As a Jim Gaffigan fan who has never read his first book, Dad is Fat, I wasn't sure what to expect of his written comedy. For anyone familiar with Gaffigan's stand-up, you know it really benefits from his high-pitched, back-of-the-throat imitations of imagined audience reactions. "That's ridiculous," he mutters in his head voice. Sometimes he feigns offense on their behalf. And, particularly because he's a comedian who really doesn't have a lot of offensive material, it really works for him.
So, naturally, in book form, I was a little concerned. What was he going to write about in a book about food that he hadn't already covered in his stand-up? How was he going to deliver his trademark self-mocking sotto voce?
The answer is that in some ways, the book doesn't deliver well at all (unlike the much-revered pizza guy to whom Gaffigan devotes 3 pages of repeated stand-up material). Don't get me wrong--there's plenty of original comedy in this book, but I was really disappointed to see that certain bits were carbon copies of the stand-up routines they were based on (audience reaction dialogues included). From the Idea Guy (who suggests that kids will eat granola bars if you put chocolate chips in them, cover them in chocolate, and then take out that pesky granola) to the Hot Pockets theme song ("Hot Pockets!"), all of the Gaffigan greats are in this book. And, unfortunately, they're nowhere near as great when they're written down.
Now, I do want to note--there is a fair amount of funny new writing in this book, along with some real-life photos of Gaffigan and his kids (usually with mountains of food in front of them). The structure of the book is fun and interesting, presented as a country-wide tour de food, with Gaffigan describing what to eat no matter where you go. Where did the French fry burger originate? What kind of cheese is best? When is it acceptable to eat cake? Gaffigan answers all these questions and more in easy-to-digest segments that are perfect for reading on your train to work or while sitting on the bike at the gym (which is the only way to alleviate your guilt from the foodlust this book instills in you). I'll admit, I've been a little harsh, but I found myself laughing aloud at times. And really, how could I not like a book that's all about food?
All in all, it's easy to feel a little cheated if you're Obsessed* with Gaffigan and already know all his routines by heart. It's a 340-page book, and about a quarter or a third of that is regurgitated material. It's like when you're eating a container of ice cream and realize that the tub's bottom is secretly a lot higher than you thought, only giving you the illusion of a full pint. But it's important to remember that the ice cream that is there is still creamy and delicious, and if you're lucky, you'll find a few chunks of cookie dough along the way.
...What were we talking about again?
* This is hilarious because it's the name of his latest special. That's right, I'm a laugh riot.
OVERALL RATING (within genre): 3/5 Stars
TL;DR: Lovers of Jim Gaffigan and/or food will appreciate and chuckle at these quick-read essays on eating, but if you've memorized all of Gaffigan's comedy routines already, be prepared to recite them along word-for-word as they're peppered throughout the book.