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Interview: Jim Jefferies

Like many ex-pat entertainers, comedian Jim Jefferies is finally being embraced at home after finding his voice and major success overseas. As divisive as he is hilarious, he epitomises the maxim that ‘a joke is only ever offensive if it isn’t funny’, and continues to push buttons on topics ranging from religion to gun control.

First rising to prominence on the festival circuit, Jim parlayed his success into a series of successful US television specials, culminating in the two series run of his sitcom Legit on the FX/FXX network. Famous for so much more than being punched in the face whilst onstage, Jim has come a long way from his days of boozy ranting and now stands tall as a master of storytelling and timing, with a slurred swagger and charisma that is still uniquely Australian.

Back in the country this week to perform a series of sold out shows, Collide caught up with Jim to talk death threats, zombies, pinball and masturbation.

Like many of the best comedians you have a real knack for storytelling. Was this something that you had to develop consciously or was it something that came about organically across the table on boozey nights with friends?

I always wanted to be a story telling comic. The reason there aren’t many story telling comedians is because the only way to do it is to become famous enough for people to want to watch you for over an hour. When you’re in the clubs and doing 15 minute spots there’s no time for long-winded stories with no punchline at the end. So how it happened was, when I started doing the Edinburgh festival I was thinking ‘I’ve got to fill a lot of time here, so I’ll put this story in that I tell my mates at the bar, or that happened in my childhood and that’ll pad the show out'. They turned out to be the best bits of the show, so then I stopped writing the shorter snappier jokes and it became even funnier to do the long winded stuff.

I love the material you’ve been doing on gun control but I imagine that it must’ve been a hard sell in the U.S. Were you genuinely worried about it ending as depicted in Legit?

I’m still worried about it (laughs). I get death threats every day! It’s gone down from 5 or 6 a day to maybe 1 or 2, but I don’t take them too seriously. The good people outweigh the bad and I’m actually amazed by the amount of support I’ve gotten from people who like guns. They tell me ‘I enjoy the jokes, they’re really funny but... y’know, I’m still gonna keep my gun!’ (laughs).

So 80% of the people who have guns haven’t taken it too much to heart. People for the most part around the world understand that we’re not going to agree on everything and that’s the whole thing about opinions. If you go and see a comic and you agree with every word they say you’d have to be pretty lucky.

In 2012 your sitcom Legit was picked up by American cable network FX where it ran for two seasons. Are you happy with the way it turned out despite the cancellation? Do you think the story arc was concluded satisfactorily?

Um, no. I don’t think it was. I’d have liked to have had 2 more seasons. To be honest with you, you can’t have a terminally ill character and then wrap it all up without him dying. There should have been a moment where it was touch and go for that character. But in saying that, I think season 2 wrapped up in a nice awkward manner where they started out as the best of friends and by the end they weren’t talking to each other.

I had a whole season three act planned out where they get back together, but you never know, maybe one day I’ll get to play that out. It’s doing well on Netflix. If it keeps on doing well, I might make a movie to tie it all up or I may bring it back on television.

Have you ever thought about pursuing a TV gig in the UK? I can imagine you cooking up something really awesome with chaps like Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong.

Yeah, I had a pilot once in the UK and there was another time when they tried to make me a game show host but I got fired during the actual recording because I’m dyslexic and I couldn’t read the questions (laughs). I had a funny feeling before I went out there that I probably wouldn’t be able to read the questions but I thought ‘Fuck it, you’ve gotta give it a go!'. But I couldn’t do it. That’s the same reason I can’t do presenting jobs, 'cos I don’t want to read an autocue or anything like that. I wouldn’t mind doing a talk show in the UK - I think I’d be very good at a talk show but getting those opportunities is hard.

Your life has recently taken a turn for the domesticated with the birth of your son Hank. How’s the whole moderation thing working out for you these days? Do you ever miss the early days of doing acres of bad coke and talking shit with Steve Hughes all night?

Yeah I do miss it because at times the mayhem was very creative. But the reality of it is that I look back on those days with rose tinted glasses, thinking I was having fun. I was having sex with a lot of women, I was getting wrecked all the time - but the reality was that I was depressed and seeing therapists all the time. Most of it was just me laying in a sweaty mess masturbating. (laughs). I look back on it differently but that’s the reality.

I read somewhere recently that you were partying with Axl Rose? That must be a decent story. Is he properly mental? Is he one of those guys that gets coked up and makes you sit and listen to his 55 new demo tracks whilst giving a running commentary?

Well, when I say I was partying with Axl Rose, the truth is I was at a party that Axl Rose was also at. I spoke to him for about 5 minutes and was on mushrooms, so I don’t know if you’d classify that as ‘partying with’ - but I was in his hotel room! I was there but I was a bit of a disgrace to be honest with you. I should have gone home a lot earlier (laughs).

So you’ve got a new movie coming out, Me and my Mates vs. the Zombie Apocalypse. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I dunno. We filmed that over a year ago. I don’t know what’s happening with that film. It was me, Alex Williamson and Greg Fleet. I’d just finished filming Legit and wanted to have a break, so I thought ‘I’ll come back to Australia and see the family for a bit’. I was only on set for like 8 days. I haven’t even seen it yet. I don’t even know if it’s coming out. It was a pretty fucking low budget zombie film! It might be the funniest thing on earth and it might be crap, you just don’t know.

So I heard you’re a big pinball enthusiast and being one myself I have to ask you what your favourite table is, and what the appeal is for you? What drew you to the pinnies in the first place?

Well I played a lot of pinball as a kid and I always wanted to own a machine. My favourite machine I own is Spiderman, that’s the one I play the most. I’ve got a Wizard of Oz machine, a World Cup 94 and an AC/DC machine, but did you know they are bringing back Medieval Madness? That’s one of the best machines.

Trolls! I am Francois Du Grimm!

YEAH! They’re remaking that machine 'cos those machines go for about 15 grand nowadays, so they’re bringing out a brand new batch and I’m gonna buy one of them.

Looking forward to the shows this week, what can we expect? Are you going to be doing much of the Australia-centric stuff on this lap? I really liked the Tina Arena stuff you threw in last year.

The stuff about the ticket prices? Oh man, I can’t even remember (laughs).

I wish I could do the Easter showbag stuff again, but I did that on the last tour. I’m going to do it in Darwin and Alice Springs and Cairns cos I didn’t gig there last year. I’ve been looking forward to performing those jokes again but haven’t had the opportunity 'cos I’ve been playing in the same cities. Apart from that I’ll be talking about little bits and pieces about Australia that have grabbed my attention. Tina Arena, Berocca, showbags - I’ll be doing all that tomorrow in Darwin. They’ll probably get a two hour show because they’ve never seen me before, so I’ll just do every bit I’ve ever wanted to do.

Finally, can you call my mate Jeff a cunt?

Sure - Jeff. you’re a cunt.

Jim Jefferies Australian Tour Dates 2015

Wednesday, April 15th

Enmore Theatre, Sydney

Tickets: SOLD OUT

Thursday, April 16th

Enmore Theatre, Sydney

Tickets: SOLD OUT

Friday, April 17th

Enmore Theatre, Sydney

Tickets: SOLD OUT

Saturday, April 18th

Enmore Theatre, Sydney

Tickets: SOLD OUT

Sunday, April 19th

Enmore Theatre, Sydney

Tickets: SOLD OUT

Monday, April 20th

Cairns Civic Theatre, Cairns

Tickets: SOLD OUT

Tuesday, April 21st

Cairns Civic Theatre, Cairns

Tickets: SOLD OUT

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