Jim Gaffigan, father of 5, says he 'limits' what his kids watch on their phones — to a point: 'Social media is tricky'

"When I was a kid, I played Pong, which now to my children would seem like torture."

Jim Gaffigan is a father of five, which he says has welcomed new opportunities to learn about the latest TikTok trends. (Getty Images)
Jim Gaffigan is a father of five, which he says has welcomed new opportunities to learn about the latest TikTok trends. (Getty Images)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of childrearing.

Jim Gaffigan isn’t your typical comedian. The lovable dad, who grew up in the Midwest as one of six kids, doesn’t necessarily enjoy taking jabs at people on stage — unless it’s himself.

“When I started doing standup in the ‘90s, I mean, there were wooden microphones,” Gaffigan, 57, tells Yahoo Life. “The only comedians you would see were on The Tonight Show or Late Night with David Letterman, when cable was in its infancy. Now we’re in the social media age, and the impact of satellite radio, YouTube and streamers has been incredible.”

Gaffigan, whose Amazon Original special Dark Pale is currently streaming, has developed various kinds of personas onstage throughout his career. But none, he explains, match up to being a family man. Gaffigan and his wife, actress and writer Jeannine Gaffigan, are parents to five kids: Marre, 18, Jack, 16, Katie, 13, Michael, 11, and Patrick, 10.

Jeannine, like himself, was also raised in a large family. "It's familiar chaos," he says of life at home.

It's hard to imagine that at one point Gaffigan — now widely regarded for his clean, hip and often self-deprecating humor about the joys and challenges of family life — assumed he'd be forever single.

“In my early 30s, I was resigned to the fact that I wasn't going to get married and wasn't going to have kids. But then it kind of shifts,” says Gaffigan, who married Jeannine when he was 37. “Everyone goes through periods of their life where they think they might be single forever. Then you meet someone, and it changes your life.”

Raising teenagers is a whole other matter, he notes, which is why he recently partnered with Straight Talk Wireless, which debuted a new suite of affordable family plans he says is a “perfect fit” for a family like his.

“We're always looking for ways to streamline the expenses we're undertaking having five children,” he explains. “Straight Talk provides substantial savings by combining multiple lines under one deal, and so my family was kind of a perfect fit. It worked within our logic of how we're attempting to navigate five kids.”

Still, technology can be intimidating even for Gaffigan. Adding teenagers to the mix is even more daunting, especially since his family resides in New York City. "It’s important for them to be able to reach you," he notes of his kids' cell phone access.

Of course, those concerns are much different than when he was growing up in the days of pay phones and fax machines.

“Talking on your cell phone was cost-prohibitive back in the day; it was really just for emergencies,” he recalls. “When I was a kid, I played Pong [one of the earliest forms of video games], which now to my children would seem torture. Technology is ever-changing and it's advancing so quickly, so you have to navigate how you're getting the most efficient use of it.”

That includes approaching online safety for children, he adds.

"Kids having access to being reached is probably a good idea, but social media is a whole other pickle," he says. “I have limits for what my kids do. They are on YouTube, my younger ones, but social media is tricky. I think in 10 years, as a society, we're going to have a different view on it."

As an “older dad," one good thing to come out of advancing technology is being updated by his kids about the latest trends on social media. That's comedy gold for a standup.

“Everything has changed,” he says. “I am learning so much from my kids. My 19-year-old is a big social justice warrior. My 17-year-old is a deep contrarian. I’m learning about TikTok and music from my 13-year-old daughter. And then my 12-year-old is really into basketball. I never really was into basketball, but I am now because my son is so into it. And then, there’s my 10-year-old. I had no idea that [YouTuber] MrBeast was so cool.”

"They give me different access points to what kids are into, and they're all very different," he adds.

Gaffigan's kids are also helping him understand what's making people laugh these days — a journey, he says, that's helped him be a better comic and a better dad.

“It's changed so dramatically,” he notes of comedy culture. “The social media stars and TikTok stars today, I celebrate them. It’s a little foreign to me, but I think whatever can get your point of view out there is great.”