“I haven’t slept in seven years,” says Jim Gaffigan, in reference to having his fourth child. “I didn’t always look like this – I’m actually Puerto Rican, but the wear and tear parenting… ” he trails off, exhausted.
This is a bit from his 2012 stand-up comedy special Mr. Universe, and by now Gaffigan actually has five children. "Big families are like waterbed stores; they used to be everywhere, and now they’re just weird,” he jokes.
It’s only natural that many of Gaffigan’s jokes are about kids and family life. His 2013 book is called Dad is Fat, which took its title from the full sentence his kid ever wrote. His TV series The Jim Gaffigan Show is a hilarious meditation on one man's struggle to find balance between fatherhood, stand-up comedy and an insatiable appetite. Jim Gaffigan knows fatherhood, or if that’s too arrogant, then at least he knows the complexities fatherhood brings.
And yet, he finds it a difficult subject to talk about because of its enormity. It is such a deep human experience, with lines cast out to all corners of life. Being a father made Gaffigan re-examine his masculinity, his ethics, his comedy, his sexual attitudes, his gender biases. By his own admission, it turned him into a better human.
In the video above, Gaffigan discusses the drastic changes that have reshaped the meaning of manhood in the last couple of decades, and emphasizes that you can’t begin to talk about masculinity without talking about women. The behaviors of men and women have always been reactions to one another, and as society views and treats women becomes in a more respectful and progressive manner, the concept of manhood also moves forward and becomes less of a caricature.
So how do you raise children in the wake of that enlightenment? From pornography and gentlemanly passion, to the changing role of fathers and the growing respect for women, Jim Gaffigan shares his thoughts on how to raise a generation that is better than the last.
Jim Gaffigan: The idea of being a man has changed so dramatically, right. But particularly I think not just the responsibilities of being a father which has always been, not to get all Kahlil Gibran like these children are on loan to us and we’re supposed to make sure that we take care of them and we’re the stewards of these human beings. Male roles which is something my wife and I have written about in the show because the concept of a father today is dramatically different. I mean obviously it’s different in every family culture but it’s different from a generation ago. And the idea of what a father’s responsibility whether it’s co-parenting, whether it’s a stay in home dad or just someone that does lip service to the idea of sharing responsibility. Is so different from 1910 and I have this joke where it’s like – and then you go back to cavemen and they’re literally eating their children.
I think it’s perspective on how we treat women, right. That is the beginning and the ending of it. We are animals. I start from that premise. And we choose to not behave like animals. And that’s, you know, a pretty guiding force through humanity whether it gets completely out of control or just panting like a dog when an attractive woman walks by.
I even look at like pornography and all this stuff where it’s yeah, you know, it’s like look, I love naked women, I really do. But I also know that I am a visual human being and I can’t, you know, consume images of naked women and not have that influence how I view other women. I mean that’s my personal opinion. It’s like my sexual desires are very valid and real but if I, you know, follow through on every sexual desire first of all I’d have a thousand children. No but I think then that’s not how you get – I wouldn’t feel very good. Do you know what I mean? When I look at my young sons I think that look, I know that we love and like the normalization of porn and I’m not, you know, it’s like to each their own, right. But I don’t think that I want my sons consuming pornography. I want my sons to look at an advertisement and say that is a beautiful woman but she’s being objectified. And I do want even beyond that I personally think that in the United States we give credit and appreciate attractive people too much. And so I think that I want to instill that, I mean I think a lot of parents who desperately want to have nerdy children. So I don’t know. I want my kids to be, my sons to be better men than me. But I think also, you know, it’s different paths to getting there.
I mean look, I’m Catholic, you’re going to think I’m crazy but I think that’s an important tool also. But I also think that understanding the logic and science behind it is vital. But culturally it’s interesting. I saw a clip of Match Game which was a game show when I was growing up from the mid-70s, 80s, I don’t know. And the beginning of the show it was just filled with the host more or less sexually harassing the female contestants. And it was not malicious and that man did not know he was doing it. And maybe those women didn’t feel icky. But from our standards today it was ridiculous. I mean I also feel like to discredit everything I’ve said I also think that I don’t want us to get to the point where there isn’t passion, right. When I met my wife and we went on our first date I aggressively kissed her. Not in a monstrous way but even hearing myself describe it I don’t know if we could do that today. And I’m sure I could have because there’s a communication that’s unspoken when you’re courting someone. But courting like it’s the 1800s. Like you’re riding a horse to meet them. But there is something about – there’s rules but there’s also what’s so great about relationships is that tingling feeling when the chemistry that we can’t articulate works.