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16th July 2014

Interview: Jim Jefferies

Aussie comic Jim Jefferies talks about settling down, his TV show getting cancelled and getting punched at the Comedy Store

Australian comic Jim Jefferies is returning to the UK to do a limited run of shows including a show at O2 Apollo on August 2nd. Known for his controversial sets he caught up with the Mancunion ahead of the tour.

On settling down and whether we can expect the same brand of dark comedy

It’s the same show that you’re always going to get. I’ve just recorded a DVD of it, the new show is probably I would say somewhat more extreme actually. Since I’ve had a child because it’s been a lot of my take on having a baby, but it’s not like I’ve become Ray Romano, if you’re wondering.

I don’t think I’ve slowed down at all. In fact I think I appreciate being on the road a lot more. I used to hate being on the road, staying in hotels and flying–now I can cut free a little bit because I’m so well behaved at home.

On his new material

At the moment I’m doing a routine on Gun Control, which is obviously a big thing with all the school shootings over here. Obviously doing my kid, I do a bit on Oscar Pistorius, and a few more stories from my life. It’s very hard to say what material I’ll be doing by the time I’ll get over there [to the UK] in August. I’m writing a few new bits as we speak, so we’ll see how the show looks when we get there. The show will normally be hour and a half with a couple support acts, so better value than driving up to the Edinburgh festival.

On getting punched in the head at the Manchester Comedy Store

The story isn’t as exciting as the video, I was basically on stage, someone on one side of the room heckled. I put her down a few times, I said something maybe about her being molested by her grandfather or something. I think there was a guy on the other side of the room, that might have had some issues with his father or grandfather or something. Then 15 minutes later, when he hit me I was doing routines about genitalia, it came right out of the blue.

The put-down to the heckler was simple “I’m going to leave you alone now, like your dad did. It’s a shame your grandfather never did”. Which is a pretty mundane thing to say to a person, but this guy had some issues. He waited till he had finished his drink and just ran up on stage and punched me.

The more exciting story is what happened afterwards, they tackled him, the audience came up to help, they put him in the dressing room and he sat there crying going “please don’t arrest me.” The cops took him, put him in the drunk tank for a night, and I didn’t press charges. Because even at the time, I remember thinking “I’ll make a lot of money out of this”. 

On his TV show Legit getting cancelled

I would like to make a movie of it. I’ve got all these scripts that I’ve written for season 3. I’d like to tie all the characters up because the way season 2 ended is pretty unsatisfying. It wasn’t a cliffhanger but all the characters at the end hated each other. You know I went off on my separate way, Billy went back into the home, and Steve joined the army. I had this instant way for them all to get back together in the first episode on season 3, but as it stands when the show got cancelled the characters weren’t getting along and I kinda think that’s sad. I’m still getting over the show getting cancelled. So maybe if I take another six months to sit back and reflect, maybe I can figure out what I want to do with it.

Apart from that, I don’t know if I’ll be selling another TV show anytime soon. I’m just going for a few auditions at the moment to see if I can get on someone else’s TV show. But it seems that Hollywood doesn’t really want me to act in something if I didn’t write it myself. 

On Legit’s portrayal of disability

We had one disabled character because the whole show was based on that story of me taking a friend with muscular dystrophy to a brothel. So we had one character, who was from my own life, who had muscular dystrophy, we had to put him in a home to get him out of. As soon as you put someone in a home, you’ve got to populate the world with disabled people. 

There’s an acting school in Hollywood, that just takes care of disabled people and they do plays there. It sort of gives them something to do, it’s not a charity thing, these people are cast in actual shows. We rang them up and we said give us all your actors. So we had, several different people with different disabilities come in. It was never my intent to be this Pied Piper for disabled people. 

Once we got them all in, I started to realise there was a lot of comedy in these guys if you weren’t being mean about them and also if you weren’t making there story lines sappy. If you just treated them like normal guys. Normal guys talk about sex, they talk about drink and drugs. If you have these people drinking and having sex and other stuff. It’s just funny right away. Then I realised there’s never been this many disabled guys used in a comedy. Usually they’re used for PSAs, or they’re used in shows like 7th Heaven where there’s a poor disabled child who is picked on at school until the nice kids stick up for them. 

One of the main guys Nick, who played Rodney, I still talk to him once a week and he comes over to my house for barbecues with us. For me that was the saddest thing, telling Nick when the show was cancelled. 

On comedians getting more creative control on TV

I think it’s become like a trend a long time ago and people are only starting to notice it now with Louie. A comedian in charge of a show is no new thing, Seinfeld did it, but then you have like Bob Newhart and Sarah Silverman. Everyone’s playing themselves, its pretty common. As for people getting complete creative control like Louie, look Louis CK is a fantastic comedian and I’m a huge fan. There’s just something about now, where people are writing about him as if he’s the only person doing something. The fact that he’s brought out a special every year of new material, I’ve done that for the last four years as well, but I’m not bragging about myself. If you go up to the Edinburgh Festival you’ll see comedians who’ve been doing that for the past 10 years. This isn’t a new thing, a comedian writing about their life, or a comedian getting a fair amount of creative control over their show. 

I think the difference is now the cable channels are starting to rival the networks. It used to be that every comedian had a sitcom on network TV, and if you did something on cable it’d get seen by like ten people and it wouldn’t get an Emmy nomination. Now these shows are being ranked against each other and we’re starting to see cable shows as good if not better than the network shows. I think the cable networks for years have been giving people a lot more creative control.

On whether he gets different reactions for his atheist comedy in the UK and the States

It actually gets a bigger response in America than it does in the UK. In my experience most people in the UK are atheists, so it’s more preaching to the choir in the UK. But when you do it over here in America, it’s people who grew up probably very religious, but now have rejected it. So they get a little bit more excited about the whole idea of atheism. So if you go “There’s no god.” they all whoop and holler like no one has said that before and I’m just trying to get a joke up and running.

On the Daniel Tosh rape joke controversy and whether any subject should be off-limits

Standup is a mathematical equation. The more offensive a joke is, the funnier it’s going to be. Far too often you see these young comics getting on stage and they’re saying these horrible things about paedophilia and rape, and they just don’t have the charm or the material to get away with it. Now, the next problem is when you get too famous like Daniel Tosh on TV, then you become a target as well. I think you should be able to joke about anything, along as it’s super funny. If you’re going to make a joke about something like that, you better make it good. 

For me personally there’s not really a topic I’ve stayed away from, I’ve never been someone who’s considered to be a racist comedian, but if I could find a joke that I thought was good enough, that I could get away with something I might say it. That doesn’t mean that’s my intent as a human being, I don’t think that because Daniel Tosh made a joke about rape makes him a rapist either.

On his comedic influences

When I was little kid it was Eddie Murphy, then it was Richard Pryor. But then as I got into comedy it became George Carlin, for me George Carlin was the best comedian that ever lived. But then with modern day comedians, I’m a big fan of Andrew Maxwell in the UK, and I’m a big fan of Brian Regan in America. Brian Regan is comedian that doesn’t even swear. So they don’t all have to do what I do. I think they’re the two best comics in the world right now. Bill Burr is a very good comic as well.

Jim Jefferies is performing at the O2 Apollo in Manchester on August 2nd. Tickets are available online at 

Alternatively you can call the Box Office on 0161 273 6921

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