Hey, friends. Barbarella here. I recently watched Jim Gaffigan and Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul) in the comedy Linoleum, which is out today in theaters and proves far more thought-provoking than I’d expected. Although it left me pondering deeper philosophical ideas, it still had me laughing throughout. Granted, I’ve been a fan of the comedian for quite some time, as I find much of his stand-up hilarious and relatable, and he’s one of the few comedians whose comedy I could share with my father, who's intolerant of foul language.
In Colin West's film, Jim Gaffigan plays Cameron, a husband and father, who just drifts through his life working on a science show for kids. His lack of ambition puts some strain on his relationships, and when ambitious Kent crashes into Cameron’s life, disruption occurs. Linoleum proves to be the kind of film that’s worthwhile to spend some time contemplating after watching, but if you just want to watch for the giggles, that’s always an option. You do you.
I hopped on a Zoom call with the actor/comedian, whose YouTube videos helped keep me entertained during the early months of the pandemic while imprisoned at home. I started out our chat seeking an answer to a question I have regarding all comedians. Check it out!
It seems like comedians are expected to be funny in pretty much every exchange or interaction. How do you deal with that expectation?
“I would say, there is an advantage to it a little bit, because you can dive into a bit of an irreverence or behavior and get away with stuff, but it’s weird. You know, I traveled all day yesterday. When I’m at an airport, there might be people that recognize me; they might think that I’m going to be more engaging, and so I feel a little bit guilty about that, but other than that, you know, there’s much worse things in life.”
Linoleum ended up being a lot more profound than I was expecting going into it, and I was wondering what were your expectations before you read the script and how did they evolve?
“I knew it would be ambitious. [Knowing] the sincerity of Colin, I knew that he was probably trying to seek out these larger questions that the script presents. I don’t know the exact time, but there is a moment. It’s not a light switch; there’s three different beats. It’s kind of fun to watch the audience to see where there is vulnerability that occurs in people, particularly if people are sincerely engaging in it. This is also a movie that five different people are going to have five different takeaways on what the theme or the message was, whether it’s relationship, ambition, parental communication, generational stuff. It’s just like all over the place, and I don’t mean it in a sloppy way. I mean it in the way we interpret and take things from a piece of film. It sounds corny, but it’s supposed to present questions. I think, that’s why people are so excited about people seeing it in theaters. I would say, I think it’s so important to watch it with someone, you know what I mean? Now, that’s obviously a luxury not everyone can afford, but some of it is the conversation afterwards. I consume a lot of entertainment, and there’s stuff that you want to watch with someone so that you can discuss it.”
You play two different characters in this. What was that experience like for you?
“As an actor, it’s a great opportunity, but it’s also really fun because there’s a connection between these two. With each character, you find yourself in that character. You don’t want to be acting; you want to be who you are and find this character in you, and so there was such fun in the mathematics of it. I’m kind of a goofy looking person, and so when I see someone who looks like me…we all have those moments where you see someone that looks like you, and you’re a little startled. Where I’m both characters in the same scene, I didn’t want to play the startled, but that does inform the experience. All these things that happen to Cameron [and with] the doppelgänger is a level of absurdity that I think is funny. Also, it kind of displays the passivity that Cameron is dealing with, that life is happening to him, whereas Kent is much more in charge.”
I love the scene around the dinner table where Cameron is telling the story, and the family could not be less impressed. Have you ever had those kinds of conversations where you’re talking about something, and you’re really excited about it, and your family is just kind of meh?
“Oh absolutely, absolutely. I have five kids, ten to eighteen. By the way, there’s the parental thing, but there’s also the relationship thing. One of the things that Rhea and I really wanted to portray is in this relationship between Cameron and Erin there is love. When you talk about the indifference that exists there, the viewer should interpret it as are they being rude or is he being annoying? That’s part of the journey, and by the way, that can happen in a perfectly healthy family environment.”
What should the world know about Rhea?
"Well, I’ve worked with some great people, but I think that Rhea Seehorn is an MVP. The entertainment industry is a real brutal business. I think it’s really cruel; I think it’s extra cruel to women, so if you can navigate that with a decency and an integrity… I learned a lot from her, She’s an MVP. It’s easier to say this about someone younger, but when you’re in your forties, you’ve eaten some shit. It’s similar to one of the themes that this movie presents: Life‘s not fair, but how are you going to be when that happens? What I would say is the best compliment is this industry didn’t ruin her."
Cameron has that kind of Bill Nye science-y TV show for kids. If you started your own kids’ show what kind of kids’ show would it be?
“That’s a great question ‘cause the most important thing that I want to emphasize is the Bill-Nye-the-Science-Guy enthusiasm that Cameron has for science is completely foreign to me. I don’t understand science. My youngest son is ten, loves science. I watched the Bill Nye the Science Guy show. I can appreciate that people have an enthusiasm for science. I can recognize the interest, but that was some of the acting. The enthusiasm Cameron has for science, and Kent too, is very foreign to me. I have that enthusiasm about acting or writing comedy or creating a character. It was not just learning lines because I had to learn these lines, understand it, and have an enthusiasm that formed his personality. You know what I mean? I mean, obviously, there’s much more difficult tasks in the world, but it was not an easy thing.”
So, if you had a kids’ show, it would have nothing to do with science. What would you want to show?
“I think, it would just be about things I like to eat, and hopefully kids would find that engaging.”
If money weren’t a factor, would you rather do movies, television, stand-up comedy, or something else, and why?
“I like the foot-in-both thing. The thing I like about stand-up comedy is there’s a control over the creative fulfillment, so if I come up with an idea, I can go on stage and try it. I love acting because there’s a community; I like being a good soldier for people that want to execute an idea. But getting a job in acting, I’ve always described it as it’s kind of like stripping. The audition process, it’s like stripping, but you don’t get a dollar. It’s not so much the humiliation of not getting rolls; I’m way beyond that. It’s the passivity of it. It’s like you have no control. My manager would be like, “They’re really considering you for this role,” and I’m like, “Great. Is there anything I can do?” “No, no there’s nothing you can do.” Then they’d be like, “You didn’t get it.” “Oh, who’d they give it to?” and they’re like “They gave it to Idris Elba.” And, that didn’t happen…at all. I didn’t want to name the person.
“I want to work on movies like Linoleum that are fulfilling characters. The notion of fame is something weird; I only want more success so that can provide more opportunities. You know what I mean? Just like writing. I do these commentaries for CBS Sunday morning, but that’s like creative fulfillment. You know, as a writer, when you finish a piece, there’s a completion. With acting, you have to be invited in to do that, and you have no control over that, so I would like to always have these different pieces.”
If you are interested in checking out Jim Gaffigan's wonderful performance in Linoleum, the film is out now in theaters! Here's the trailer. It shows a lot, but I don't think that it's super spoilery, but it may give away a few things that would be fun to experience for the first time during the film.