Jim Gaffigan, comedian/actor/writer, seems to find success everywhere he goes. Since his start in stand-up comedy in 1991 he has gone on to star in the TV series Welcome To New York, Ed, That 70’s Show, and most recently My Boys on TBS. Gaffigan has also shown up in movies with appearances in Three Kings and Super Troopers (I’m sorry, are you saying meow?). Jim even has a Comedy Central special and ongoing tour, Beyond the Pale. So with all those arenas conquered Jim has moved on to the last frontier, animation, with Pale Force.
Last week I was fortunate to get an interview with Jim Gaffigan to discuss his animated series Pale Force on NBC which stars Gaffigan and Conan O’Brien as translucent super heroes. The series, available online at NBC.com, is typically delivered by Gaffigan during his appearances on Conan’s Late Night show while Conan cringes at his less than manly portrayal despite Jim’s assurances of its fairness.
Gaffigan spoke with me about the origins of Pale Force, how he manages to keep its production so tight knit, and which celebrities are planning to be show up in the series. Read on to find out who Gaffigan thinks should play him in the Pale Force big screen adaptation, why the series deserves an Academy Award, and how you can get a chance to star in Pale Force.
Jim Gaffigan interview with Wild Bluff Media 11-15-2007:
Wild Bluff Media (WBM): Jim Gaffigan, thank you for talking with Wild Bluff Media today. I’m a huge fan, so this is a big thrill to get to talk with you about your animated series Pale Force. Pale Force, now on its second season, features you and Conan O’Brien as pigment-challenged super hero crime fighters. Where did you get the idea for the show and how did you and the animator, Noth, connect on this?
Jim Gaffigan: Pale Force was the idea of Paul Noth, who is a cartoonist for The New Yorker. Paul had come and seen me perform on Conan a bunch and my inside voice [part of Gaffigan's routine] had talked about how pale Conan and I both were. Conan would introduce me as the only guy paler than him. So there was an ongoing pale-off, so we pitched the idea and they eventually bit into it and kinda did it on a lark because it does take a fair amount of time to do animation and it really started a snowball effect. We did our first season last year and were nominated for a Broadband Emmy. It’s one of those things where it’s great because I work on it with Paul Noth and my wife Jeannie Gaffigan and Patrick Noth does all the music and it’s really this self contained group that pulls Pale Force together. We do these episodes and we’re worked to death but it’s really kinda fun and I’m actually working on one now.
WBM: Most of the episodes of Pale Force involve you saving your little buddy Conan O’Brien while he cries for help and wets himself. Conan seems to take that pretty well.
Jim Gaffigan: Some of the humor of it, I really think, is the fact that it’s hysterical that someone would be a guest on someone’s show, that someone would give the funding to produce something and that guest would use it as a opportunity to make fun of that host. Conan has a very self-effacing sensibility similar to mine and pale force is a very strange, very fine line because we could never delve into pale pride, but as any pale person would tell you there is this almost hidden shame about being pale that we can kinda tap into and make light of.
WBM: Everyone seems to be a potential target on Pale Force including Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeffrey Zucker [president of NBC Universal]. So I see you’re a man that knows how to make friends in high places. Have you ever had one of your targets not be so willing of pleased with their portrayal?
Jim Gaffigan: Ya know, I’ve had people request to be in Pale Force like Michael Rapport. I ran into him and being a fellow pale man he said, “You’ve gotta have me in there.” So we put him in ‘So You Think You’re Pale,’ which is sort of a parody of all the reality shows. Then I ran into Phil Simms and he’s kinda a pale guy, so in an upcoming episode we have all these pale NFL announcers like Phil Simms, Boomer Esiason, and John Madden. One of the things we have for Pale Force is this contest where people can be in an episode, they don’t have to be pale or not. It’s interesting, whenever I do shows, I do theaters all across the country and I do a ‘meet and greet’ after the shows and there’s always a handful of people that are just crazy about Pale Force because it is kinda like this secret kinda almost embarrassment that all pale people have.
WBM: Being as your Pale Force character is a super hero, have you considered looking for a crossover role with him on Heroes? I’ve noticed they’re rather lacking in the transparent hero department.
Jim Gaffigan: I would love to. I know there was a promo for Pale Force that NBC had building off the success of Heroes saying, “you’ve waited all year and now they’re back,” with all the Heroes graphics and then it went to Pale Force. Yeah, I think Heroes does need someone like me or an animated version of me. Its one of those things I learned a long time ago that in Hollywood people have to come up with their own ideas. As a comedian there’s always people telling you, “ya know you should go on the tonight show,” like that’s all that’s holding you back. “Ya know, yeah, I gotta ask them if I can be on the tonight show.”
WBM: If Pale Force was made into a movie, who would you want cast for your character?
