Jim Gaffigan On The Ridiculousness Of Parenting
The comedian talks about playing Lorenzo, the “well-intentioned, slightly distracted” father, in Pixar’s new movie Luca, and raising his five children.
Being a dad is kind of Jim Gaffigan’s thing. He’s leaned into it; he’s “the guy with the five kids!” So when the comedian, who’s latest role is voicing the “well-intentioned, slightly distracted” father in Pixar’s new movie Luca, spoke with Romper via Zoom, he shared his thoughts on the complete “ridiculousness of parenting” and was, of course, right on the money.
In Luca — the story of a young sea monster (Luca) who can transform and appear human on dry land — Gaffigan voices Lorenzo Paguro, Luca’s protective sea monster father who’s really into raising his prize-winning crabs. Despite the wishes of his parents, Luca flees to the surface and befriends Alberto (another sea monster) and Giulia (a human) for one of those magical summers that can only happen in childhood.
Gaffigan has described the movie “a story of friendships that are authentic and only found around a certain age.” The premise brings back to his own childhood in Indiana. “My friend Rob and I grew up in a small town, perfectly normal town, there was nothing wrong with it, but we're both like, ‘We're getting out of here!’ That's what we kind of bonded over.” (Yes, they’re still in touch; Gaffigan says they were texting before this interview.)
You want to say ‘Hey, it gets better,’ but for parents it's the opposite. It's like, ‘Don't worry, it gets much harder.’
Over the course of the movie, set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian coast, Lorenzo and his wife Daniela, voiced by Maya Rudolph, learn to approach life, and parenting, with a different, unified approach as they accept their child’s growth and increased need for independence.
In real life, Gaffigan, who is well-known for talking about parenting in his stand-up, says he sees himself as a “tough love” kind of parent. “[Kids] aren’t supposed to like us…” he explains. Nevertheless, it’s not always easy.
“The last thing you want to do is expose your children to pain or discomfort,” he says. “But I also know that you can only tell them so much. They have to experience it!” And one experience, he points out, rarely does the trick. “Even when we experience something, we still have to learn it again.”
A lesson he’s had to learn repeatedly is an adage his brother shared with him: “Bigger kids, bigger problems,” something he didn’t necessarily imagine when he had an apartment “literally crawling with babies.”
Now that his kids are getting older, Gaffigan says he wants to tell them those big problems will get better. But that advice doesn’t necessarily extends to parents. “You want to say ‘Hey, it gets better.’ But for parents it's the opposite. It's like, ‘Don't worry, it gets much harder,’” he laughs. “That's the ridiculousness of parenting. You're like, ‘All right, I'm going to invest all my money and this human that's eventually going to hate me and move away.’"
Still, Gaffigan has been in Vancouver for the past three months and being away from his family has taken its toll, even after a full-year of quarantining and... let’s call it “intense family togetherness” (chronicled via video diary on CBS Sunday Morning).
“I’m going crazy,” Gaffigan admits. “My wife is really thrilled that I've left her with the parental responsibility of five kids, but she’s a saint and a superhero.” So, ridiculousness and drama aside, he can’t wait to return to his house full of, not babies, but big kids, even with the big kids problems that go along with them.
And having raised his babies into big kids, Gaffigan says he, and perhaps a lot of us, can relate to his character in Luca. “[Lorenzo] is, I think, a lot of parents. We like to think that we're all over this,” he says. “But as adults, when we look back at our parents we're like, ‘They were clueless. They didn't know.’”
Luca premieres in theaters and on Disney+ on June 18.