After a bit of a layoff, we’re back to the final pairing in our ‘Old vs. New’ bracket of the tourney to determine the greatest Region Rats of all time. Hopefully we can get down to four names we would put on our very own Mount Rushmore, then somehow find a way to tame the dunes long enough to etch these faces in them as a token of their immortal status in Northwest Indiana.
But since that’s a pipedream, I guess a made up contest will have to suffice until then….
Our (4) vs. (5) match-up was designed to be our closest head-to-head, so hopefully we get some passionate voters on either side of the aisle on this one. From the new school side and in the (5) seed is comedian Jim Gaffigan, who would likely admit that he is the furthest thing from ‘new school’ as it is humanly possible to be. In comparison to the (4) seed, Frank Reynolds, and the majority of those Region Rats who are familiar with his name, Jim Gaffigan undoubtedly will appeal to the younger audience of NWI residents.
Straight from the 70’s is the (4) seed in the bracket, Frank Reynolds of East Chicago. Baby boomers will undoubtedly associate Reynolds with his position as anchor on ABC’s Evening News, World News Tonight after that, and even later on Nightline. Americans were hard pressed to turn on a television for almost 2 decades without eventually coming face to face with Reynolds, whether he was in the field reporting or behind a desk delivering the news. What remains lost to the current generation is the actual importance of the news anchor in the daily routine of the average American when Frank Reynolds was in his prime- he embodied the news in the living rooms of the American family every night.
Frank Reynolds’ Region roots are cemented in his upbringing. Growing up in East Chicago and attending school at Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond, Reynolds is firmly entrenched as a Lake County Legend. After high school, Reynolds went on to attend college at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana just a couple hours’ drive from the Region. The outbreak of World War 2 somewhat derailed his career path for a bit, as it did most able-bodied young men of his generation. Regardless, Reynolds made the most of his time serving the United States Army by rising up to the rank of staff sergeant and even earned a Purple Heart for his valor in battle.
Reynolds landed his first gig as a television anchor in 1949 in Chicago for the CBS affiliate serving as a chief correspondent for Chicago-related events. In 1965, Reynolds transitioned out of the news room and into the chaos which is field reporting, doing so for 3 years on behalf of ABC. After a few years of working his way painstakingly up the corporate ladder, even to the point of going from a nightly news anchor to a demotion back to a field reporter, Reynolds solidified his place in news reporter history when he began co-hosting World News Tonight alongside Peter Jennings and Max Robinson. To many, this is where Frank Reynolds also became a household name to millions of Americans who tuned in nightly to ABC for the evening news.
Tragedy often sparked some of the most memorable moments of Frank Reynolds’ news reporting career throughout the late 70’s and early 80’s. The 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis also spurred a series of nightly reports called ‘America Held Hostage’ which Reynolds anchored as Americans tuned in to follow these special reports. Following the end of the crisis itself, this program evolved into the program Nightline, which Reynolds briefly anchored until being replaced by Ted Koppel in 1980. For those who remember that period in time, Reynolds represented the main line of communication between the press and the average citizen on any developments in the Iran Crisis which was the fixation of the American public at the time.
Just a few years later, Reynolds again proved to be a voice of reason within the media chaos which resulted from the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.
That’s what would make his legacy more memorable than most newscasters those would actually be more understandable than really what you were looking for.
And the man in the other corner of this heavyweight Region Rat match-up is Mr. Jim Gaffigan, known for his abilities in the comic arts to most people. In recent months, Jim has decided to join the ranks of the writers before his 48th birthday with his recent publishing of a light-hearted perspective on being a father.
The youngest child in a family of six kids, Jim was born in Elgin, Illinois, and re-located to the Region first in LaPorte at La Lumiere School. But the subtle intellect that you can find in all of Jim’s humor didn’t stem just from his days as a class clown in high school, it was a carefully crafted talent. He took the path to Purdue University after that, and eventually pursued his education all the way to the east coast at Georgetown University.
Jim Gaffigan is absolutely a character in his own right, but just like most of us Region folk, he’s got a good head on his shoulders….he’s just using it a bit differently than the rest of us.
If you’re even a casual movie fan, you’ve probably ran across Jim’s acting skills, as well. He’s made countless cameo appearances in all genres of different flicks, imposing his will on even the most insignificant moments in a movie that just have you quoting them 10 years after you bought the VHS tape. Not only that, but Jim also has a habit of popping up in TV shows, from The Daily Show with John Stewart and ‘That 70’s Show’, to ‘Flight of the Concords’ on HBO and whatever awful show Conan is hosting [editors' note: Conan is hilarious]. Jim’s deadpan sarcasm is often either a breath of fresh air in whatever context he presents it, or at least serves as comedic relief from an otherwise mundane situation.
Just this year, Jim published a book entitled DAD IS FAT, which adds the title of ‘author’ to his resume as well. The book itself is a humorous reflection on fatherhood in his distinct style of comedy. His routine is ridiculously hilarious, as his candid delivery perfectly portrays his Northwest Indiana roots in a manner that would make any Region Rat proud:
“His clever, quiet style has made him one of the top five most successful touring comedians in the country today and his CDs and DVDs have reached platinum sales. Gaffigan has had an unprecedented number of appearances on late night’s “Letterman” and “Conan.” His writing and voice work on the animated series “Pale Force” for Conan led to nominations for both a Broadband Emmy and a Webby Award.”
Gaffigan has been doing his thing for quite a while, as many of you already know. For what seems like the better part of a decade, Jim’s delivery and content put together reveal a new element of comedy. His ability to simultaneously relate to all his audience members but isolate himself or his perspective for the sake of comedy are timeless, to say the least. Time and time again Jim has seem to re-apply his original style of comedy appropriately that you just can’t get enough of it.
And we’re damn glad to include Jim Gaffigan as one of us Region Rats making the world a livable place out there.