Jim Gaffigan: I would think a good choice would be Brad Pitt, maybe even someone more muscular, maybe Brad Pitt with Arnold’s body. That’s a realistic portrayal.
WBM: What about for Conan?
Jim Gaffigan: We did sort of a Pale Force movie thing and we had Dakota Fanning play Conan. In the Pale Force movie Zucker searched far and wide to find the best actor in the world and he decides on Jim Gaffigan. Pale Force is fun because it’s different from my stand up. My stand up is very observational and Pale Force kinda allows me to go in a lot of different ways and get like this mock arrogance. Pale Force is weird because I’m always surprised because it is this web series and we were lucky enough to get on Conan’s show once a month, when the show is on, but there’s always part of me that feels like people have no idea what Pale Force is because it’s not on YouTube and people have to go to NBC.com. I’m always concerned that unless you’re a true Internet nerd like me you would never come across it.
WBM: Have you considered working on making Pale Force into a full show?
Jim Gaffigan: That would be up to NBC. I would love to see it as a show honestly, but it’s gonna have to gain a certain popularity. We just did a Canadatown episode. It’s about this ethnic city in New York city that’s all Canadian. That episode just came out on Monday and I’ve already gotten messages on Facebook from George Stroumboulopoulos (hosts The Hour in Canada) through friends and his producers contacted me. So that’s really fun when you do an episode and people see it and they dig it. I’m so excited when people do know about Pale Force. We just concentrate on the quality of the work and hope that it’ll catch on like wildfire and eventually win an Academy Award. That’s what I’m hoping. Even though its a web series I’m thinking it should be nominated for an Academy Award. People think I’m delusional, but ya know.
WBM: Oh I think it deserves it.
Jim Gaffigan: Yeah.
WBM: It’s well known that Conan is taking over the Tonight Show for Leno in less than two years. But I haven’t heard anything on Conan’s replacement. Considering your work with Conan, is there any chance you could be in line to Late Night’s throne? If so, would you be interested?
Jim Gaffigan: It’s very flattering. It would be a hard job to turn down, but again I think that’d be a pretty pale late night. It’s also up to NBC and the suits in LA and until they come to the conclusion that it’s a good idea it’s not really something to even fathom. It is something people ask. I am this comedian from Indiana that grew up watching Letterman and imitating Letterman and then got into comedy because of Letterman, but until it’s some NBC suit’s idea, ya know. I’m married, but I would love the idea of dating Jessica Alba, but I don’t think I should waste a lot of energy on it either.
WBM: You’re in the middle of a stand up tour, a renewed season of My Boys, another season of Pale Force, and even a top selling comedy album, Beyond the Pale. Have you hit your limit or we can expect more?
Jim Gaffigan: There’s talk of everything, but, I sound like such a sourpuss in this interview, I’m very grateful and there’s things I wanna do, but I feel like I got lucky. I’ve been doing stand-up for 15 years and I’ve been acting on different TV shows, so My Boys sticking around is a nice, pleasant surprise. It’s the luck of all of them coming at once. Even the Sierra Mist campaign I feel like I’m kinda lucky there. My theory is work on a bunch of different things in the hope that one of them works out so the fact that a couple of them worked out is amazing and kinda exceeding my expectations. To answer your question, there’s a bunch of other things I want to do, but we’ll see. Stand-up is really a priority for me. I definitely want to do another hour and another album and make sure it’s really good. Most importantly I want to be a good dad. I’ve got two small kids, so I don’t want to be like when I’m 60 and go, “hey I came out with another comedy album,” but my kids don’t even know who I am.
WBM: One of your next stops brings you to my hometown area, Washington DC. So what kind of safety can i expect from Pale Force that weekend?
Jim Gaffigan: I will be your personal bodyguard, obviously. The first city I ever headlined in was DC. I went to college in DC at Georgetown. It’s one of those cities where we’ve added a bunch of shows. For me, going back to DC is so familiar and I feel like when I do shows there it’s a little bit like going home. I know that sounds corny and insincere, but there’s something very kinda familiar about DC and comfortable. Ya know, it’s like the city that’s East coast and also has a flavor of the rest of the country, Which is kinda what I think I am too.
WBM: Jim, thanks again for talking with us. I raise my Hot Pocket* to you as a toast for your great work with Pale Force and all the rest of your projects. We hope to see lots more from you soon.
Jim Gaffigan: Thanks for talking with me about Pale Force.
* If you don’t get the Hot Pocket reference then you’re really missing out on Jim Gaffigan’s comedy. Check it out. ‘Hot Pocket. You’ve got a gift my friend.’
Watch Pale Force episodes online here at NBC.com.
Visit Jim Gaffigan’s website and find details on his ongoing comedy tour.
Here’s a special episode of Pale Force: Pale Christmas
Feed Readers: click here to view the video