Beyond The Pale
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Reviewed by Bill Clark
Thus sets the stage for Jim Gaffigan’s latest standup routine, Beyond the Pale. Gaffigan represents one of my favorite types of comedians: the observer. All of us observe everyday life, but it takes talent, wit, and timing to rightfully exploit our way of life. Gaffigan is uncannily accomplished at the art, and he does so sans the disgusting language that one may expect from him. His high-pitched, squeaky “inner voice,” that being what he thinks audience members are saying to themselves during the show, adds another layer of hilarity to the proceedings. In Beyond the Pale he takes aim namely at food, but also holidays and religion.
The vast majority of the act is devoted to Gaffigan’s take on food. Everything from a product’s packaging to its convenience is cleverly observed and mocked. His address regarding the power of cake is a true highlight, as he observes that you can hate the individual who is celebrating the birthday, but love the cake. It brings people together and makes the world a better place. Trumping all, however, is his nearly five minute rant regarding the Hot Pocket. Intermittently singing the jingle between remarks, this is comedy gold. He keenly observes that with all the different kinds of Hot Pockets “you can have a Hot Pocket for breakfast, one for lunch, and then be dead by dinner.”
In the rapid-fire “Holidays” portion, Gaffigan goes off about holiday traditions that simply have nothing to do with the holiday being celebrated. From overeating and blowing stuff up on the Fourth of July to chopping down a tree and putting it in your living room (the act of a drunken man, according to Gaffigan) for Christmas, nothing is safe. The same goes for the final segment of the show, which delves into religion. I have to say that Gaffigan is the first person I know of to honestly wonder if Jesus was a good carpenter.
While funny throughout, I found myself hoping that at some point Gaffigan would stray off the constant food path. His observations are hilarious, but when it when it’s all said and done I really wish he would have expanded his topic range a bit. I have no doubt that he has insights into nearly facet of life, so maybe he’s just pacing himself. There is nary a weak track on the disc, and the fact that he can spew five minutes about Hot Pockets says something in and of itself.
Already a memorable staple on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and “The Late Show with David Letterman,” this show, which is also available in DVD format and is playing often on Comedy Central, should only increase Gaffigan’s popularity and reputation as a top-notch comedian. I’ll take this opportunity to make a request: Mr. Gaffigan, in your next show can you do a rant on people who watch the Super Bowl just for the commercials? I think they have that coming.