Jim Gaffigan: Why You Need Self-Awareness in Comedy and in Life

From the stage to a coffee date, self-awareness is the key to engaging the person across from you.

As a football player and wrestler in high school, comedian Jim Gaffigan couldn’t understand why, when he started getting into acting, he was mostly being cast as nerdy people. (Side note: Gaffigan also played football in college—check out this handsome photo from the ’80s!)

From his perspective, he was being forced to audition for “character roles” (“which is code for not attractive in the entertainment industry” says Gaffigan) instead of the archetypes his physique fit into.

Then he had a realization: he might strike others differently.

“I remember this realization like why am I being cast as this? That’s just how I come across,” says Gaffigan in a recent video for Bigthink. “And I’ll often meet people and they’ll say ‘You’re much taller than I thought.’ Because I think there is—and it’s fascinating in a narcissistic way that people think that I’m shorter than I am.”

Now producer of The Gaffigan Show, Gaffigan says acknowledging the way your audience perceives you—and being honest with your audience—is key to opening the lines of communication because it disarms the people you’re trying to engage. He says that self-awareness could be something as simple as acknowledging when your overdressed or underdressed.

Bigthink shares two cringe-worthy examples of why it’s important to be self-aware while engaging your audience:

Exhibit A: when OC actress Mischa Barton very recently posted about police brutality on Instagram, with a photo of herself standing in a bikini on a yacht in beautiful blue waters while drinking a cocktail. Not aware. Painfully unaware.
Exhibit B: Trevor Martin, YouTube personality and CSGO Lotto owner that’s being sued for scamming his viewers. He apologized to the audience he scammed while sitting in his large, fancy home, with a fancy car in the background.

Self-awareness ultimately levels the playing field. “It brings some equality to the relationship you have with somebody,” says Gaffigan.

There are a lot of similarities between acting and meditation. Actor Michael O’Keefe discusses meditation and how he learned as much about mindfulness from working with Claire Danes in Homeland as he did with any meditation teacher in Listening is No Act.