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You are probably already aware who Jim Gaffigan is. If not, close your eyes and say “hot pocket” to yourself. If it comes out in that little sing-song voice, then you know Jim’s work.
Jim’s made a 30-year career of talking about pants, snacks, and family and become one of the broadest appeal and best paid comics in the world. Jim doesn’t swear and doesn’t talk about controversial topics — he is in every way as accessible as he is likable. He certainly doesn’t talk about politics.
That changed when Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination.
Jim launched into a tirade addressing his 3.2 million followers on Twitter:
But that was just the start of a rant that would go on for from 11:57 PM to 1:09 AM and became the #2 trending topic on Twitter. Jim did use some F-bombs (three times). Here are just a few samples of the 16-tweet stream:
Jim has clearly made a conscious decision and stuck to it, though he caught significant backlash all day.
Changing your brand at Twitter-speed?
Truthfully, I don’t think this will have a big impact on Gaffigan’s brand. It may have before the COVID-19 outbreak, but since April even Fox News has been willing to speak out against the President.
Since Trump has been playing to his hardcore supporters, by coming out against Trump, Gaffigan remains in the centrist lane. He will alienate some die-hard supporters, but I suspect he is OK with that and the plurality of his followers won’t be or stay angry with Jim.
Dean Obeidallah, broadcaster, writer, and acquaintance of Gaffigan, wrote an opinion piece for CNN which pointed out that this is far from the first criticism Jim has levied against the Donald.
So it isn’t really a shift in brand for Jim — in what he said he is still a concerned, decent, family man, F-bombs aside, which he did apologize about to his wife.
At this point it remains to be seen, but it seems like there is no fallout to speak of. There are certainly fans who threatened Jim’s life at least indirectly and several who swore they were done with him, but they seem to be the outliers.
Jim did Tweet a link to a lengthy explanation he posted on Facebook. It reads in part:
On the Thursday night I went on a twitter rant about the RNC and Trump. (I did) I must have been drunk? (I wasn’t) I was angry, cursing (I was) while tweeting out things that contradicted everything I stood for as a so-called “clean Catholic comedian” (I disagree). In reality, I’ve made jokes about Trump in my last three specials and have repeatedly expressed support for gay rights and Black Lives Matter on social media. Regardless of any of that I am perceived as apolitical. That is somewhat intentional. I learned early in my stand-up career people don’t want to hear about politics from me. I knew me talking politics wasn’t changing any minds and was only alienating half of the audience.
Okay, fine- so why now? The answer is simple. Trump is a great salesman. Possibly the best salesman I’ve seen in my lifetime. I don’t care how many businesses he has driven into the ground or contractors he’s screwed over. Trump is charming, funny and comes across as sincere. I watched Trump speak on Thursday night like I had many times before. I knew he was going to lie. I even knew some of the lies he was going to say. By the way, I’m not naïve… I may lose you on this, but I believe MOST politicians are motivated by the best intentions. I might not have agreed with Bill Clinton, George W, or Jimmy Carter on a lot of things but I do believe they had the best intentions. I don’t think Trump does. This isn’t just a feeling. This is something I’ve known for a long time.
So if I believe I won’t sway any voters, why speak out like I did? Honestly, I feel I had no choice at this point. I think Trump is ruining and possibly has already ruined my country… I feel a responsibility to coming generations, my children but selfishly I didn’t want to explain to my grandchildren that I didn’t fight to stop Trump. Maybe they will see that I stood up for decency, rule of law, and equality. That’s way more important to me than selling out an arena… It’s obvious I’m not going to change a loyal Trump voter’s mind but on Twitter Thursday night I was trying to reach a different group. Having grown up in a small town in the Midwest and having traveled the around the country for last 20 years I know there are people that really don’t like Trump but they do like what Trump is selling. Like many of these people I do feel the “flyover states” are condescended to by the coastal folks. These people own or work for a small business destroyed by Covid. They have friends and siblings that are police officers and youth ministers. They believe in equality and truly care about their neighbor. These people know Trump is a con man but in the end they simply want what is best for the their community and the people they love… Did I make a difference? I don’t know
Jim has made his points, stands behind them, and by all appearances, this is his sincere expression, not a plot determined to expand his appeal. He was doing what he thought was right, so many responses to his Facebook page are positive even coming from Trump supporters.
If you compare this to the tone-deaf response from Ellen DeGeneres to accusations of running a toxic environment on set, it’s clear sincerity really is making a difference. Sincerity and the fact that we are not really surprised by Gaffigan’s rant — while people remain shocked with daytime talk show host Ellen who was recently cancelled on Australia’s Channel Nine.
It seems the cardinal rule here for any public figure is “thou shalt not give the public anything they don’t expect from you.” Who knew that Dory could be so mean?
Justin Roberti has a background in media and fine arts and has been writing and doing PR/marketing for over 20 years for Fortune 500 and startups in media, gaming, consumer tech, mobile tech, fintech, and blockchain. He is the PR Director for blockchain agency Zage.io.
Also published here.