Read any story about Jimmy Carr and, along with the words ‘shocking’ and ‘offensive’, you will inevitably find the phrase ‘hardest working comedian’.
These are the qualities people always seem to concentrate on with Jimmy. Yet, he is so much more than a shock-inducing joke machine.
Jimmy’s hard work is very much motivated by a desire to make a genuine connection with the people he entertains. “A good comic gets laughs; a great comic is loved. If you look at someone like Billy Connolly, he is loved. And he’s earned that over many years of being brilliantly funny. I’m trying to get better, I’m working hard. And the biggest thing, I think, is just to be yourself.”
The struggle to ‘be yourself’ is a uniquely human endeavour and one that is magnified when you live much of your life on stage. “It’s a big part of the journey as a comedian. When you first start, you’re quite nervous on stage and a bit uptight. And then you try and be a bit looser and be funny in the moment.
“And then the shows change as well. When I started doing comedy, 100 per cent of what I did was planned before I got up there. Now, I make sure I’ve got a good show with lots of jokes, but also have room to mess around with the audience and be more relaxed on stage.”
Jimmy doesn’t just welcome audience interaction during his shows. He loves meeting and talking to people outside of the theatre as well.
This was something he particularly enjoyed on his last tour of Australia and something he’s looking forward to when he returns next year with his new show, ‘Funny Business'. “The great thing about being a stand-up is you only work two hours a day.
“It’s not like having a proper job where, if you go on a business trip, you can’t do anything. I could mince around during the day, go hug a koala if I wanted. Mainly what I did though was hang around chatting to people.”
Jimmy has found the UK and Australia to be united when it comes to comedy. “With Australia and Britain, we pride ourselves on our sense of humour. The worst thing you can say about someone is ‘he can’t take a joke'.
"We also share a darker sense of humour than most. We laugh at the bad things in life. But that’s how you get through. There’s no use laughing about perfect days, there’s no joke there.”
Jimmy thanks the internet for his popularity in Australia. “My stuff isn’t that available. I’m on 'QI' a lot and that’s on mainstream television, but for the most part Australians have had to find me on YouTube. They’ve had to seek me out.”
Owing much of his Australian fan-base to YouTube, Jimmy was more than happy to respond to an accusation that regularly pops up in YouTube comments: that his comebacks are too quick to be real and he must have planted hecklers.“ I do 350 shows on a tour. Can you imagine why I would bother taking someone with me on that many dates just for one line in a show?
“As a comedian, you’re so used to being heckled you become unnaturally quick and people do often think it’s unreal. But you’re just so used to being in that situation. If someone shouts ‘fuck off’ at me, I know exactly what I’m going to say because, guess what, it’s happened before.”
If you’re still in doubt as to the veracity of Jimmy’s quick-wittedness, consider this: he beat 16 other world-renowned comedians at this year’s Roastmasters International at the Montreal Comedy Festival. Night after night, over the course of the festival, comics went head-to-head, drilling each-other with put-downs and comebacks that had to be relevant to what was happening in the moment to work.
“It was like a really terrible version of '8 Mile'. But it was a lot of fun. Just comedians messing around, using those finely-honed heckle put-down skills for good.”
Jimmy features heavily on the internet in more ways than one. His one-liners can be found in hundreds of memes and he is no stranger to going viral. Which is fitting, really, because Jimmy is quite the fan of Richard Dawkins, the originator of the term ‘meme’. Having read widely on the subject of religion and atheism, Jimmy now counts himself, like Dawkins, as a ‘fundamentalist atheist’.
“I don’t think it helps to have an imaginary friend in the sky. I’m not pushing that view on anyone else but I’m also not respectful of other people’s fairy stories. If someone says they’re Christian, I view it in the same way as if someone says they’re into horoscopes or Lord of the Rings”.
Jimmy acknowledges you can’t prove the non-existence of something and, therefore, atheists’ categorical belief in the non-existence of God is also, in a way, a leap of faith. But he sees it as a reasonable leap to make.
“You could argue that science is a belief system. Not many of us in society know how nuclear fission works; we wouldn’t be able to build an iPhone, but we have faith that the technology is real. There’s a quote from Arthur C. Clark that goes: ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ So there’s definitely a certain amount of faith involved and, while that’s somewhat analogous to religion, it’s a far more reliable leap than the one to God and the afterlife and rewards for being good and fairies and angels and all that sort of stuff.”
There’s a movement among atheists who started life as Catholics to have themselves officially excommunicated from the church. Support groups online offer advice and step-by-step guides. Videos on YouTube give reasons why the move should be made. To Jimmy, who was raised Catholic, the idea is entirely nonsensical. “That seems the most ludicrous thing: getting permission from the magic fairy not to believe in a magic fairy anymore. There’s no need for that. But it’s a lovely waste of time.”
While many may disagree with him, Jimmy sees the transition away from religion as a beautiful thing. “It’s interesting, every song used to be about God, every painting about religion. And now, love has replaced God in our society. So much of the art and music that’s made nowadays is, ultimately, about love.”
And this observation is so indicative of Jimmy’s character. He is a lovely paradox, delving to darker depths of twisted humour than you thought possible while simultaneously capable of making the sweetest observations.
“You know what, I’m a super-sweet guy when I’m not telling ridiculously offensive jokes.”
JIMMY CARR 'FUNNY BUSINESS' TOUR DATESThurs 14 Jan - City Hall (Brisbane)Sun 17 Jan - Canberra Theatre (Canberra)Mon 18 Jan - State Theatre (Sydney)Sun 24 Jan - Civic Theatre (Newcastle)Mon 25 Jan - Hamer Hall (Melbourne)Fri 29 Jan - Costa Hall (Geelong)Sat 30 Jan - Thebarton Theatre (Adelaide)Wed 3 Feb - Riverside Theatre (Perth)