Jim and Eddie TalkS hit

Ben Kochan, a tweep I follow, tweets me to say that Jim Jefferies and Eddie Ifft mentioned me in their podcast, Jim & Eddie TalkS hit. “That would excite me,” he says. “Maybe it excites you”.

Indeed it does. Jim Jefferies and Eddie Ifft are among my favourite comics. I’m hoping they say nice things. Maybe point people to interviews I’ve done with them. Talk up this blog. I’m already imagining my Twitter followers increasing by a good ten percent in a couple of days, like the time Stephen Fry gave me some link love way back when. (I made him LOL. I’m going to keep bragging about it. I don’t care whether you deal with it.)

But it’s better than that.

I go straight to their podcast homepage to access their latest episode, no. 133. It features Nick Thune. I begin listening.

I begin to get worried when they start talking about fat people. Well, not when they start. When they get to the bit about ‘fat people who don’t see themselves as fat’. I’m pretty sure that’s not me, I’m just hoping I don‘t fit into (so to speak) that category without knowing it. I don’t want to be talked about on their podcast in that context. Even though, truth be told, I’m not that way about my weight. I’m aware of it. However, I am that way about my age. I’m an old person with no idea how old I actually am, or appear. There are people younger than me who seem so much older than me. Mostly because they do grown up things like work hard, earn good money, own houses, drive cars, have kids, submit their Business Activity Statements on time, that sort of thing.

But the fat discussion comes and goes…

There are one or two other moments where the podcast goes to places I hope don’t actually involve me.

Towards the end, Nick mentions he’s coming to Australia in August. I’m guessing, in the last 30 seconds, they’re going to suggest he lets me interview him for this blog.

Nope. That doesn’t happen. That’s not it. And the episode’s over.

I go to iTunes to look at other recent episodes. I see Orny Adams was their guest in the previous episode. And I shudder.

See, I interviewed Orny Adams way back in 2006. Back when I was producing a podcast – a groundbreaking podcast called Radio Ha Ha,  dissecting comedy with comedians much as all the great podcasts do now. And not necessarily doing it any better than anyone does it now. But in a time when practically nobody was podcasting, it was important and groundbreaking.

We had an awesome conversation, Orny ’n’ me. It went for ages, we covered so much ground, we got on brilliantly. And then, when it was over, I realised I’d stuffed something up technically, and hadn’t actually secured a recording I could use. That hurt.

Not long after, I interviewed Eddie Ifft for the first time. I was aware of, and overcame, the technical difficulty early in that interiew, cause I was being extra careful so as not to repeat the heartbreak of an excellent conversation resulting in nothing. Once, with Orny, was all the times I ever wanted it to happen in my life.

So seeing that Orny was the guest of Episode 132,  I knew then and there precisely how I was going to feature in Jim & Eddie TalkS hit. Here is an excerpt, and transcript of the relevant part.

 

Jim Jeffries & Eddie Ifft TalkS hit Ep 132- Eskimo - excerp by standanddeliver

 

EDDIE IFFT: I do an interview in Australia, when I was there a long time ago. I’m doing my run through and, you know, you go do your series of interviews before the festival… I’m going to all these interviews. I go to this guy, and he interviews me: Dom Romeo. He’s the nicest guy in the world.

JIM JEFFERIES: That was the first interview I ever had in my whole career.

EDDIE IFFT: He interviews me for like two hours, and he’s such a good guy, and we had had some technical problems that he fixed. And he goes, ‘thanks man; I just interviewed Orny Adams a couple of months ago – I interviewed him for two hours and then found out that the recorder didn’t work.

ORNY ADAMS: Yeah, yeah, so the whole thing sounded like… [makes unintelligible whispering sound] I’m pouring my heart out… Why do you think I’m not trying today? Done!

 

So, if you’re interested, here’s the very first interview Jim Jefferies ever did with anyone.

Here’s the last one I did with him.

Here’s an interview with Eddie Ifft from a couple of years ago (not the Radio Ha Ha one).

There is no interview with Orny Adams for me to direct you to.

Yet.


Jim Jefferies: No Regrets

Jim Jefferies is back at the Comedy Store this week – YAY! But if you’re not familiar with his work, at least read this earlier blog entry about him and watch the clips before proceeding.

 

 

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 “It still bugs me a little bit that I’m not famous in Australia,” Jim confesses. “There’s an argument that I’m probably the biggest Australian comic in the world right now – except for in one country…”

I’m catching up with Jim Jefferies, an expat Aussie who has not only made a name for himself in the UK and Europe, but who, in the last year, has cracked the United States. He has returned to Australia for a season at Sydney’s Comedy Store.

The last time I spoke to him, he was back for the 2009 Melbourne International Comedy Festival; I’d spoken to him a decade earlier, when he was starting out, but by the time he was playing MICF 2009, there was a massive buzz about him among other comics. A buzz not always shared by audiences. For example, the MICF 2009 Gala audience met his set with, as far as this writer’s concerned, a kind of indifference you’d only expect from the truly ignorant.

