About 10 minutes into his acclaimed stand-up special, Beyond the Pale, Jim Gaffigan perfectly encapsulates his comedy when he says in his self-aware whispering audience member voice, “This guy talks a lot about food.” That, as many of his fans can attest, is an amusing understatement. The comedian has carved out an acclaimed career in comedy by dishing out hilarious truths about what we eat.
With this savory subject spanning several of his stand-up specials, choosing the funniest foodtastic moments from each one is kind of like only being able to go through a buffet one time. Still, there’s a pretty great plateful here, so enjoy the 10 best food jokes of Jim Gaffigan.
Despite addressing the necessary shame and guilt for eating McDonald’s food, Gaffigan poses an important question in his Mr. Universe special: “Has your mother ever made anything as good as a McDonald’s fry?” He notes the desperate instinct that kicks in when you first realize your fries are gone, searching around for any remaining fry crumbs (or at least a salty straw wrapper that touched some fries). Gaffigan also informs the audience that the “bonus fry” sometimes found loose in the bag is the result of Jesus casually decreeing, “Give ‘em an extra fry. He’ll pay it forward.”
Packaging is obviously designed to add appeal to food, but maybe not quite the level of appeal Gaffigan seems to suggest in his Beyond the Pale special. Calling it “the clothing of food,” he mimics speaking in a seductive voice to cookies and candy bars. Notable quotes include, “Oh, what are you wearing there, cookie?” and “Candy, let me help you with that wrapper. Let’s get you a little more comfortable…”
Gaffigan’s take on the “Eat fresh” franchise that is Subway is like a tragic portrait of the tortured sandwich artist. Between the signature smell coming from the “bread exhaust” and the overall lack of flare and finesse exhibited in the typical employee’s sandwich creation, the allegedly lower calorie count isn’t enough to be happy about when eating at Subway. Not to mention the oven they make their melts in, which Gaffigan likens to a toaster oven stolen from a college dorm.
Of course this catastrophically carb-heavy creation courtesy of Domino’s Pizza is perfect fodder for Jim Gaffigan’s stand-up material. “It’s a bread bowl, filled with pasta, covered with cheese. The only ingredient missing? A suicide note.” The comedian continues that as a father, he can’t allow himself to indulge in such a thing for fear that it could lead to his kids needing therapy. The dish’s Old Country-authenticity is also poked at with Gaffigan saying in an Italian accent, “Ahh, the pasta bread bowl… Just like Mama Domino used to make!”
Going on a vacation can be a chance for family bonding, but Gaffigan boils it down to the more honest description of “eating in a place we’ve never been.” He speaks on how no matter where you go or what you do, all vacation activities seem to be centered around when and where the next food stop is going to be. It’s all summed up as he plays the part of a vacationer suggesting, “Why don’t we eat somethin’, and then we’ll go get somethin’ to eat?”
Many see food as a means of bringing people together, and Gaffigan points out how few foods can match the uniting capabilities of cake. Using the example of the eye-rolling that occurs at the mention of a coworker’s birthday party, he talks about how quickly cake can change everything. One minute you’re scoffing at a fellow employee’s birthday, then the next, you find yourself staring at their cake and singing “Hope it’s chocolate for me” to the tune of “Happy Birthday.” Gaffigan also exposes the ways people disguise eating cake for breakfast by stating that a muffin is just a “bald cupcake.”
Gaffigan’s food observations are especially appreciated when they when they address current culinary trends. In his 2014 special, Obsessed, he lampoons the growing cultural fixation with bitter greens, or as he calls it, “kale propaganda.” Likening it to bug spray and a “really bitter spinach with hair,” Gaffigan goes as far as saying that if kale could cure cancer, he’d still just opt for chemo.
Branching off of his earlier points on food packaging, Gaffigan addresses the connotations of generic cereal. “It comes in a plastic bag, like it’s homeless,” he quips before adding, “We should get you a box to live in. Living in a bag on the bottom shelf, that ain’t right.” Still, Gaffigan admits to buying the generics himself but mentions that he covers for himself to the cashier by saying, “They’re for a cheap neighbor of mine. I get all my groceries from Sharper Image.”
At this point, Jim Gaffigan is essentially synonymous with Hot Pockets. Considering his opinions on the microwavable concoctions, though, that’s probably not a flattering association. This joke, which is by far Gaffigan’s most well-known, entails the comedian describing the litany of concerns that can immediately arise after eating a Hot Pocket, including everything from chronic back pain to even fearing that death may be imminent. He goes on to imagine what it’d be like if Hot Pockets were served in upscale restaurants with cooked-to-order options including frozen in the middle or boiling lava hot.
Just the initial mention of bacon in Gaffigan’s King Baby gets a hearty round-of-applause from the audience, which turns out to be amusingly foretelling when he remarks, “Even the frying of bacon sounds like applause.” The immense popularity of this beloved pork product is examined with comedic brilliance here, highlighted by Gaffigan pointing out that the deliciousness of bacon is evidenced by the trend of wrapping it around every food imaginable. Bacon is also culinarily-enlightening because of this, and Gaffigan believes it’s owed a thank you since, as he states, “We wouldn’t even know what a water chestnut was if it wasn’t for bacon.”
Trevor Courneen is a freelance contributor to Paste. He was tempted to eat a bacon-wrapped kale and french fry Hot Pocket while writing this, but refrained. Tweet funny food things to him @trevorcourneen.