LIST.CO.UK/FESTIVAL JIM JEFFERIES FESTIVAL COMEDY
The hellraising days of Jim Jefferies may be nearly over, but Claire Sawers still detects a dirty edge to the Aussie comedian. What happens when he gets Skyped up with his toughest critic?
J im Jefferies used to do a joke about getting a lift from a ‘tiny, hot, young girl’. He couldn’t believe his luck when she offered him a ride back into Los Angeles after they’d just spent the day working on a i lm-set. Before driving off in her sports car, she called her mum, announcing there was a stranger in the passenger seat, but hoped to be home in an hour. It was just a little something she preferred to do, shrugged the girl, when giving lifts to strangers. ‘Sure, sure,’ Jefferies nodded. ‘But you’ve just made this rape really awkward.’
It was one of the funnier gags Jefferies told during his set at the 2008 Fringe. Delivered perfectly, the crowd howled and shed tears in appreciation. The rest of his show had the Australian homing in like a beer-soaked missile on any taboo he could: cancer, midgets, self-harm, religious idiots, fat idiots, lesbian idiots, prostitute idiots. Well, you get the picture. It became harder and harder to laugh along.
Not that boundary-bulldozing comedy shouldn’t be something to get excited about, as others have proven down the years. But Jefferies was lacking something. There was none of Richard Pryor’s vulnerability, or Doug Stanhope’s liberal political visions, or Bill Hicks’ bullshit- intolerance underpinning the no-holds- barred stuff. Instead it was just lad-gags with not much charm or intelligence, that I could see. And there was something desperate about his cranking up the shocks, like a stag-night hell-bent on behaving badly. And when he turned his bile on those who walked out, he seemed grumpy, as well as drunk. I gave it a one-star review.
Jefferies is lying l at on his back in bed, barely raising his head off his chest as he logs in for our Skype chat. The curtains are still closed, blocking out the bright LA sun over the Hollywood Hills, where he lives with his girlfriend. After our introduction, he gets up for a cigarette, leaving the webcam to linger over his boxer-shorted crotch as he rummages on the table for a lighter. When he’s i nished smoking, he sprawls lengthways on the bed again, shovelling a smoked salmon omelette into his mouth as he chats.
The review was four years ago, but Jefferies remembers it clearly. ‘I’m not bothered if you didn’t like it,’ he insists. ‘That show sold 18,000 tickets. I just can’t be a one-star act. I can’t sell that many tickets if I’m shit. My second show got 11 four-star reviews,’ he throws in, as if to prove just how much he doesn’t care. ‘Are you gonna say I’m an arsehole in this article?’ No one said he was an arsehole. But he is, without question, a crowd divider. To some he’s a brave stand-up who simply speaks his mind; to others,
he’s a homophobic, misogynistic bully. So how much of the obnoxious schtick is exaggeration? ‘It’s all exaggerated, but it’s all real too. I believe in all my jokes, just not 24-hours a day. If I say something slightly bigoted, that’s from an emotion that I’ve had for i ve seconds during a i ght. I try to recreate it on stage, and get the same level of anger again.’ He laughs a bit at himself. ‘Christ, no one could function in society if you felt like that all the time.’ And does he care about the people who don’t get it? ‘I don’t need to win back those who walk out. What’s the point? When I was playing clubs in Britain, there were other comedians who got better responses than me, but no one remembered their name. I like that there’s people who have arguments about me with their friends. I was never going to be a comedian that everyone likes. You can’t pussy away from certain
In life, as in his comedy, he’s unapologetic. But he does, after some cajoling, admit that his shows can be hit or miss. ‘When I’m drunk, I’ve done some of the best gigs of my life and I’ve also had some of my biggest disasters.’ He won’t be drinking onstage in Edinburgh this year. After giving up booze completely for eight months, he drinks occasionally now, but considers himself less of a barl y, and more a clean-living, hard-working ofi ce
guy. He’s swapped the four-day benders for 9-to- 5 scriptwriting shifts. And it’s paid off, having just scored his own US sitcom, Legit, which will air on FX, the channel that houses Louis CK and Russell Brand. The pilot episode features Jefferies (essentially playing himself) taking his room-mate, who has muscular dystrophy, to a brothel. His new Edinburgh follow-up show, Fully Functional, 2010’s Alcoholocaust. ‘I’ve got the best handle on drinking that I’ve had in 15 years. I’m a proper human now. I won’t say I don’t have a drinking problem, and maybe now I won’t be able to do those “sublime” shows, where everyone’s drunk. But I also won’t be getting escorted off stage either.’
He’s excited about coming back, and is bringing his girlfriend, who is expecting his child later this year. ‘We both used to be good drinkers, but we’d rather stay home and have a nice meal now.’ She’s heavily pregnant right now, Jefferies points out. ‘But fuck her, I’ll still have her out l yering for me.’ For a second there, it almost seemed like he was going soft. Jim Jefferies: Fully Functional, Assembly Hall, 623 3030, 4–26 Aug (not 13), 9pm, £16– £17.50 (£15–£16). Previews 2 & 3 Aug, £10.
FROM POTTER TO POTTY Jessie Cave brings her ‘strange’ book club show to the Fringe and assures Laura Ennor that she is ﬁ ne. Honestly . . .
Summing up the life stories of put-upon younger siblings everywhere, Jessie Cave says of her upcoming Fringe debut: ‘It’s dei nitely a one-woman show, but my little sister’s in it . . .’ Luckily, 14-year-old Bebe is a willing participant and an emerging actress herself. Nor does the familial involvement stop there: a younger brother is doing the sound and mum has been roped in for her DIY skills.
The show, which Cave promises is
‘prop-heavy’ and ‘slightly strange’, centres on a character called ‘Jessie’ (who, like Cave, played the role of Lavender Brown in the Harry Potter i lms), preparing for her i rst book club with a degree of care that sails past obsession and right into mania. ‘Hopefully you won’t quite know whether it’s about me or not,’ she pauses before admitting that ‘unfortunately, it probably is me!’ Combining storytelling and comedy, she’ll tell how various i ctional characters have shaped her life for better and worse. Cave only experienced the Fringe for
the i rst time as a punter in 2011, but she’s no stranger to the comedy scene with the videos on her website – pindippy. com – featuring the likes of Simon Amstell and Daniel Sloss. Getting such a high- proi le role at the age of 20 was a turning point for her – until then, an art student set on a career in illustration – and with the next acting job not arriving as easily as perhaps expected, she set up her site, a treasure trove of awkward character comedy skits and distinctive illustrations.
While in Edinburgh, she plans to interview fellow comedians ‘in a Pindippy kind of way’, as well as doing something ‘quite loud’ involving a cardboard cut-out beaver on the Royal Mile. ‘I’m trying to just keep it really fun and light but it is a bit . . . weird. I hope people aren’t worried for me!’ ■ Jessie Cave: Bookworm, Underbelly, Cowgate, 0844 545 8252, 4–26 Aug (not 13), 2.30pm, £9–£10 (£8–£9). Previews 2 & 3 Aug, £6.
2–9 Aug 2012 THE LIST 27