The ability to laugh at yourself and not stress the little stuff is usually considered an admirable trait to have. On the other side of that coin, many people struggle with having a self victimization complex and are way too hard on themselves. Jim Gaffigan has made a living treading the fine line between the two. He knows exactly what is and funny about watching someone pick on themselves in just the right way.
Jim Gaffigan is a comedian known mainly for his self-deprecating style of standup comedy. He is the executive producer of his own semi-autobiographical show on TV Land “The Jim Gaffigan Show” and author of the New York Times Bestsellers “Dad is Fat” and “Food: A Love Story”. Gaffigan’s fourth comedy special for Comedy Central, “Obsessed” – released as an album as well – debuted at #1 on iTunes and resulted in Gaffigan getting nominated for a Grammy for Best Comedy Album in 2015.
In his Big Think talk “Jim Gaffigan: The Psychology of Why We Laugh at Self-Deprecating Humor,” he talks about what makes self-deprecating humor so funny to us. He discusses the psychology and shared human nature behind his specific brand of humor.
He says it goes beyond the simple act of defacing yourself. Gaffigan reveals that it was difficult for him growing up. A sentiment that many of his audience members and fans can identify with. So, he centers his comedy around it and since people can relate to him and his experiences, they think its funny.
“I realized that there is a certain victimization complex that I have, that I probably had all my life. And…compared to African Americans or women or people in the LGBT community it’s nothing,” Gaffigan begins. “But like, being the whitest white guy was a burden. In a way, maybe…we all have a victimization complex.”
It wouldn’t be particularly funny for a comedian to just tear themselves down on stage. Gaffigan thinks it’s the appeal of humility that comes from self-deprecating humor that we’re all really grappling for. He says that for humans, identification and being able to identify with someone else, is a very appealing thing.
“It’s this moment of acknowledgement and a moment of being out of control” he muses. “And maybe a glimpse into ourselves is really important. And an insight into ourselves.”
Gaffigan goes on to talk about how he thinks most people have, in some way – big or small, a self-victimization complex. Hopefully, when illustrated in a humorous way, it lets people see your sensibility and your point of view.
“Self-awareness is a compelling attribute among other human beings,” he says. “And I think that that self-awareness is something that is very similar to observational humor. It’s an insight to humanity.”
View the video in its entirety, here.