On a recent episode of “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” the 49-year-old comedian spent an entire half hour worrying that he might be labeled as “The Christian comedian.” Explaining to his on-screen wife that he wants to keep his beliefs secret, he says: “Religion is iffy … Once you identify yourself as believing something, you open yourself up to ridicule.”
In real life, however, Gaffigan seems to have found an audience too amazing to refuse. Saturday (Sept. 26), he will be the lone comedian at The Festival of Families, a Philadelphia show that Pope Francis will attend. And although he’s a veteran comedian whose career spans several decades, he tells The New York Times that he has been grappling with his nerves.
“I’m the type of person who works on their homework right up until the moment of school, and I still get a B-minus,” Gaffigan explains. “There is something about my material, it is the point of view of a lazy father of five. Once I met the organizers, they’re like, ‘You could do any of that stuff’… I’m definitely going to be prepared. But it’s not as if I have to sit there and go, ‘All right. I won’t do that 9/11 joke.’ It’s not like I’ll have to weed out some of those.”
Mark Wahlberg will host the festivities, with appearances by Aretha Franklin, Andrea Bochelli and Sister Sledge. More than a million people are expected to attend.
Since this is largely uncharted territory, Gaffigan says he wouldn’t even feel comfortable asking other comedians for advice. “How do you bring that up without sounding like you’re bragging? ‘Hey, Kevin Hart, I know you did that football stadium. I’m curious, how would you handle it if it was, like, 30 of those?'” laughs Gaffigan. “It’s not like there’s a lot of footage of people performing stand-up comedy in front of a million people, and the pope.”
Gaffigan says that he’s happy he’ll be performing for Francis, widely viewed as an open-minded, progressive Pope. “I think, if anything, we’ve learned that this pope is not somebody who’s like, ‘I’m the pope — you don’t do that,'” Gaffigan explains. “But [thinking] about it really makes me terrified.”