Jim Gaffigan: Standing up to fatherhood

(CBS News) Who better to speak of the true meaning of Father's Day than a "stand-up dad"? Fortunately for us, Anthony Mason has found one:


"There's something very unsexy about parenting," says comedian Jim Gaffigan. "I mean, let's be serious. You know what I mean. It's like, first of all, your parents did it."

Imagine five little kids in a two-bedroom apartment. It almost sounds like the first line to a joke.

But to their father, comedian Jim Gaffigan, it's his real life.

"There's no equation where parenting makes sense," he told Mason. "There's no sleep. The pay is horrible. Yet, people like it?"

Dinner hour in the Gaffigan apartment is an adventure, with nine-year-old Marre, seven-year-old Jack, Katie (who's 4), Michael (who's 2), and Patrick, the newest addition.

If the Gaffigan kids seem somewhat familiar, maybe you've heard about them in their father's standup comedy act.

"Remember when you were a kid on vacation wondering why dad was always in a bad mood? Now I understand."

Gaffigan's observational humor about everyday life has made him one of the most popular touring comics in the country.

"My wife had the baby at home. We had all our babies at home, just to make you feel uncomfortable. People don't want to hear about home birth. 'Oh, you had your baby at home? Yeah, we were gonna do that, but we wanted our baby to live.' "

Home for the Gaffigans, Jim and his wife Jeannie (who's also his writing partner), is a two-bedroom, fifth-floor walk-up on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Jim pointed out the "divided" space which serves as the dining room, his office, Jeannie's office, the kids' office, the gymnasium.

"You're a successful comedian now -- why are you doing this to yourself?" asked Mason.

"Well, I'm not trying to prove something," he laughed. "People will be like, 'Why are you in that apartment? This is not the 1800s.' "

Comedian Jim Gaffigan with one of his five kids in tow, with Anthony Mason, at a Lower East Side playground in New York City.
CBS News
Gaffigan muses on fatherhood and its challenges in his new book, "Dad Is Fat." The title comes from the first complete sentence written by his son, Jack.

Gaffigan describes himself in his book as kind of a loner: "Yes. Look, most people that are comedians, first of all, we're not normal. It's a solitary, introspective kind of pursuit. The characteristics of a comedian are the exact opposite of the characteristics you would want in someone to be a father or a parent."

"So how did you end up in the middle of five kids?" asked Mason.

"I married a woman who gets pregnant looking at babies," he replied.

A walk to the park with the Gaffigan clan is like trying to play the wrangler in a round-up of a herd of runaway scooters.

Gaffigan grew up an hour outside of Chicago, in Chesterton, Ind. His own father was a small-town banker:

"In some ways I think I'm a comedian because of my dad," Gaffigan said. "I was the youngest of six kids, and my dad was this intimidating figure that all the kids were terrified of. So I would do an impression of my dad, who would be like 'Yeah, Anthony. Your name is Anthony? Great to see you!' And I would do that as an eight-year-old for my siblings, and so I was suddenly was not just competition for food, or this annoying little brother. I was funny, maybe."

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