An orchestral conductor and a stand-up comedian walk into a bar.
Actually, not a bar. An Apple Store. And not the same Apple Store. Two different stores in two different cities. Where they buy exactly the same Apple computer, at the same time, on the same day.
Which is how American conductor James Gaffigan, who leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in subscription concerts June 10-11, met American comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan. The initial encounter was not pretty.
“I was at Rice University for grad school,” said Gaffigan the conductor. “I get this random call on my cell phone. It was a guy; he said, ‘Who is this?’ and I said, ‘Who is this?’ And he said, ‘This is Jim Gaffigan. Whom am I speaking with?’ At the time, all my friends called me Jimmy, so I said, ‘This is Jimmy Gaffigan.’ He started cursing, and he was extremely angry.”
Apple had gotten their orders mixed up, and Jim Gaffigan was billed for James Gaffigan’s laptop. The comic thought the conductor had "stolen his identity.”
“We got into this long conversation about it,” the conductor said. “He told me he was an actor in Los Angeles, and a writer for different comedy series and talk shows. He wasn’t famous back then.
“We’ve talked on the phone a few times, and now we follow each other on Twitter. Jim jokes, ‘Why does the only other guy with my name have to be more cultured and better-looking than I am?’ I say, ‘That’s ridiculous and not true, but I’m sick of people expecting me to be funny all the time.’ ”
Conductor and comic continue to cross paths.
“We’ve been in L.A. at the same time, but we don't run into each other," Gaffigan said. "Sometimes he’ll be doing his stand-up routine in a city where I am, and it’s hilarious to walk by the billboard and see ‘Jim Gaffigan, Stand-Up Comedian.’ And two blocks away, ‘James Gaffigan Conducting [the Cincinnati or whatever] Symphony Orchestra.’
“He’s a great person, and he’s an amazing comic. I think the only person really upset about it is my mother. When she Googles me, she gets much more of him than me.”
A version of this post originally appeared on Sounds and Stories, the predecessor site of Experience CSO.