Beyond the Pale
On the way to his 2006 release, everyman stand-up Jim Gaffigan worked the late night and comedy club circuits hard, building a sizeable, loyal fanbase along the way. They don't overlap much with the David Cross crowd but they're just as willing to drag you to a show or email you an MP3 of his brilliant "Hot Pockets" routine. Beyond the Pale offers plenty of reasons this quirky but entirely approachable comedian packs them in. He's a crowd-pleaser first off, expanding his beloved "Hot Pockets" into an almost five-minute routine and using that doubtful, falsetto alter ego more than ever. This back-and-forth Gaffigan does with himself -- telling a joke and then mocking himself in the falsetto voice -- is a bit overused this time out and bringing that tired "nobody eats fruitcake" shtick into the 21st century is a bad idea. Otherwise the album satisfies with the comedian sounding more relaxed and in command of his ever-growing audience. Identifiable, domestic issues -- mostly concerning food -- lead up to his "Freebird," his "Stairway to Heaven," "Hot Pockets." Like Live/Dead had the quintessential performance of the Grateful Dead's "Dark Star," Beyond the Pale contains the quintessential "Hot Pockets," making previous versions obsolete. The most persuasive material for the Gaffigan doubters follows as religion gets a flippant and funny treatment while the falsetto crutch takes a break. Gaffifans can also grab the DVD of the same name for more material, more falsetto voice, while the casual Gaffigonian should start here.