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Jim Gaffigan on Paleness, Ryan Gosling and Sweating Gracefully

For wised-up comedy-philes, Jim Gaffigan holds a special place on the stand-up totem pole: a road-warrior stand-up who’s been touring regularly since the 1990s with a steady stream of fresh material, and a collection of bedrock bits that never fail to kill in front of sold-out crowds.

His wry, hilariously delivered and self-deprecating observations on everything from the undeniable paleness of being, to junk food (see: Hot Pockets), to the holidays are the stuff of line-quoting lore. And now he’s got a new special out (being sold online à la Radiohead), and he’s currently on tour playing a gig at Foxwoods on June 2.

We caught up with his blondness to discuss tanning challenges for the modern pale gentleman, grilling and the trashy appeal of the average baseball hat.

So where does your trademark paleness come from? All I know is it’s like Irish and coal miner trash. I don’t know, whatever the ethnic makeup is, it’s quite possibly the worst, I think. Like the blond hair from Northern Europe and the pale skin from Ireland. It’s a genetic disaster.

Do you basically reflect the sun off your body if and when you go to the beach? Now that I have kids, I’m forced to do things that they want to do, and what they usually want to do is be outside and swim. [So I have to wear] this long-sleeved sun-shirt thing. It’s a disaster, you know? Swimming in a pool in a long-sleeved sun shirt, you look like a moron. People look at you like, “Did that guy fall in? That’s definitely the worst suicide attempt I’ve ever seen.” And then you get out, and you’re drying yourself with this towel on a long-sleeved shirt, and you have to walk around and just not look like a guy who just tried to drown himself.

So when you say a sun-shirt, do you mean just one of those typical white long-sleeved shirts? They’re sunscreen shirts—they’re made out of some type of chemical that I’m sure will cause cancer. Essentially, I’m not supposed to be outside. I don’t even know how my ancestors would’ve been hunters and gatherers.

What would be your tanning advice for the modern gentleman who suffers from varying degrees of a similar skin complexion as you, or just generally pale in general? I would say, just develop a habit that keeps you up at night, so that you sleep through the sunnier part of the day. That would be, you know, smoking crack or watching a lot of Netflix at three in the morning. Because... being outside before 3pm, it’s just too dangerous.

What’s your chosen SPF? It goes up to 85, right? Supposedly after 30—aside: I know way too much about this—after 30 it’s supposedly all the same. After that it’s just kind of, um... essentially what happens after SPF 30 is that the consistency of the sunscreen just gets thicker and thicker, which means you’re essentially putting war paint on. Some of the sunscreen you literally cannot get off. So, like, if you’re going out to dinner that night, it will always be part of you because you’ll go in the bathroom and you’ll say, like, “What is this white all over my ear?” And it’s the remnants of the pale humiliation just kind of lingering on.

How do you deal with sweating in the summer months? I mean, it’s just wearing what you can to hide the pit stains. Because [they make] you look like To Catch a Predator, right? Or just not having any movement where you would raise your arms. That would be a key thing.

Your summer style: what kind of stuff do you tend to wear, be it for leisure, business or an act, or going out to, you know, check the oil in your car? Do you have any kind of go-tos? First of all, I would never check the oil in my car. But I would say that I can’t leave my house without a hat (I’m a bald man, too, which is another sexy thing). Imagine putting sunscreen on the top of your head, that’s a boost to the ego, right? You’re like, “Look out, Ryan Gosling, I’m coming out!” But you’re wearing a hat where all the heat releases from your body, right?

Right. Or a lot of it. So, luckily, wearing a hat holds the heat in, so you’re twice as uncomfortable as anyone else. Essentially, you just run around trying to find shade where you could possibly take off your hat and just sweat miserably in a corner. It’s a beautiful adventure.

What are your thoughts on hat styles? There’s something kind of trashy, kind of informal about a baseball cap. It’s like, “Hey, thanks. You came to my barbecue.” And anyone who’s wearing a baseball cap kind of looks like they didn’t shower anyway.

Sure. Then there’s the “country gentleman” kind of straw hat, where you always look like you’re mid, you know, going through cancer treatment. And then there’s the paper delivery boy kind of “I’m trying to look cool [hats].” What are they called again?

Newsboy caps. Actually, Tom Brady recently showed up to a Rag & Bone store opening party in Boston wearing one of those. He could pull it off. He could wear mouse ears and people would be like, “Yeah, that looks pretty good.” But he and Aaron Rodgers can be like, “We’re all going to wear mouse ears,” and people would be like, “Yeah, it’s cool.” I mean, there would definitely be a segment of us that would be like, “You know... mouse ears let people know that it’s a party.”

You’re performing at Foxwoods this week. Do you gamble at all when you play casinos? I love the energy of a casino and the desperation of a casino. It kind of reminds me of the entertainment business.

Let’s talk grilling. Favorite meats? Well, I’m a Midwestern guy, so I’m a big believer in bratwurst. There’s nothing better than a bratwurst. I mean, it’s fun to see my kids respond [to it] because the name “bratwurst” sounds really terrifying to a 5-year-old. They’re like, “Nooo! Not brat-worst!” [But] I totally get the most fun out of the grill with the bratwurst there. But what other meats are there? I mean, I think barbecue outside—I don’t know, it’s always a disaster when I do it.

And yet, in order to barbecue, you have to be out in the hot sun, so you’re sort of running up against a wall there. Yeah, you’re volunteering to be standing next to a fire when it’s 90 degrees out.

... as a pale gentleman. Yea. I don’t understand the logic of that. “Hey, it’s really hot and uncomfortable out here, why don’t I stand next to a burning flame.”