Sharing a moment with a comedian is hard to do. Sharing that moment is particularly harder to do when you’re only allotted a brief amount of time. There’s such a small and precise window, it’s all about getting in and out with the good stuff. That being said, if there was ever a comedian that you’d want to share that moment with, it’s Jim Jefferies.
Jim Jefferies is one of those comedians who is known for his viewpoints. His view and take on the world is what has audiences coming out to see him in droves. Yes, his most popular routine involves a piece on gun-control. That is what made him a viral sensation on the internet. However, what allows Jim Jefferies to maintain longevity beyond just a 13 minute bit is that he is so much more than just the gun-control guy. Even 7 specials and a popular television show in, there’s still so many layers we’ve yet to unravel.
What his specials do so beautifully is they paint a picture of who he is. It’s all there without a hint of misrepresentation. If you were to walk up to him on the street, something tells me it would be exactly the encounter that you would hope to have with Jim Jefferies. Because no matter how his response is, be it good or bad, it will suffice because it is the unpredictable tendencies that, just like in his stand-up, make him unique.
We recently spoke to Jim over the phone about his stand-up special This is Me Now, which is currently streaming on Netflix, how Trump jokes go overseas, and what exactly hosting a talk show is like for him. We also delved into discussion on his diagnosis of being Autistic, which he talked about in his last special, Freedumb, that is one of the most honest and frank discussions I have ever been apart of on the subject.
I love that you spend the first 15 minutes of your special, which was shot in London, talking about American politics. How have you found the reaction to the subject of America’s current political state go over overseas?
Well you can tell from the reaction of the audience, can’t you? Donald Trump’s the leader of the free world. He’s not just the leader of America. Everybody knows he’s the most powerful person in the world. And so it’s almost easier to talk about politics over there, because for the most part, they almost always seem to be on the same page. Where people in America have different views, with Britain if you saw the protesters recently, they’re very well aware of the opinions of the administration.
And then when you come back to the states to tour, how is that? Is there any tenseness or backlash when you talk politics?
Well I personally don’t think my political views are that f*cking way out or polarizing or anything like that. I like to think that the people who don’t agree with me, for the most part, can sit there and still enjoy the jokes for what they are. Clearly there are people who get f*cking super angry. But I feel like if I were to watch some right-wing comedian do jokes, I’d like to think that I could probably understand where he’s coming from. And also I think that people think… In the special, when you say American politics, I’m not just talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about social issues that are going on like immigration. I don’t know if my gun control routine is a political routine. I just feel that these are things that are happening in the world around us, ya know what I mean? I don’t see it as left or right. I just see it’s my opinion, you might have a different one, I could like different opinions. It doesn’t bother me. And it’s only about 15 minutes of the recording. When people comment on things, they’re like “All he did was talk about Donald Trump,” or “All he did is talk about America. Well he’s not f*cking from here, so he should go home if he doesn’t f*cking like it.” And it’s like “Dude, it was 15 f*cking minutes. Get a grip. There’s 45 minutes. There’s a big piece on docking, there’s a large piece about my son vomiting and sh*tting, there’s stuff about little toilets in there, there was a story that Mariah Carey was having a party. So it’s like I don’t understand why… I feel like every comic should be doing a quarter of their routine on what their political beliefs are.
Because it’s almost like if you’re not talking about that aspect of your views, then you’re perhaps not giving the audience the entire picture.
Yeah, well you shouldn’t edit yourself. If that’s what your beliefs are, that’s what your beliefs are. Also the stuff with, I’m an atheist, and I always talk about being an atheist, I expect someone who believes in God to probably joke about them believing in God. I don’t know why you have to be the type of comic where you’re just doing one-liners and nobody knows anything about you at the end of the show. At the end of the show, they don’t know anything. They don’t know if you’ve got a girlfriend, they don’t know who you like or how you think or what hobbies you have.
Oh exactly. And as someone who is known for being a comedic storyteller more than a jokey comic, how long did it take you to stumble upon that voice? Did you start out when you were onstage as more of a joke comic?
I started telling the stories… I used to be a joke guy when I’d do the open mics. You can’t start off doing the stories because you’re only getting 4-5 minutes onstage. You can’t get up there and tell two stories or even one story in that amount of time, ya know? Some of my stories are almost 30 minutes long. The way I got into storytelling was I got into the Edinburgh festival. And in the Edinburgh festival, you have to do an hour show. And I had to do that every year. So every year you’d have to have a new hour. And so I remember thinking “Oh f*ck me. I’ve got to stretch this out.” And so the stories actually came because I was trying to pad out my show and fill time. And so I thought “I’ll tell these stories.” I’m one of the people who got really good at side tangents and little jokes throughout and little references to other stories and stuff like that. Now it doesn’t matter because I’m onstage and I’ve been doing it for so long and I can talk for an hour and a half no problem. Even if I didn’t have material I could do that. I’m comfortable enough to be able to do that. The story thing came about because I needed to make my shows long. Just through panic and having to fill time.
I love that the thing you are most renowned for, storytelling, came out of panic. You are someone who is always so honest and personal onstage, do you see yourself onstage evolving as you evolve in your personal life?
