Comedian Jim Gaffigan Talks About His Upcoming Tokyo Visit: “I’m Most Excited About the Unknown”

American comedian Jim Gaffigan has an affinity for Japan, particularly the sanitary conditions.

“Are you familiar with the Japanese toilet? The Japanese took the most disgusting experience of human existence and fixed it,” joked Gaffigan during his 2018 stand-up special, Noble Ape. “You leave a Japanese public restroom cleaner than when you walked in. You leave an American public restroom with PTSD.”

After a standing room-only performance in Shimokitazawa in 2017, Gaffigan returns to a bigger stage at Tokyo’s Nissho Hall on March 29 as part of his ongoing Quality Time Tour.

“I honestly had no idea what to expect,” Gaffigan told TW, recalling his 2017 visit. “I wasn’t sure if the audience was going to be mostly expats or Japanese. I was pleasantly surprised at how many Japanese people were in the audience. I was hoping that everyone who speaks English as a second language would want to come to the show.”

And they did. Thanks to its massive success, Tokyo will get a second helping of Gaffigan in 2019, which is shaping up to be the year of the Jim for stand-up comedy performances in Japan.

In January, the Australian comedian Jim Jefferies also performed in Tokyo, and in April, Japan’s capital will welcome UK comic Jimmy Carr. That’s quite unusual for Japan, which rarely gets so many foreign comedy shows in a single year. A big part of it is the language, as Gaffigan explains: “I feel as though the biggest hurdle that I’ve encountered at some international shows is a language barrier. Otherwise I don’t think humans are that dramatically different.”

Well, Gaffigan is definitely different than the other Jims performing in Japan. Anyone who’s seen Jefferies’ or Carr’s acts knows that they aren’t for the easily offended. Jim Gaffigan, on the other hand, works primarily clean, with most of his jokes being about food, his laziness, his family and general observations about life.

“I do observational comedy done for the perspective of the id,” he explains. “Not what we believe, but what we want to believe, and what we would like to do … I don’t really peddle in irreverence so I’m not really testing the boundary seeing what will offend people. I’m much more of an observational guy.”

The Japanese are a people of great pride in their culture so the more research and observations I obtain about them the better.

An observational guy who, it should be noted, does his homework: “I think generally any country or culture appreciates someone doing their research. Your affinity comes through in the material you do about that place. The Japanese are a people of great pride in their culture so the more research and observations I obtain about them the better.”

In-depth research on Japan’s public toilets wasn’t the only the studying the comedian conducted during his 2017 visit to the country.

“I loved every moment of Japan,” he says. “I loved every experience from taking a cab and the door opening automatically to the robot restaurant … I just thought it was fascinating that the door opens for you. And how you place the money on the tray. There’s virtually no human contact. It’s a bit like ‘we don’t want you touching anything unnecessarily.’ It was hysterical but also practical.”

Photo by Robyn Von Swank

And what kind of jokes can we expect from Jim Gaffigan after his second visit? Once again, he’ll be traveling with his wife and five children, so they will probably be visiting many anime-oriented places.

“This time we are going to see Kyoto,” Jim adds, “but we are also going to play it by ear a lot.… Honestly, I’m most excited about the unknown, that’s the best thing about visiting countries like Japan. I learn so much about Japan, but also about American culture when I see it reflected in another culture.”

In the end, though, it’s impossible to predict how Gaffigan’s comedy will be influenced in the future, or what his Japanese show will even be. The comedian admits that his comedy is always changing and evolving.

“I can say that my favorite joke is always the most recent one I’ve come up with. There is nothing like the moment when you discovered a new joke or new material.”

Check our events listing for more information about Jim Gaffigan’s March 29 Tokyo performance.

Feature photo by Robyn Von Swank

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