Sure, he did do his ‘awkward rape’ routine, but that’s funny. Jim wasn’t fazed, of course. He’d just signed a deal with HBO, the terms of which entailed exclusivity. Jim’s set wouldn’t make it to the screen, so neither the rest of Australia nor the rest of the world would get to scratch their heads in bewilderment over a theatre audience’s inability to appreciate the brilliance of Jim Jefferies.

Meanwhile, the audiences going to see his actual Festival show, Hellbound, were hip to who he was and what he did – if not before the season began, then certainly, by word of mouth throughout. (My favourite night was the one with the grannies – not his, mind – right up the front, laughing at everything!)

Since that Festival, the HBO special I Swear To God has been filmed, shown a heap of times and released on DVD in the US. “It first aired a year ago, and then it came out on DVD in October,” Jim says, adding that in between first airing and DVD release, there have been “weird things” – like it  being show on aeroplanes for a while. “HBO have their own channel on all the US airways. The only time I watched it was on a flight, to check to see if they’d censored it in any way. They hadn’t. It was all right. But they put a warning label on it.”

Since its first airing, I Swear To God has been repeated “anywhere between 20 and 50 times”, according to Jim, “usually at some strange hour, like 2am or 4am or midday”. The reason he knows this is because each time, he suddenly receives more attention online. “More people will be writing to you or writing about you on the internet because it’s just aired…”

Don’t worry if you haven’t seen it yet; a UK company has just secured the rights to release it on DVD throughout the rest of the world. So, in all, Jim Jefferies appears to be doing very well indeed. Although, he says, his life hasn’t turned out exactly as he’d anticipated. “I guess I’m famous but it’s happening a lot slower than I expected”. Where he imagined the television offers would be pouring in, instead, he’s got a multitude of fans wanting to see him live. “It sounds like a bit of a guilty trap when I say something like that,” Jefferies acknowledges. “That’s all I ever wanted a few years ago, and now I want to be in television. It’s never good enough!”

Oh, Jim Jefferies certainly has crossed the media divide since hitting the big time. Only, it hasn’t been from stage to telly, so much. “It’s weird now,” he says. “I used to just go to towns and do gigs, but now I’ve got to do a lot more radio, a lot more newspapers and stuff like that.”

It’s probably good that it’s happening slowly; what would Jim do once he got a regular television gig? What would he want next? “It’d be movies. And then I’d want to be president. And then I’d bitch, because they wouldn’t let me, because I’m not an American citizen…” In all, he says, “things are going well. I’m happy with all the work.”

Now if you’ve seen Jim’s material – and do go check the clips that accompanied my last interview with him – you might consider that it’d be a bit ‘too edgy’ and ‘in your face’ for America. “Not at all,” Jim corrects me. “This is the place of Richard Pryor and George Carlin. The edgiest comics in the world came from America: Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks…” All true. But there’s no way Jefferies will be able to take all of that onto television. Sitcoms are going to require Jim Jefferies-lite, surely…

“Yeah, but you can water things down on TV and still be who you are on stage,” Jim points out. “Richard Pryor made a lot of films that I enjoyed as a kid before I even knew he was a stand-up comic. Richard Pryor was in The Toy. You’ve got Eddie Murphey in Daddy Daycare and Dr Dolittle, and he’s Donkey off Shrek. But if he went back to stand-up, he’d still be the same kick-arse stand-up he always was. Being who you are doesn’t have to be so one-dimensional.”

No, of course not. Besides which, I Swear To God is Jim Jefferies being his full-on, stage self, on television. But it’d be foolish to think that’s the only pace, volume and level he can play at. “I always find it funny when I list on my fanpage on Facebook that I’m coming town,” Jim says. “They always go, ‘We’ll have the hookers and drugs ready for you’. I’m like, ‘Ah… I just wanna relax this weekend…’”

So what’s changed now that Jim’s gotten to this current level of success? Has he gotten to meet some of his own big comedy heroes? What do you say to them when you finally meet them? Are they still heroes? “I met Slash at a barbecue the other day,” Jim says. “His kids were there. We talked about pinball for a bit. We both like pinball.”

However, even though you do “just pass people in the street” a lot more in LA, you don’t necessarily get to meet them. When you do, it’s usually because you’re at the same event, or you share the same management. Otherwise, Jim says, he doesn’t meet “the big acts” because even if he’s not quite one of them, he’s big enough now to be gigging as a headline act; the only other comics he regularly meets are his support acts – people on the way up.

The exception to that is a comedy festival gala. “Straight after Australia, I’m doing the Montreal Comedy Festival, and then Edinburgh Festival,” Jim reports. “In Montreal I’ll be doing the gala hosted by Steve Martin or the gala hosted by Cheech & Chong. So I’ll get to meet Cheech & Chong and Steve Martin the week after Sydney. That’s kind of exciting.  But you very rarely talk comedy with anyone – these guys are movie stars; I’m still a comedian. I just get on with what I’m doing.”

Getting on with the job of being a comedian seems incrementally more difficult as you progress further up the food chain – as your success contributes to you becoming more of a ‘celebrity’ . The more successful you are, for example, the more your everyday life differs to that of most other people. There’s less common ground to draw from. But that’s not an issue for Jim Jefferies. Not yet, anyway.

