Why, he wouldn't say taboo to a mouse
Jim Jeffries is adamant that his lewd look at touchy topics is never meant to offend, writes Alan Warboys
On stage, he's brash, foul-mouthed and incredibly lewd. No wonder London-based Australian comedian Jim Jeffries has a reputation for causing a stir.
But in person, Jeffries - described by one critic as 'not for the faint-hearted' - is mild-mannered and pleasant, and says he doesn't deserve his controversial reputation.
'I've had walkouts, people crying, people asking for their money back,' says the 28- year-old stand-up. He says his reputation is probably a result of 'the dramatic exits they make. Often they're a bit drunk and have only heard a word they don't like, but haven't listened to the whole joke. I'm sure they feel a bit silly afterwards. I never set out to upset people. I don't consider myself to be offensive. I've never done a racist joke in my entire life. I've done jokes about diseases, disability and sex.
'If it's out there, it's worth joking about - as long as it's not done with hurtful intention. If people come up to me afterwards and say they agree with everything I said, then I think they're right arseholes.'
Jeffries admits that the 'c-word', which he uses liberally, can cause offence, and many of his sets are about sex and pornography - a keen personal interest. He often veers into taboo territory such as talking about the relative merits of male and female genital size.
But he says taboo jokes aren't an easy way out because they're harder to get a laugh out of. 'You're walking a line when you know you could offend someone, when someone could start crying or run out of the room,' he says. 'I'm just fascinated by the common untold. There are a lot of things about sex that men and women both think but would never say.' He says his parents have seen his act and are fine with it.
Jeffries, from Perth, Western Australia, went to London five years ago to work odd jobs while trying to get a break on the comedy circuit. He says comedians struggle to earn a living in Australia compared with the vibrant British scene, where he's now well-known.
The comedian always wanted to appear on the stage, but initially envisioned himself as a singer. He studied music and drama at university, and sang tenor in a chorus. But after nodules developed on his overworked vocal cords, he switched to comedy, having earned a reputation among his friends as a great wit.
'I always wanted to be a comedian, but didn't know how to do it,' he says. 'When I started out I used to copy Richard Pryor routines.' Soon he started writing his own material and 'realised what a full-time job it was'.
'People think it's a 20-minute-a-day thing, but you're working on it all the time.' He says he's always trying to 'do the routine I always wanted to see'.
Plenty of other people want to see that set, too, apparently - Jeffries has recently completed a pilot one-man TV show for Britain's Channel 4. He may even return to Australia for a gig, although he doubts many of his friends would even be aware of his success. 'A big star in the comedy world is still not a big star unless you're Billy Connolly or Peter Kaye,' he says.
Not that Jeffries considers himself a part of comedy's top tier, anyway. 'I can never see myself becoming a big star,' he says.
Punchline Comedy Club, featuring Jim Jeffries, Richard Morton and Caimh McDonnell, May 11-13, 9pm, the Viceroy, 2/F Sun Hung Kai Centre, 30 Harbour Rd, Wan Chai, $280 CityLine. Bookings: 2317 6666