With everyone focused on the upcoming Oscars and catching up on nominated films –not to mention seeing current box office hits about coked out bears or microscopic superheroes— a wonderful little film like Linoleum might get lost in the buzz and blitz. But don’t let it! This indie from writer/director Colin West is one of the most thought-provoking and fun movies of the year. Starring Jim Gaffigan in duel roles as Cameron Edwin, the host of children’s science TV show called “Above & Beyond” and as Kent Armstrong, his new neighbor who also happens to be his better-looking, more successful doppelgänger, this is a film that you can watch and enjoy a good 2/3 of the way through before you actually get it. Apparently some viewers still don’t get it even by the end (if you like spoilers read this).
We recommend going with the flow of this unique and absorbing film and letting it unfold as it will. It really is an experience and to this writer anyway, it all makes sense in the end. The car falling from the sky, the spaceship, the teenage boy, the charismatic daughter, the distant wife, the science– everything pieces together, and not in a perfect way that answers every question, but like daily life and memories do: patchy, happy, sad, romantic, regretful, grateful, all bleeding into each other for better or worse.
The film is a serious turn for the successful funnyman, one of our favorites in the giggles game. Gaffigan’s contemplative yet simplistic stand-up concerning family life, food, and the absurdity of day to day existence has a subtle wit and innocence that’s garnered him a diverse fanbase. His Netflix specials are guaranteed to put a smile on your face, but if you’d like to see him in person, he’s coming to town: he’ll be at the Yaamava Casino tomorrow with his latest show, Dark Pale. If you miss it, no worries– he’ll be taping it for a new Netflix special to air soon.
LA WEEKLY: So I just saw Linoleum this morning and I’m still processing… I cried, like full on tears down the face-cried. Was it supposed to be so emotional?
JIM GAFFIGAN: Yes, it’s a weeper. It’s one of those movies that catches people off guard. It’s really interesting because there is something cathartic about it. It brings up questions that we should be asking ourselves. That’s what I love about the movie. And that’s why I think Colin and the producers are so obsessed with people seeing it in a theater. You know, you have experience watching things on screen, you have to consume a lot of stuff, but like, I think people can get distracted. And so the theater experience with people sitting in the dark, there’s usually a silence. When we would go to festivals, it was interesting because there would be people that’d applaud afterwards. But there’s also a little bit of like, people are recovering. Most importantly, I think it presents questions. And I love art that presents questions that you can have a conversation about. I’ve seen the movie so many times, it’s like, if you watch it again, you’d have a different set of questions.
I want to watch it again now knowing what I know. I’m sure you can you notice little things, sort of hints about what’s coming. What do you feel are the questions it asks and the message behind it? I think it’s about aging, about reality and our perceptions of reality, especially as we get older and our cognitive minds change. But it’s also about love isn’t it?
I should preface this by saying that, you know, everyone’s gonna have their own takeaway, but I think it’s really about a beautiful love story. You know, you can sit there and say, it’s dreams, it’s the influence of our parents, ambition versus kind of quality of life. But I think it’s revealed that it’s about this incredible woman, and the incredible story of this couple that almost threw it all away.
It really touched me. I’m a fan of yours and your stand-up like many. You’re known for your comedy, but what attracts you to doing more dramatic roles like this?
I think because I get to write and create my own stand-up and comedic films– comedic roles are fun, but they’re not as rewarding as the complexity of a dramatic role. So I know that stand-up comedy and doing a dramatic role are completely different, but there is a complexity and a thoroughness. You have to nerd out in both scenarios. If you want to continue to create interesting stand up material you have to do the research and do the work. For developing a complex, multi layered dramatic performance, you have to do the work and do the math behind it too, you know, figuring out how this happened, then that. And I love that stuff.
With this role you’re playing two characters. Was that challenging?
It was so fun because there are two different sides, right? I mean, there are two different people in there. But I do feel like as individuals, we all encounter, these moments where we are like Kent who is confident and drives a Corvette. And then there’s moments where we feel like Cameron who rides a bike and feels like the world is just constantly taking advantage of him. And so it was fun to kind of construct those characters and like, how they might be different, you know, vocally and the levels of vulnerability, which is dramatically different. But I think that both versions exist in me.
I was wondering who the real Jim was more like in real life? The more confident, even-keeled guy or the emotional, self-doubter guy?
It’s also interesting, because like, I remember thinking- Is he more like my dad? Or is Kent more like how my kids see me? Every acting role, you don’t want to act, you just want to find that character within yourself. But I think that everyone feels sometimes like Kent and sometimes like Cameron. And unfortunately, it’s like, within the same hour, right?
Yeah, it shows that duality. Did you ever have interest in space? At the beginning of the film, I thought it was going to be a Bill Nye-type thing. Did you observe people like that for the role?
I was never into science. I never watched Bill Nye the Science Guy. So I definitely studied some Bill Nye. That was one of the challenges. When I read the script. I was like, well, I know nothing about science. And then I’m supposed to not only have an enthusiasm for it, but then become an advocate for it. So I liked that challenge. My youngest son is very into science. So I know that I kind of stole a little bit of that from him. And I saw that there were different versions of understanding science. Kent was kind of factually based and Cameron had more of a passion for it. Cameron on the TV show had an enthusiasm for science so I had to understand the science and then I had to bring an enthusiasm and then an advocacy. And that was a fun challenge. But I don’t remember any of it now.
Well, it did come through and it seemed real and organic. I want to ask you about your stand-up comedy. You’re going to be at Yaamava in L.A. Are you still enjoying it? You have a ton of movies coming out too, including the new Disney Peter Pan project. You are very, very busy. Critically, you’re in a great place right now, too. How are you balancing it, and what are you wanting to focus on? Are you trying to do it all?
I mean, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that I have no control over the timing. But you know, being married and having five kids, it is a difficult balancing act. And it is one of those things where it’s a re-calibration every couple of months of kind of going, ‘alright, no, I can’t do that,’ because in the end, I don’t want to look back with regret on some of these life decisions. But the fact that my wife is a creative person, and she can appreciate, ‘okay, you’re going to be in Vancouver for months working on Peter Pan– you got to go do that,’ is cool. It’s also readjusting because stand-up can gobble things up. And it’s also, ‘how I can afford to have five children.’ You know what I mean?
Yes I do. It seems like you still really enjoy it. Your shows are so joyful. Can you give us any hints about some new themes and the new material of your latest stand-up before the interview ends?
I would say “Dark Pale” is a little bit darker. You know, I think that having gone through the pandemic, I think that there’s a cynicism that exists culturally that wasn’t there before. And some of it is about the consequences of the virus, you know, the political climate. We love our friends, and we have a familiar conversation, but we don’t have the same conversation. So I had that challenge to talk about some new darker stuff. It’s also my 10th show, and so I want to evolve.
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