Jim Gaffigan's Happy to Bring Linoleum to Earth
The suburban spaceman comes to SXSW
Jim Gaffigan is no stranger to South by Southwest. In 2018, the actor/comedian wore several hats at the festival, premiering his comedy Being Frank – then called You Can Choose Your Family – and hosting the annual film festival award show. Now Gaffigan is back with a new film and a newfound respect for the indie spirit that allows SXSW to thrive – even after a two-year absence.
"All festivals are pretty amazing, but I think that South By is very unique because of the character of Austin," Gaffigan explained. While he makes it very clear that he is "certainly not an expert on festivals," Gaffigan speaks from a place of experience on the virtues of SXSW, which he believes are uniquely grounded in the artists that make the festival run. "There is this spirit that is very reminiscent of an indie film," he added. "We're all here for the right reason."
Coming from Gaffigan, this comparison carries weight. Linoleum, which will receive its world premiere at this year's festival, was a true labor of love on the part of both cast and crew; the production wrapped in November 2020 with very little margin for error. "There was no guarantee that the film was gonna be able to be finished," he admitted, comparing this to bigger-budget movies that could survive one or more shutdowns during the production.
But much like Being Frank and his 2019 thriller American Dreamer, Linoleum demonstrates an adventurous side of Gaffigan as a performer. Beginning as an indie-twee premise of amateur scientist Cameron Edwin finding a rocket in his backyard and evolving into something more complex, Colin West's film allows the actor to play twin roles as the failed astronaut and his dangerous next-door neighbor. And the more the film unfolds, the more we begin to suspect that our narrator is something less than reliable.
"Obviously, you never want to play the ending," Gaffigan explained. "Some of it's math, and some of it's similar to how I approach stand-up. ... The straighter the setup, the better the punch." While there are elements here – especially with Cameron's sinister doppelgänger – that tap into sides of Gaffigan not often seen onscreen, the gentle perseverance of Cameron should be familiar to any of his fans. "That Charlie Brown kind of character is not foreign to me," he admitted.
And while Gaffigan may also be no stranger to wearing different hats both onscreen and off, Linoleum proves he did not miss his calling as a public access television host. While Cameron may be a gentle love letter to educators like Bill Nye – a low-budget teacher with a palpable passion for learning – it was not a role that came easy to him. "It was really a fun challenge to not only embrace that stuff, but to find the enthusiasm that Cameron had for it." For now, "SXSW standout" and "purveyor of indie spirit" appear to be more than enough to keep Gaffigan busy.
Narrative Feature Competition
Saturday, March 12, 7:15pm, Alamo South Lamar
Sunday, March 13, 12:45, 1:15pm, Violet Crown
Thursday, March 17, 6:30pm, Zach Theatre
Online: March 13-15