“I have the privilege in the US of being a new face and a foreigner,” Jim explains, “so I get to deliver the ‘foreign’ point of view – as a lot of American comics do when they come over to Australia.” Not that Jim does ‘the difference between Americans and Australians’ material; rather, not having as vested a interest in the country yet, he can talk objectively – “which for my type of comedy, is a lot better” – about American politics and social issues, employing a deceptive ocker naivety that renders his killer punchlines all the more potent, having lulled the locals into a false sense of security. “I’m not big on the ‘Oh, you guys eat a lot of hamburgers, don’t you?’ type of comedy,” Jim adds. “I mean, they do appear to eat a lot of hamburgers, but so do I.”

What has changed for Jim now, since doing the deal with HBO, is people know who he is and so know what to expect. When working the circuit as just another comic, Jim’s candour had the tendency to shock. At festival time, there’d always be advertising pointing out that he is a so-called ‘dirty’ comic, so that an ignorant audience wouldn’t be jarred by an unexpected level of fankness in the comedy. But now, having had his material broadcast extensively and released on DVD, the audience knows who Jim Jeffries is and what he does; they go to his live performances knowing exactly what to expect.

“It gives you so much more freedom than if you have to prove yourself on stage in the first couple of minutes,” Jim says. Because a cold audience have to be on your side before you take them into dangerous territory – otherwise they turn against you and get offended, rather than laughing. “When I play a room where they haven’t seen who I am, sometimes I can’t just be irreverent and a little bit flippant about such harsh subjects,” Jefferies agrees. “I have to get them to like me before I can just say my cancer joke, for instance.” It’s not like that in the United States anymore; before heading to Australia, Jefferies played to a 1200-strong Boston audience – twice in one night – who were chanting Jim’s name as he took the stage. “You just don’t think when you’re starting out that you’ll ever walk out to people just calling your name, all that sort of stuff”.

Indeed. What exactly was Jim expecting when he started out? He never imagined being a star in the United States, that’s for sure. But, he says, his dream “was always to be a full-time comic”. But the problem Jefferies has encountered, having become one, is that “you just never seem to be happy. I’ve reached every goal I ever wanted to in comedy, and some goals I never even thought I’d reach, but now I’m thinking, ‘Ah, f*ck! I’m not rich yet’. I’ve got to have more money.’ It never ends. You’re always looking over the horizon.”

Don’t think that Jim Jefferies has totally lost touch with reality. Some things do keep him grounded. “I need to smell the roses a bit,” he acknowledges. “Sometimes I just sit here and think, ‘F*ck, how did I get here?’ When they’re sneaking me into a place through a back door ’cos there’s queue of people out the front, I think, ‘That never happened before!’ You’ve gotta be thankful for things like that – of course you do. It’s thousands of comics’ dreams to have something like this happen to them. I never thought – especially with my type of comedy – that I would be embraced on such a large level.”

This makes me laugh – given the first time I met Jim Jefferies, he’d graduated as an opera singer from Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts left Perth for Sydney because he’d gotten as far as he could on the Perth circuit – the only people more famous than him in Perth were news readers.

“There’s no use being a big fish in a small pond,” Jim says.” I will give myself this amount of credit: I know a number of comics who over the years have bitched about me or said that the only reason I’ve done something is because I got punched on the internet or because I moved over to England or whatever. But I did all those things…” A lot of comics prefer to bitch about the lack of opportunity rather than seeking those opportunities out, Jim says. A prime example might be a gig in Sacramento, six hours out of Los Angeles.

“When I’m up there, they’ll give me some comics to support me who are local guys, and they’ll be talking about how they haven’t had a break yet. And I’m like, ‘Well, you’re only a six-hour drive from Los Angeles…’ I had to get a plane and move from Perth to Sydney, from Sydney to London, from London to LA to keep seeing how far I could push this thing. And if at any time I just kind of stayed stagnant in a town, it would never have happened.”

There is, of course, a price to be paid, Jim acknowledges. “I’ve never been married or had kids or anything like that because I’ve never had a relationship that’s lasted long enough through all this travelling to contemplate something like that. I know a lot of people who get tied down with things like family, or they don’t want to leave their day job before a certain time. But you never know in this life unless you give it a go. I can say for sure, at the end of this career, I won’t have any of those, ‘If only I’d done this…’ regrets. That’s something to be happy with.”

The regret, if there is one, is that age-old issue that all stars who push themselves to find the opportunities, ultimately face: international success often means homeland indifference. Jim Jefferies is massive around the world, and relatively unknown in Australia. It is, as ‘American’ Australian comic Tommy Dean once pointed out, a characteristic that comedians share with prophets: they’re never embraced in their homeland, but need to preach in foreign lands to gain acceptance.

“I appreciate that completely,” Jim says. “I understand that. I live with Eddie Ifft in LA in a house on the beach. He talks about how he’s struggling to get work in the United States, and I talk about how I’m struggling to get work in Australia. And we have a laugh about it on our couch, watching the TV.”


Do you, Jimmy!

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.

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Jim Jefferies

“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.”