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Jim Gaffigan

If you can’t place the name, don’t worry. We’re quite certain you’ll recognize Jim Gaffigan the second he steps on stage this Saturday at the Egg. Simply put, Gaffigan is that guy: the pale, white-haired actor from That 70s Show, Ed, Sex and the City and Super Troopers (he’s the driver who gets meowed at), the actor in all those Sierra Mist commercials and the comedian from that Comedy Central special who makes jokes about sea cows wanting to be called manatees and, in one of his most popular current bits, the societal implications of the Hot Pocket. “Ohh,” you’re probably saying now, “that guy.”

“I never imagined that the joke would be so universal,” laughs Gaffigan of the bit that causes fans to line up with boxes of Hot Pockets for him to sign after every show. “But then again, I didn’t realize that people would continue to eat those things.”

Touring in support of his recently released DVD and album Beyond the Pale, the multitasking performer says he enjoys the dual actor/comedian lifestyle, despite the drawbacks inherent to each scene.

“If I did just one, I’d probably be smoking crack within six months,” says Gaffigan. “With acting, you feel like you’re begging for a job every time you audition, but with stand-up, the traveling can really wear on your nerves.”

“Peaking at 11 o’clock is no way to lead a normal life,” he explains.

Nevertheless, the New York City-based performer appears to be hitting critical mass these days, with sales of Beyond the Pale occupying top spots in online media vendor Amazon’s DVD and album sales rankings. Gaffigan attributes much of that success to the Comedy Central Presents: Jim Gaffigan special that first aired in 2000 and has remained in heavy rotation to this day. However, he says he’s still thrown a bit when a crowd of hundreds not only knows large portions of his routine by heart—but specifically requests that he perform them.

“It’s weird, because you’d think that people would not want to hear stuff they’ve already heard,” he says. “But everyone wants to hear the Hot Pockets joke or the manatee bit.”

“I get the feeling that, for a lot of people, the jokes have become inside jokes with their friends,” continues Gaffigan. “And really, that’s what stand-up comedy is all about: You write what you think is funny and hope that people latch onto something.”

He is quick to add that this doesn’t mean the audience at the Egg won’t receive a unique performance. His trademark inner-monologue voice, which he uses to generate a critique of the show while he’s performing it, ensures that every show is slightly different.

“[The voice] was inspired by the way my sister would comment on some of my jokes, but now it has sort of an improvisational quality to it,” says Gaffigan. “It makes a show specific to each audience, and I think they appreciate that.”

Jim Gaffigan will perform two shows at the Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) on Saturday (March 25) at 7 and 9:30 PM. Tickets are $26.50. For more information, call 473-1845.

—Rick Marshall

The Spirit of Courage

It’s hard to imagine now, but it wasn’t immediately obvious in 1933 that Adolf Hitler intended to enslave the known world and visit a genocide on the Jews. Mainstream European and American opinion was, more or less, that he would enslave Germany and visit more traditionally despicable anti-Semitic sufferings on the Jews. (That was just about sum of the mental effort most mainstream opinion makers in the 1930s were capable of sparing for the Jews of Germany.)

The play The Spirit of Courage, adapted from Katherine Kressman Taylor’s acclaimed novel Address Unknown, and to be performed Saturday at Stageworks/Hudson, is set during this era, as Hitler’s evil began to assert itself in Germany. It’s the story of a Jewish-American man who tries, through his former business partner in Germany, to save his sister. The title was inspired by a Jewish proverb: “When you have no choice, mobilize the spirit of courage.”

The performance will feature actors Robert Ian Mackenzie and Chris Karczmar, both veterans of other Stageworks productions. Following the play, activist and Holocaust survivor Esther Bauer will speak.

The Spirit of Courage will be presented Saturday (March 25) at 7 PM at Stageworks/Hudson (41 Cross. St., Hudson). Tickets are $30. Reservations are strongly encouraged. For more information, call 828-7843.

Ivey Divey Trio

In 2004, clarinetist Don Byron (pictured) assembled a group with drummer Jack DeJohnette and pianist Jason Moran for his album Ivey-Divey. Inspired by a 1946 trio recording featuring Lester Young, Nat Cole and Buddy Rich, Ivey-Divey was praised for its skill in suggesting the style of the legendary reedman without imitating it. When Byron subsequently toured with this material, the “Ivey Divey” trio usually did not include DeJohnette; one of the factors that makes Friday’s show at the Egg so special is simply that DeJohnette will be there.

In fact, this has the potential to be, well, spectacular. DeJohnette is a musical giant. We won’t waste space listing all the other legends he has performed with. Byron is one of the most important jazzmen around; as a Guardian critic wrote after a 2004 performance of Ivey Divey material, “Apart from his sheer dexterity, Byron has an imaginative flow, enlivened by a sly sense of humor, that sets him apart.” And Jason Moran is one of the most respected young pianists, earning the praise of The New York Times for being “serious and direct,” neither too iconoclastic nor too ingratiating.

The Ivey Divey Trio will perform tomorrow (Friday, March 24) at 8 PM at the Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany). Tickets are $24. For more info, call the box office at 473-1845.

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