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Jim Gaffigan: The Pale Tourist Review 2020 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew Online
Star: Jim Gaffigan
Jim Gaffigan, the first American stand-up comedian to release an Amazon Original special with last year’s Quality Time, now follows up with something even more original, The Pale Tourist, a double-feature in which the comedian either demonstrates or deflates the “Ugly American” stereotype by writing and performing jokes specifically for his international audiences in Canada and Spain.
The Gist: Gaffigan has become a staple on Amazon Prime Video, not only for moving his newer stand-up specials, but also for his movie roles — in the past year, you’ve likely seen plenty of ads on Prime Video for his light-hearted movie with Viola Davis and Allison Janney, Troop Zero. He’s also demonstrated his darker dramatic chops in films from American Dreamer, Them That Follow, Being Frank, and the upcoming Tesla. But he’s earned his bread and butter from years and years of jokes about loving food, fatherhood and laziness.
His new double-feature stand-up collection, Pale Tourist, doubles down on much of this, while also giving himself a new challenge. As Gaffigan enjoyed a global tour in 2019 and into March 2020 —which was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic— he decided to find out if he could arrive in a new country with no material, experience that country’s food and culture, then write and perform a full headlining set while there. He filmed Canadian American in Kitchener, Ontario; Spanish American in Barcelona. The 45-minute Canadian performance includes a bonus animated sketch from his set in New Brunswick (Canada, not New Jersey). The Spanish set is a straight 50-minute shot, with photos from his experiences appearing over the credits.
Each episode begins with a brief montage of people, places, sights, sounds, and of course Gaffigan and food in the middle of it all.
What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: It’s not quite An Idiot Abroad, the travel documentary in which Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant sent their producer Karl Pilkington around the world. But it’s not quite like anything else you’ve likely seen in a comedy special, either.
Memorable Jokes: The Canadian episode includes sharper jabs, in part because Gaffigan already has spent plenty of time performing north of the border, as well as the ease and accessibility of references crossing the border.
While he jokes later in Spain about the phrase “this is not his first rodeo” applying to him in real life, Gaffigan clearly had his first poutine many years ago. As he jokes in Ontario, earning his first applause break: “Some would say I’ve built a career out of eating unhealthy. But you know, poutine, it’s a little irresponsible,” pausing before adding: “Let’s do it, we have free health care.” He also gets a strong reaction by alluding to America’s upcoming elections, and the promises made four years ago by some to move to Canada if Trump won. “I don’t remember Canada extending an invitation,” he jokes. “And I’ve been coming to Canada for years. Been recruited zero times.” On the other hand, he notes that Canadian parents dreaming of their kids becoming the next Wayne Gretzky may be in for disappointment: “There’s only one Great One, and I think he lives in Phoenix.”
As for Trump, Gaffigan makes an observation that works anywhere abroad: “It’s kind of like having a parent that’s an alcoholic. Show up in a country, ‘Sorry about my dad.’ (applause) ‘We don’t know what to do about it. Trying to get the phone from him! Proving harder than we thought.’” Gaffigan identifies Trump as merely the Ugly American stereotype many foreign nations may have of us as tourists and travelers, amplified and exaggerated to its extreme.
The Spanish episode, meanwhile, sometimes leans on connections Gaffigan can make back to the United States, such as when he segues from bullfighting and Pamplona’s running of the bulls into a story about performing Stateside at a rodeo. But Gaffigan also gets plenty of laughs as he encounters and learns about Spanish toy figurines such as the Caganer and Caga Tió, and of course the Spanish food, from tapas to tortilla española, churros con chocolate to jamon and paella.
Our Take: Gaffigan has challenged himself to work outside of his comfort zone here, and makes some revealing observations along the way. At the start, he openly panders, calling his fans the best audience he’s ever experienced, before calling himself out for it. “It made you feel good. That’s why people lie. Because lying works.”
But the rest of the set finds him attempting the exact opposite, telling those fans how he observes their culture that’s otherwise foreign to him. At multiple points, he naturally uses his countering whisper not just to voice a recurring theme from any of his specials (how many more of these jokes is he going to tell?), but also to question the wisdom of his intentions. “This guy is a jerk!” he whispers to himself several times. At one point, though, he allows an additional qualification: “He’s a jerk who’s done research.”
Back when we enjoyed live comedy in clubs and theaters, most touring headliners would try to soak in enough of the local culture and news to drop one or two hyper-specific jokes at the top of the set to ingratiate themselves with the paying audience each night. And comedians who worked corporate gigs similarly were tasked with learning details about company executives so they could rib them accordingly in front of their coworkers.
But this? The idea of performing a full 45 minutes to an hour specifically about a scene that’s completely foreign to you, making fun of the audience’s culture and traditions, is relatively unheard of, at least on documented recording.
Eddie Izzard ambitiously performed his set in French and German to those audiences, but he was still doing the same act.
What Gaffigan did was an even higher-wire act. And sometimes the daredevil doesn’t complete the jump. Back in June, Gaffigan released the half-hour he performed in Seoul, South Korea (Asian American) that didn’t make the cut for Amazon. It’s a quiet performance, and perhaps the Koreans were just more reserved, perhaps the jokes didn’t hit them in the gut, or perhaps it was because this was actually Gaffigan’s first-ever attempt at this experiment. But the fact that Gaffigan put himself out there, both onstage and on film, is remarkable.
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