dad-is-fat     When it comes to audiobooks, the reader makes all the difference. This maxim became crystal clear to me driving past the cornfields of downstate Illinois one hot, summer weekend. I had looked forward to listening to John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley (in part because I, too, traveled with an evil genius Standard Poodle) only to find myself beaten about the head and shoulders by the narrator’s flat, rock-hard voice. After an hour of aural assault, I had to stop the madness. It took a while to recover from that trip in more ways than one.

Fortunately, Jim Gaffigan came along with an antidote. Known for his self-deprecating, clean humor, comedian Gaffigan is, to put it mildly, a hoot. He is a Midwestern transplant to New York who riffs on everything from convenience food to domestic life to tourists to the Big Apple itself. You may recognize his “Hot Pockets” routine: (Mimic his “Hot Pockets” call in a full elevator or while standing in line and see what happens. Good times.) Wondering if his standup translated well to publication, I decided to try his book Dad Is Fat. I got lucky when the only available version was the audiobook.

     Dad Is Fat collects chapter after chapter of stories describing Gaffigan’s life in New York sharing space with his wife, Jeannie, and five children in a small, two-bedroom, fifth-floor walkup apartment. Amounting to mini-standup routines, each chapter offers a glimpse into the Gaffigan household while reminding the rest of us of the universal truths of family life such as “there is no difference between a four-year-old eating a taco and throwing a taco on the floor”. Consider toddler safety, for example, “Once your baby starts to walk you’ll realize why cribs are designed like prisons from the early 1900s. This is clearly because toddlers are a danger to themselves…They have two goals: find poison and find something to destroy.”  Gaffigan’s observations are spot on—pointed, drawing a clear image, sometimes with a zinger thrown in—yet they do not spill over into meanness. That is one of the primary reasons I enjoyed Dad Is Fat. Gaffigan does not have to use rancor or to work “blue” to hold his audience; his storytelling ability, wit, and intelligence are more than up to the task.

As a librarian, I got a kick out of his analysis of children’s books, particularly this chestnut, “I’m not sure if Wheels on the Bus started as a book, as a song, or as a torture technique, but it sounds like it was a pretty annoying bus ride.” He also notes the Law of Unintended Consequences as it applies to Harold and the Purple Crayon, “Great book, but where do I send Crockett Johnson the bill for cleaning my walls?” The audiobook version of these book reviews mirrors Gaffigan’s standup delivery. I could picture him onstage with a mic dropping the punch lines found in every paragraph.  His tone and pacing sound on this recording—as in his comedy routines—sound as if a funny neighbor was chatting with me in the driveway. That’s the charm of Jim Gaffigan; he could be your funny neighbor or your friend or the guy from the drop off line at your child’s school. He’s an absolute riot who could be any one of us (and is).

I have a friend who likes to listen to audiobooks narrated by the author; she believes nothing compares to hearing the author’s interpretation of her or his work.  I agree to an extent.  Some authors are not born performers, and their work would be better served by a voice actor say, someone like Jim Dale of Harry Potter audiobook fame. However, this is not the case with Dad Is Fat. If anything, Jim Gaffigan’s reading was so lively it made me wish the book was available in video. Audiobooks are not always my format of choice—print is still my first love—and I’m glad to be pleasantly surprised this time out. Out of curiosity, I read the print version of Dad Is Fat after listening to it. It’s just as funny and has bonus photos illustrating several of the stories. The picture of Gaffigan reading to his children is absolutely charming.

If you’re looking for a fast, funny read (or listen) then look no further. Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan is available from the Joplin Public Library in print format; it is also available in e-book and electronic audiobook formats from the library’s Missouri Libraries to Go service,