Jim Jefferies – chowing down on some Nandos – shakes my hand while I try not to be awestruck. In a cowards move I shift attention away by introducing my assistant, Calina Ho. Jim Jefferies has achieved all the things most stand up comedians aim for; recognition, excellent reviews, a reputation and a famous event associated with him (The Manchester incident where he was attacked on stage has made him a Youtube hit). I try not to act too tense so try a joke; successfully assuring my bad first impression.
Luckily Jim is polite and accommodating and the environment relaxes quickly. He’s due to go on stage fairly soon so I get us started.
How would you describe yourself to someone who hadn’t heard of you?
About me as a person? Moody. I’m a moody guy. But as a stand-up I personally prefer myself as a storyteller, but I think most people would say I was a smut-peddler.
How old were you during your first ever show, and how did it go?
I did two performances when I was 17 and then I didn’t do it again until I was 23. The first one went very well. The second show I ever did went so badly I didn’t do it again until I was 23. But the second one was terrible. You know, I was a kid. And I looked like a kid – I didn’t look like a man telling jokes.
When you say it went bad, do you mean heckling, booing or silence?
Someone said ‘Go back to school’, which sounds so innocuous and like such a nothing type of statement but it really cut into me that I wasn’t ready to do it. I know a lot of acts like Daniel Kitson or Ross Noble started when – I think they were 14 or something like that so I know people can start that young but it wasn’t for me though.
Being that which defines us most in out upbringing – who was your favourite superhero?
At this point there was some heavy (albeit fairly one-sided) conversation about super heroes that – while entertaining and informative – was sadly too much to fit into this article. Check out the www.guestlist.net interviews page to watch the video interview.
Apart from the infamous occasion in Manchester, have you had much trouble with audience members?
If there was one joke that was universal for making people want to punch you in the head, then I wouldn’t tell it. But it’s a different joke for each person. That’s why it’s easy to do a joke about AIDS but not easy to do a joke about cancer. Because everybody knows someone who died of cancer.
The only difference between that [the Manchester] night and any other night was that that guy didn’t signpost he was going to hit me. Usually they’ll stand up and shout or something and then you can get ready. But if you just run up and hit you can punch anybody. It’s the whole reason JFK didn’t duck. If he knew what was gonna happen…
How would you say Nationalities differ as audiences?
I think funny’s funny across the world. I personally don’t have to vary my jokes from country to country. Religious material doesn’t go over as well in the UK as it does in America and you’d think it would be the other way round but that’s the reason it doesn’t go over as well. Because religious material done in the UK – most British people will be like, “Yeah we all know there’s no God. We’re up with that. We’re not stupid.” But in America they’ve had god shoved down their throat so much that if they are atheist they’re usually like, “Yeah!”
Britain’s got the shit weather, which is great for stand up comedy, America’s got the population that someone’s going to show up, but in Australia people are like, “No, I’m outside drinking a beer and cooking sausages. Why would I do that?” Comedy in London just dies in the summer. We should just write off July every year. If the Sun’s out you cunts aren’t going in anywhere.
Jim Jefferies is performing in London’s Leicester Square Theatre – you can buy tickets at www.leicestersquaretheatre.com and has a DVD out of Alcoholocaust.