It’s the dead of summer in southeast Texas, and the humidity in Houston feels thicker than cotton candy. Despite the heat, though, thousands of fans have crowded into an outdoor amphitheater to hear comedian Jim Gaffigan riff on the challenges of raising his five children. Strolling around the stage in his trademark relaxed fashion, Gaffigan quickly takes to joking about stairwells, the possibility of whether Jesus multiplied pretzel bread, and, to no one’s surprise, Hot Pockets. “My favorite is the breakfast Hot Pocket,” he quips, “because I can’t think of a better way to start the day: ‘Good morning! You are about to call in sick.’”
Gaffigan is one of the most successful working comics in the business. His last two albums, Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe and Obsessed, were each nominated for a Grammy. He’s a New York Times bestselling author, and his television program, The Jim Gaffigan Show, is midway through its second season on TV Land. As if his plate weren’t full enough, he’s also currently in the middle of his nationwide Fully Dressed tour.
But while Jim may be the one on stage, his one-man set isn’t the work of just one man. Behind the scenes stands Jim’s wife of 13 years, Jeannie. Not only is Jeannie the mother of those five children at the center of Jim’s jests, but she’s also heavily involved in her husband’s career, working with him on his stand-up material and serving as a writer and executive producer on The Jim Gaffigan Show. One could even make the case that Jeannie is the secret ingredient to Jim’s exploding popularity. Without her, the world just might have a few less jokes about childbirth. Or donuts.
The Gaffigans are also devout Catholics, and they’re heavily involved in their local New York church. Church even has a starring role in The Jim Gaffigan Show, where the storylines often weave back and forth between the family’s fictional congregation and its priest, Father Nicholas (played by Tongayi Chirisa). The show’s treatment of church life isn’t over-the-top or too preachy; in fact, it feels disarmingly authentic.
Earlier this month, Jeannie talked with The Local Church about her faith, the Gaffigan family, and the role the local church has played in both. Here’s what she had to say:
By all accounts, you’re more than just a supportive spouse—Jim called you his “partner” at a recent stand-up show I attended. You write material together. You’re also an executive producer on The Jim Gaffigan Show. How does this artistic partnership work?
We’ve always worked together, even prior to us being in a very serious relationship. It kind of evolved when Jim and I met each other in New York. We were neighbors. Jim was a stand-up comedian, and I was producing theater for urban children. I really thought Jim had a lot to offer my company, so I asked him to come run a workshop for kids. Jim was, just as this happened, offered his first TV show, so he said he needed some [acting] coaching.
We made a barter agreement where he came in and worked with my company, and I coached his acting. He would do what he did during the day, I would do what I did during the day, and then after dinner we would meet and work on our projects together. Our relationship centered around work. It’s not like we had this very normal marriage, and then all of a sudden started working together; it’s always been that way.