Jim Jefferies, host of Comedy Central’s The Jim Jefferies Show, is giving out a dose of his witty no-bull**t candor at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) on Saturday, October 28. The comedian, who you may also know from his specials on HBO and Netflix or FX’s Legit – which he created and starred in, will take the stage at 7 p.m. and again at 9:30 p.m.
We recently caught up with Jefferies to chat about his intense tour schedule and if he’ll ever stop touring, the US’s political landscape, Justin Bieber, and more.
How did you initially get into comedy?
JJ: I was a funny kid at school. That was my angle for making friends, meeting girls. I got a healthy interest watching stand-up – that was the thing that always really turned me on when I watched a late night show. I guess other kids were more interested in music or sports, but I was always into comedy. It was something that I had my eye on doing since I was 13 or 14. I started doing it as a real occupation around 22 or 23. The way you get into it is you just go down to the comedy clubs, do open mic night, do another open mic night, try to get better and then somebody pays you 50 bucks and another person pays you 50 bucks and then you’re getting paid maybe $10,000 a year doing comedy, busting your ass, and you think, “Oh, I’ve really made it.” I remember thinking that. There’s some very lean years in those early years of being a stand-up comic. There isn’t many instant famous people. It’s not like acting where you might get a lucky break and then all of the sudden you’re a millionaire. With comedy, your pay goes up a little bit each year, a little bit each year, a little bit each year, and then you might get a big break then, but you have to get yourself a couple of hours of material behind you before you go to a stage where that break is going to happen.
It seems like now is an incredible time to be a late night show. With so many big news stories occurring on a daily basis, do the jokes almost write themselves?
JJ: I wish. I wish they did. The problem is it used to be on these shows you could talk about small things, like there was a fucking rat in the subway in New York that found a fucking slice of pizza and dragged it down… You know what I mean? They were things that wrote themselves that were sort of easy. Jokes are always in theory until you find a topic that writes itself. Now you’re talking about things like people who are just denying climate change and the Iran deal going away and the Paris Agreement and the things that Trump’s doing and the hurricanes and the rape allegations against Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. I guess you could say the jokes write themselves, but you have to be very careful which ones you put out there because you can land yourself in a bit of hot water if you don’t deal with some of these topics fairly delicately. Even though it looks like on the show I’m not dealing with anything delicately, there is a lot of discussion in the writers’ room like, “Can we say this? Should we say this? Should we not mention this? Is it our duty to voice our opinion on this? Is it too preachy for us to even bring it up?” I think it would probably be more enjoyable to be doing a late night show when things were less controversial.
You’re known for your “no-bull**t candor.” Are there any subjects you won’t tackle?
JJ: Not particularly. My policy is the more offensive the subject, the funnier the joke has to be. You can’t be doing any joke half-assed. For instance, James Corden just got in trouble for doing some Weinstein jokes and the real problem wasn’t that he did Weinstein jokes, it was that the jokes didn’t really land. If the jokes had landed, nobody would really be saying anything. They’d be like, “Oh, those were just jokes and he wasn’t condoning it. It’s his job to do social commentary.” First and foremost, I hope in my delivery and in nuance, if there is something really offensive or when you’re talking about horrendous subjects, you hope that people know that you’re joking. And that’s the real trick of it all. And sometimes not everyone does. They think you’re a horrible, vile person, but you hope that people know you’re joking.
I just watched The Jim Jefferies Show where you addressed how Reno was mad that you joked about the city being bombed by Kim Jong Un in a previous episode. You took the controversy and ended up making fun of yourself, which I think does prove your point.
JJ: Obviously I don’t want Reno to be bombed, but also I’d be fairly surprised if Kim Jong Un watches our show and if he does watch my show, if he uses the coordinates I put on my show rather than fact checking it. I’d find that very surprising.
As an Aussie, what’s your viewpoint on the US’s political landscape?
JJ: See the thing is I grew up in what you would call a conservative Australian family, but a conservative Australian is different than a conservative American. When I talk to my parents, I don’t think they really know that either. My dad thinks Trump’s a good thing because of da da da da and lowering the taxes and all that type of stuff and the financial aspects. The big thing between the Australian politics is that there’s things that every Australian agrees on that America is so divided on that it’s unbelievable. So for the most part, I’d say 90 percent of Australians agree with the gun laws – maybe 95 percent, 100 percent of Australians agree with socialized medicine that everyone should have free medical care. That’s just a fact; that everyone is just into it. Abortion’s a thing over there where certain people care, but for the most part nobody really thinks about it. I’ve never seen a protest march or met a person who had a shameful abortion in Australia. So these topics in America, for some people, are at the core of what they vote for. So that’s a very different landscape to me and I’m not just saying the Trump of it all and the Republicans and Democrats – those issues are the things that makes it substantially different, for me. We have dickhead politicians in Australia that are wanting to kick out Muslims and lock up our borders and all that type of stuff that you have going on over here. The world’s sort of the same in that way. There’s a few hot button subjects, but you have some hot button subjects that wouldn’t even register in Australia.
How does preparing for a tour differ from your Comedy Central show?
JJ: It’s not actually a tour. What happens is I record a comedy special and then when I go back to work, I do new jokes. As soon as I record a comedy special, I never do those jokes again. While I’m doing the show, I try to start writing new jokes for the next one. Then when I do the next lot of material, I name it something else so that people know that I’m doing different jokes. So it’s no tour in the sense that I get on a bus and go town to town, even though I’ve done that, but what I do is four cities a month. I do two cities every second weekend and I do the TV show. I do about four gigs a month. When I’m not doing the TV show, I do about ten gigs a month. When we say, four gigs, it’s like four cities. So that’s sort of my life. People ask me when will the tour end and I go, “When I’m dead.” I hope to die and have to have some people have some canceled shows. That’s how I hope it ends.
You’ve performed across the world. Is there a venue or crowd that stands out?
JJ: There’s a few – not a crowd in particular – but there’s some cities where you go, “Wow that was something special.” Playing Carnegie Hall was something special. Chicago Theatre is a real amazing place to perform. And when you go, the crowds are sort of automatically great because they’re excited because they’re in a special space as well and they bought tickets along time ago. I can tell a little bit of a difference between British crowds and Australian crowds, but for the most part, people are sort of the same wherever you go. I did some shows in Israel and thought I don’t know how the fuck this is going to go and it was exactly the same as performing in America. It didn’t feel different at all.
Will this be your first time performing at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center?
JJ: I really don’t want to be rude here, but I don’t know. [He apologetically answered with a laugh.]
How about have you ever been to the Hamptons before?
JJ: The other day I was performing in Baltimore and I said, “This is really great to be in Baltimore for the first time.” And someone from the audience yelled, “You were here last year.” I travel so much doing these gigs and the problem is you don’t really get out and about. You land there that morning, you get to the hotel, you do the show, you maybe go out to the bar and have a couple of drinks and then you go to bed. I assume probably. It sounds like a place I’ve been to. I remember Justin Bieber had a court deposition about something or other and they asked him about when he was in Australia and he said, “Have I been to Australia?” And the Australian media lost their fucking shit about that. So, I know that one particular city isn’t the same as an entire country – I think I know every country I’ve been to, but please don’t take offense to that. [He concluded, with another chuckle.]
Tickets to Jim Jefferies at WHBPAC are $90.
Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is located at 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach. For more information, call 631-288-1500 or visit whbpac.org.