invited to their 100th anniversary sader,” he said, laughing. “Never has a bigger ‘Goy’ been invited to a seder like that.”
The full first season of The Jim Gaffigan Show debuts on TV Land on July 15th. Ashley Williams (How I Met Your Mother) plays Jim’s wife, Adam Goldberg (Fargo) plays his best friend, and Michael Ian Black (Ed) co-stars as his wife’s busybody confidante. Guest stars include numerous other comedians like Chris Rock and Jon Stewart playing themselves.