Note: the youtube links contain ‘adult concepts’.
I’d noticed some of my comedy buddies posting clips of Jim Jefferies to each other and on their Facebooks, and was intrigued to discover the latest shouty, sweary Aussie comic winning audiences around the world. A funny guy who pulls no punches and ‘tells it like it is’. I find him hilarious, but feel free to judge for yourself, in this clip from a show called Down and Dirty:
There are other great clips. Like his episode of Comedy Blue (unfortunately I can’t embed that one – you need to click the link). I love the fact that there are now shows dedicated to showing edgier comedy and announces the fact up front. None of the confusion or stupidity that I've seen take place at Billy Connolly shows, for example. Just after his television gig as Billy MacGregor, in the final season of Head of the Class and then Billy, it was not uncommon to see little old ladies cringing after every utterance of the f-word, and getting up to leave in a huff after the c-bomb had been dropped. The same thing happens at Steven Berkoff’s solo performances.
But back to Jim Jefferies: there’s a great clip from the Manchester Comedy Store, at which a stage invader punches Jefferies in the face. What’s great is Jim’s – and the crowd’s – reaction.
Of course, all of this takes me by surprise. I interviewed a young up-and-comer in 2001 called Jim Jefferies. Then, he was fresh out of performing arts school, and only just decided on stand-up comedy over opera and musicals. Back then he was more intent on making audiences laugh by making them think he was gonna go dark on them. Now he does it by going dark. I like him much better now, after seven years of development, having long since found his voice and mastered the art. I hope I get to chat to him on his next trip to Australia. For now, here’s a really old interview that ran in Revolver in February 2001. Almost none of it is still relevant. It's only use is to see how far a dedicated comic can develop over time – from good, to brilliant.
“The biggest celebrities in Perth are newsreaders,” reports comedian Jim Jefferies, recently returned to Sydney from Western Australia. “I was becoming a celebrity in Perth; that’s how sad the town is.”
Despite his youth and, if time on stage were an accurate measure, lack of experience, Jefferies has progressed quite a distance in what appears to be no time at all. A mere couple of years ago he was heading off to the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) on a scholarship, studying musical theatre and majoring in opera. He has sung with both the Western Australian Opera and the Australian Opera. However, Jim’s real education took place in Perth’s comedy rooms, where he graduated as a stand-up, Magna Cum Laude.
Like many young comedy enthusiasts, Jim’s first calling was as class clown and so friends were always trying to talk him into giving stand-up comedy a go. Eventually he did – at the Comedy Store one night, when he was 17. Jefferies rarely mentions this incident nowadays, with good reason: he’d cobbled his material together a couple of days before going on and only two of the jokes worked. “I died completely,” he says. “I vowed never to do it again.” I assume he means he vowed never again to ‘die completely’, because Jefferies actually made a concerted effort from then to write material, despite having no immediate plans to perform. And then, about eighteen months ago, finding himself at one of Perth’s three comedy venues, Jim decided to enter the open mic competition – which he won.
“I was trying to impress a girl on our first date,” Jefferies explains. “It was really cool. I kicked arse because I’d been thinking about it for so long.” It is worth noting that although Jeffries won the competition, he lost the girl: “She didn’t want to see me again because she thought I was arrogant.” Welcome to comedy, Jim, glad you could make it. The consolation was a headline gig the very next week, courtesy of Jim’s talent and Western Australia’s lack of comedy practitioners. “I got thrown in the deep end, which is good, because I wrote about two hours worth of material in the space of six months.” Jim found the money of a couple of gigs per week to be the perfect supplement to his Austudy allowance. “I never thought I could earn money out of it,” he admits, “and then I was making a great living.”
Early on, Jefferies discovered a good method for developing comedy – begin with a topic that people have strong feelings about, fool them into preparing to be offended and then make them cack by catching them off guard. “I did a lot of stuff on religion when I first started,” the comic recounts, “making sure that people’s initial reaction would be ‘uh-oh, he’s talking about religion’, but then do it from an angle where even the Pope could in no way be offended by what I’m saying.” An example is his Jesus routine. Jim explains the many years of carpentry that preceded Christ’s three years of preaching as a result of Joseph sitting Jesus down and saying, “me and your mother, Mary, are really pleased that you’re the Messiah, but before you start doing all the miracles and stuff, we think you ought to get a trade so that you have something to fall back on.”
In addition to his WAAPA degree in Perth, Jefferies completed a film – Chase for Skase. Jim appears as a pale Spanish bodyguard who speaks English with a Spanish accent, opposite Craig McLachlan. However, neither the degree nor the film led to his departure from the parochial village that was Perth. Rather, it was the fact that his career had progressed as far as it could in that city, which offers regular stand-up work but little opportunity for lucrative corporate gigs or the ability to progress beyond headlining. “I was one of the better comics there, but I’d gotten to the point where I was no longer improving, “ Jefferies explains. “I’m thriving now because I’m working with big names and other great young guys. In the eight or nine gigs I’ve done in Sydney, I’ve gotten better.”
Finding himself in one of Sydney’s numerous comedy venues, Jim was trying to impress a girl on their first date – by taking her to his first gig in this town. The MC, Bobby C – who had seen Jim’s act and knew him well – commented from the stage: “Did you see the woman Jim walked in with? Do you think he’ll get lucky tonight?” The woman in question replied from the audience, predicting – quite accurately as it turned out – that Jefferies would not. Welcome to Sydney, Jim, glad you could make it.
Ever the philosopher, Jim admits that he “knew at an early age” his “avenue of getting women” was by being funny. “Some guys have a car, some guys have the money,” he observes. “I’ll never beat the good looking guy, but I’ll pick up the scraps after he dumps her by making her laugh.”