Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Jim Gaffigan, the comedian, has been on talk shows recently as the second season of his great TV series has begun. NPR recently replayed and posted an interview he did last September with Teri Gross on "Fresh Air." A bit:
[GAFFIGAN:] You know, I need the concept of mercy for me to have some semblance of self-admiration. So in real life, I'm probably somebody who is more devout. That's not to say that I'm a well-informed Catholic. You know, I'm still in idiot, you know? Like, I know that Colbert could quote Thomas Aquinas and all this, but I'm somebody who - you know, because it's a necessity for me on a personal basis. I need it because I'm a lunatic.
GROSS: When you say you're a horrible person and a lunatic, what do you mean?
GAFFIGAN: I mean that I'm somebody that - you know, I think stand-up comedy is this - it's this kind of indulgence and narcissism. And you're on stage and because stand-up comedy is one of the few meritocracies in the entertainment industry, there's some kind of - at least for me, there's some kind of idea of control. And my faith kind of keeps me in touch with the idea that I'm not in control of things. And when I'm in touch with the idea that there is a higher power and that there is, you know, other factors at work, it - it kind of quells my narcissism. And a lot of the teachings really kind of keep me grounded. But, you know, the reason I say I'm a horrible person is I don't want myself to be presented as somebody who's a great Catholic. You know, it's, you know - the idea of being a practicing Catholic, it's - for me, it's like - I need a lot of practice, you know what I mean?
When he said basically the same thing on Bill Maher's show (this clip, start around 2:00), Bill responded, "Why do you take on yourself more burden than life gives you anyway?" (I.e. "why go around thinking that you sin?"). It was a perfect skirmish between the theistic imagination and what Reinhold Niebuhr called "The Easy Conscience of Modern [Secular] Man." I think Bill Maher is often very funny, but watching his show, it's not clear he thinks he's ever gotten anything really wrong.