Natalie Carroll talks to the comedy legend that is Jimmy Carr about his tour, political correctness and his lack of a moral compass
Jimmy Carr is one of Britain’s most original and distinctive comedians on television, radio, stage and the big screen. His successes include a British Comedy Award for ‘Best Stand Up Tour’, A LAFTA award for ‘Funniest Man’ and a Rose D’Or Nomination for ‘Best Game Show’. He has recently embarked on a mammoth 10-month tour, arriving in York on 8 April.
When asked what his audience should expect, he laughs. “It’s not for the easily f**king offended,” he explains. “It’s not even for people who are difficult to offend. Essentially it’s for people who are without a moral compass.” Carr has caused controversy in the past with some of his more outrageous and politically incorrect jokes, but he is unapologetic in his approach. “In terms of taste and decency I think you can say pretty much anything in a comedy show. I think being Politically Correct is important if you are a doctor or a lawyer or a policeman or you work for social services or any of these important jobs in society where people are relying on you. But as a comic, I say rude things and offensive things and it’s not for everyone.”
My show’s not for the easily f**king offended, or even for the hard-to-offend. It’s only for those without a moral compass.
He clearly enjoys the freedom that his role as a comedian allows him, and as proof discloses some of the material that he deems so offensive: “I tour every year and this year it is called Gag Reflex but for no real reason – anyone who has come to see the show before will know that it’s just a long list of jokes,” he says. “It’s quite funny, but there’s no real theme to it. There’s no method in my madness. It’s just 45 minutes in the first half and then 45 minutes to an hour in the second half. It does exactly what it says on the tin for a comedy show, which I quite like”.
Carr’s show traditionally begins at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. “There’s a new one every year, which I write for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and then tour that basically for the whole year,” he says. With a tour of more than 90 shows, and his regular appearances on television, one wonders how Carr fits in all his commitments. “I can only really tour on Fridays and Saturdays because of the TV stuff and other bits and bobs to do with writing and stuff that I do during the week, so I go on Friday and Saturdays all the way through the year.” As exhausting as this sounds, he is adamant that he loves his job. The scheduling of his shows seems to suit him nicely. “People like going out on Friday and Saturday,” he explains. “Wherever you are in the country – Weston-Super-Mare on a Tuesday night – it’s difficult to get people out. They’re thinking: ‘Hang on, ‘CSI:Miami’ is on. What you talking about? I’m not going out.’ So it’s nice to go out when people are out in a good mood on a Friday night. They’ve got out of work, they’ve had a few drinks, they are going to a show. Saturday is the same. They’re really fun days to do it. There are a few Sundays in there and again Sundays are great. You’ve only got to be funnier than Heartbeat. Nothing to beat on a Sunday night.”
The Guardian has recently described Carr as “a comedy hero for our times, and the exposure he has received in the last few years has made him a household name. So when he talks about how he likes to meet his fans, I’m somewhat surprised. “When you meet people after a gig, you often meet the same people two years in a row and bizarrely you kind of remember some of them. It’s like ‘Oh, hello. Been well?’ Or the heckler from last year heckles again. It’s quite a nice thing”. A man who has been termed ‘No.1 on the Comedy Offender’s List’ is bound to receive a few heckles, but one night in particular stands out for him: “I was in Belfast, with a cool audience. I walked on and people said, “f*** off”. I went: ‘Hang on. You’ve paid to see me. This is crazy’. And they went: ‘Well, we’re quite aggressive’. They were a great audience.”
Carr seems to take criticism in his stride, choosing instead to concentrate on those who enjoy his work. Indeed, Carr has many fans in both the public and the media. The Independent has described him as being ‘a world-class comedian’ and ‘one of the most polished performers in the business.’ He’s certainly known as one of the most hard-working comedians on the circuit, and this year sees the release of his first two stand-up DVDs repackaged in a box-set, a DVD featuring the best bits of ‘Eight out of Ten Cats’ and a book about jokes called The Naked Jape. He is proud of his work, and happy to discuss his new releases. “‘The Eight Out of Ten Cats’ DVD is pretty fun actually. The guys in the office put it together – so I watched it back and hadn’t remembered any of it. I kept thinking, ‘Oh, I should write that down. That’s a good joke’,” he says. “Then there’s a DVD – a box set of the last two live DVDs that I’ve done that’s pretty good. ‘If you own the other DVDs, don’t buy it’ is the message. It’s the same thing again.”
Carr’s influences are varied, ranging from seminal US comedians Stephen Wright and Emo Phillips to black American stand-ups Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock. “It’s a weird thing, but my sort of taste in comedy tends to be quite far away from what I do,” he confesses. “I’ve been influenced by TV and media – I don’t have a great attention span. I get bored quite easily. So the biggest influence on my comedy is boredom. I think: ‘I’ll say something funny. I won’t make it into a long story. I’ll say it as quickly as possible and then I’ll move on to the next thing’. So there are lots of little bite-sized chunks in my act.” He also admits to being influenced by general conversations with his friends. “I love people coming up and telling me jokes. I think that’s what jokes are,” he says. “The best thing you can do with a comedy DVD is invite three or four mates over, get a pizza and some drinks and watch it. It’s a great night. There’s no substitute for having other people around you. It’s weird how social laughter is. You laugh with other people.”
It’s this genuine love of comedy and laughter that has encouraged him to write The Naked Jape, due out in November. He discusses it with honesty and enthusiasm. “I thought I would write it because I’d be very interested in reading it”, he says. “It’s quite a labour of love. I tried to make it a joke book too. I’ve got 400 jokes in the book, as well as all the essays on different elements of jokes and where they come from, the history and anthropology and stuff.” But, says Jimmy, he was careful not to over-analyse comedy too much when writing the book. “There’s a great quote in the book from a French guy, ironically, who said: ‘Analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog. No one is that interested and the frog died,’” he says. On that cheerful note, Carr ends, but you can be certain we’ll be seeing much more of him during 2007.