Comedian Jim Gaffigan Stands Up for First-Generation Students

By Kate Colwell

comedian Jim Gaffigan performing

Jim Gaffigan (B’88) donates his time to a comedy show that raised funds for the Georgetown Scholars Program.

Comedian and father of five Jim Gaffigan cares about higher education—not just for his children, who fuel much of his material—but also for first-generation college students at Georgetown University.

A 1988 graduate of the Georgetown McDonough School of Business, Gaffigan took time away from his new “Fixer Upper” comedy tour to perform at a sold-out show in September in Chicago to support the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP).

In January, Gaffigan will be joined by fellow Georgetown alumni and comics John Mulaney (C’04) and Mike Birbiglia (C’00) for Stand Up for Georgetown, another night of sold-out comedy to benefit GSP, this time in Brooklyn, NY.

Founded in 2004, GSP has served more than 1,600 students, most of whom are among the first generation in their families to attend college. GSP provides programmatic support such as mentorship programs, academic and career guidance, and a vibrant community that works to ensure that the more than 650 current undergraduates have the opportunity to take full advantage of all that Georgetown offers. GSP has a 96.46 percent graduation rate, far exceeding the national average for first-generation students. The program relies on philanthropy.

The performance, which drew 300 Georgetown alumni and friends, raised almost $25,000.

“It’s a different way of giving, not just financially but by raising visibility with celebrity power,”  says Michelle Schara Mauboussin (B’86), chair of GSP advisory board. “Jim is one of Georgetown’s most famous alumni. It would be great to get more similar alumni to follow his lead.”

Jim Gaffigan performing
Jim Gaffigan performs for 300 Georgetown alumni and friends.
Jim Gaffigan with two fans
Jim Gaffigan meets two of his fans.

A family affair

In Chicago, Jim Gaffigan was introduced by his older brother, Joe Gaffigan (B’87). Their father, Mike Gaffigan (F’57), was a first-generation college student at Georgetown.

“Jim and I both value our Georgetown education,” says Joe. “Jim enjoys learning still. Georgetown set him up for that.”

At the top of his set, Jim addressed the crowd. “Most of us are here tonight because we love Georgetown,” he said. “We’re here to support the Georgetown Scholarship Program”—since renamed the Georgetown Scholars Program.

“It’s a different way of giving, not just financially but by raising visibility with celebrity power.”

“I am so starstruck by Jim Gaffigan; he's been one of my favorite comedians for a long time,” GSP Director Melissa Foy (C’03) said. “We are so flattered that someone with such starpower is throwing his support—and his most powerful gift, his voice—behind GSP.  It feels really great that he believes in what we're doing.”

“The generous support given tonight will help provide students access to resources and a community focused on their success,” added Charlie Deacon, Georgetown’s dean of admission and co-founder of GSP.

“GSP has always been the little engine that could,” says Foy. “Every dollar helps us expand our microgrants and services to students.”

Mauboussin, who credits Emily Chen Carrera (B’88) and Jim Gaffigan’s wife and writing partner, Jeannie Gaffigan, for organizing the event, says that one strength of GSP is its ability to build community. Gaffigan’s performance provided a reason for Hoyas to come together for fun and a good cause. She hopes that community will continue to expand.

“Jim is definitely helping attract a new group of people,” she said. “We’re excited and grateful.”

To find out how you can become involved with GSP, visit gsp.georgetown.edu/get-involved