Yeah, of course it is. I think it would be sad if it didn’t. I couldn’t think of anything worse than if I just stay talking about one-night stands and taking coke and f*cking acting like a maniac like I used to. And then I start doing it in my 50’s, all of a sudden it looks very depressing. I’d like to one day be doing stand-up comedy about what it means to be a grandparent and how that f*cking plays out in your life. Or f*cking how to get over your second divorce or maybe how blissful it is to be in a good marriage. Who knows? But I definitely don’t want to be talking about the same sh*t I did when I was in my 20’s or early 30’s. It’d be f*cking really sad. There were a lot of comics, I’m not going to name people, who were very big with college students and all that stuff, and then they didn’t evolve and their fan base didn’t grow with them and they got dropped off and they can’t figure out how they used to be this massive comedian and now it’s like “Why don’t people like me?” Because you didn’t move with them. And so all the time you’ll lose fans, you’ll lose people who go “I liked you more back when you were talking about hookers and drugs or whatever.” I can see easily from the people in the audience that I’m getting different types of fans. I’m getting different types of people to come out to see me, it’s good. It’s good for me, it’s good for them, it’s evolution.
And you can’t please everyone. You’ve just got to keep being who you are.
And also, even with outfits. You look at some comics who are trying to dress the same way they were when they were young. That’s why I sort of ditched the leather jacket on this special. It was gonna start looking real sad real soon if I kept on doing the leather jacket thing.
Jumping around, I want to talk about the show a bit. The Jim Jefferies Show. You seem like the perfect type of person to host a show, and yet was this always something you had aspired to do?
Not at all. I never thought of hosting a TV show to be honest with you. I’m really dyslexic and I was always terrified of the teleprompter. And so it was a job that I never wanted to have. But then as time went on and Comedy Central sort of offered for me to have a TV show something like this, I started thinking “Well, what I’ll do is I’ll just memorize the scripts before I go out there, because I’ve got a good memory. And then I’ll just read it like a monologue that I memorized and I’ll fool you.” But now my reading’s improved. (Laughs). With doing the show over and over again, I’m getting more and more comfortable with every episode. It’s a job that I never thought I could have. Now I’m doing it once a week. I’m doing a news late night show, and now I’m thinking like “I think I would like to take over for Fallon or Kimmel or something one day maybe.” Who knows? I don’t think that would happen, but I know now I could do it. I’m very confident that I could do it.
And speaking of being personal and reflecting where you’re at in life, as we just were, in your last special Freedumb you did your bit about vaccinations and talked about having been diagnosed as being Autism spectrum. I was wondering if you could talk a bit about that?
Well, I don’t believe I am. The doctor said that, but I don’t particularly believe that. Of course there are Autistic people, of course it’s very clear that some people have Autism. But I believe when they say the spectrum and everyone’s slightly on the spectrum or whatever… I think they did an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm about this… I think maybe people are diagnosing personality traits as conditions. So I’m not very good at making eye contact with people and I fade out very quickly, but maybe I’m just an asshole. (Laughs).
(Laughs) Exactly. I myself was diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was 7 years old, and years ago, they wouldn’t label someone as having Asperger’s as it wasn’t talked about then. You were just an asshole or a weird guy.
Do you consider yourself to be a weird guy or do you consider yourself to have Asperger’s or do you think about it on a day-to-day basis?
I probably only think about myself as having it because they told me when I was 7 years old. So it was pretty much ingrained in me at that point due to my age.
When I have conversations with people at parties, I’m always like “Don’t talk about yourself too much. Make sure you ask them how they are.” I give myself these little notes in my head. “Make sure you say ‘Thank you.’ When someone asks you how you are, just say ‘Good.’ Don’t go ‘Well I had trouble the other day.’ Because that’s what I do. You go “Hey Jim, how are you?” And I go “Well, I’ve got a sore back actually.” People don’t want to hear that sh*t. And I’ve got to fight that constantly from me doing it. So, you know…
Yeah. (Brief Pause) And it’s interesting…
We just had a double-Asperger’s thing there where it was too quiet. We both freaked out a little. (Laughs).
Yeah, quiet scares me. But that’s very interesting, and like everything else you talk about, it’s refreshing to hear you so open about it. The last thing I wanted to ask you, and this is something I ask of everyone and I’m always curious to hear the response, is what do you want your legacy to be?
Um… what would I say that I want my legacy to be? I don’t know if I need one, really. (Laughs). When you say legacy, I would just like to be remembered as a good stand-up comic. That’s all I’d like to be remembered as is as a really good stand-up comic. I’d like to be remembered as a pretty good person in my private life. I don’t need the public to think that. All I really want in the world is for my son to remember me. That’s the only person I want to have. That’s the only tangible legacy I want. The rest of it is all bullsh*t, isn’t it? What do they say in Cool Runnings? “If you’re not enough without it, you won’t be enough with it.” It’s very rare that I quote a John Candy movie as an inspirational quote, but it’s true.
The Jim Jefferies Show airs Tuesdays on Comedy Central and his new special This is Me Now is available currently on Netflix.