TV Review: ‘Jim Gaffigan: The Pale Tourist’

Review by James Lindorf

For comedy to be truly successful, there has to be an understanding of the subject matter. Jokes that work in Georgia may not work in Connecticut, and stories in Tokyo could easily fall flat in Sydney. To get around this problem, comedian Jim Gaffigan has transformed from a toaster pastry eating father of five into “The Pale Tourist.” Gaffigan’s new Two hour-long specials premiere July 24th on Amazon. The shows were filmed as part of Gaffigan’s The Pale Tourist World Tour, where Jim would immerse himself in the country’s people, food, and history. Then using everything he has tried, seen, and learned, he crafts a country-specific stand-up routine.

The first two of hopefully many installments are titled Canadian American and Spanish American. American viewers may find more humor in the Canadian centric episode as it mainly focuses on topics like Mounties, Moose, and Tim Hortons. Discussing food is a staple of the shows, which should come as no surprise. In Canada, it is poutine. In Spain, paella, these dishes receive the most attention because of how widespread and varying they are. Jim gets about a racy as he has ever been in the Canadian episode when he labels everyone from the town of Regina as perverts. Gaffigan laments, but what’s to be expected of people who come from Saskatchewan, a province that sounds like an STI.

While Jim managed to stay on topic throughout the first episode, things get a little dicey at his second destination. Jim is from Indiana, where everyone can be in Canada in less than seven hours. He already had some familiarity with the subject matter. He is working with locations he has at least heard of and stereotypes he has known for decades. In Spain, his comfort level goes down, and with it go the majority of the long trains of thought. The most explored and called back topic is that of siestas. Instead he jumps from topic to topic in a somewhat disjointed fashion. He even abandons the theme for a while to tell a story about working at American rodeos and zoos, which may be the best bit of the episode.

“The Pale Tourist” is a genius move to bring Jim’s style of comedy home to people worldwide. Writing new material so frequently when most comedians road test jokes for months before considering bringing it to a stadium or a special is a monumental task that deserves respect. If Amazon continues to put out more episodes, Jim will become known as the culture comedian. While the number of laughs per episode may vary, you will never turn off an episode without a smile on your face and having learned something.

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