Friday, April 11, 2014

Nonfiction: Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

That's right. I am reviewing the book written by the Hot Pockets guy. Not only am I a fan of Jim Gaffigan's stand-up routine, but I am also a fan of the show My Boys and the character he played on it, Andy Franklin. His delivery is always so spot on, and I looked forward to seeing how his humor translated onto the page in Dad Is Fat.

The Situation: Jim and his wife Jeannie currently have five children. Five young children. There is eight year-old Marre, six year-old Jack, three year-old Katie, one year-old Michael, and the newborn, Patrick. At the beginning of the book, Gaffigan introduces the cast of characters and gives them titles, such as Marre being the founding member of the Dad Is Fat company, Jeannie being everything from director to casting director to usher, and Jim himself as simply "Dad."

The Problem: Of course Gaffigan loves his big family, but the seven of them currently live in a small two-bedroom apartment in New York City. At one point in the book, Gaffigan explains the sleeping arrangements, which involves one more crib than necessary and one less bed than is actually needed. At one point at least one child is sleeping in the master bedroom before Jim and Jeannie go to bed, and then when they do, two of the older kids are sharing a bed while a younger child occupies a crib in the living room/kitchen/dining room. By the end, all seven of them are in one bed, the master. But the issues with raising a big family in New York City don't stop with the space shortage. Gaffigan discusses the difficulty of everything from going to church, going to the park (which is essential since most New Yorkers don't have yards), dropping the kids off at school, picking them up from school, taking everyone on vacation, naps, birthday parties...everything comes with its own complications when five young children are involved. And Gaffigan tells the reader at the very beginning that the credit for any success he may have had in the parenting area should be given to his wife.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a nonfiction, humor book written by a comedian, actor, and writer, with help from his wife Jeannie. Unlike other nonfiction books by celebrities that I have covered on this blog, such as Tina Fey's Bossypants and Steve Martin's Born Standing Up, Gaffigan doesn't go into a whole lot of detail about his life growing up. He does talk a little bit about what it was like growing up in a big family, especially since now he has a big family of his own, but the book primarily focuses on life with his kids. And of course, it is incredibly funny, and every semi-serious point is punctuated by a sarcastic or deadpan one liner. Gaffigan even occasionally addresses the reader directly, either to thank them for buying the book, blame them for something that happens, or to offer some absurd piece of advice or an idea.

My Verdict: I am sure if I had kids of my own I would have appreciated this book a lot more. Even so, it is still incredibly funny, even for the childless. As I mentioned, Gaffigan is able to translate his deadpan observational humor onto the page. While I was reading Dad Is Fat I was able to hear his voice as I read, which doesn't always happen for me when I read a book by a celebrity. The book is both honest and funny, while still making some very good points and helping to enlighten. And probably one of the best things about it is that Gaffigan is not afraid to poke the most fun at himself.

Favorite Moment: The description (with accompanying pictures) of the sleeping situation is pretty great. But I also enjoyed reading about his dislike of camping, mostly because I whole-heartedly agree with him.

Favorite Character: I usually don't pick a favorite character with nonfiction books, but since Gaffigan gives a cast list at the beginning of the book, I will go ahead and say my favorite is Jeannie. First of all, the woman has had five kids. Second, she now lives with and takes care of said kids in a small apartment in New York City, while helping Gaffigan with his career. And even he admits he could easily be counted as a sixth kid.

Recommended Reading: I would recommend both Tina Fey's Bossypants and Steve Martin's Born Standing Up. Both are also incredibly funny and worth reading.   

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