Jim Jefferies Talks "Australia Is Really Down Under"
Thu, 27 Jan 2011 14:14:05
Laughter is always the best medicine.
After Queensland was recently devastated by lethal floods, comedian Jim Jefferies decided that he had to do something about it. Talking to pal and fellow laugh maestro Eddie Ifft, they decided to organize a benefit show for disaster relief in Queensland. The show, "Australia Is Really Down Under," came together at light speed, and now Jefferies, Ifft, Rob Riggle, and more will have the Hollywood Improv rolling on the floor with laughter on Saturday January 29, 2011. Jefferies' sharp and smart comedic strike always elicits major laughs, and this night will be unforgettable for sure. If you can't be there, check out Jefferies' Jim Jefferies: I Swear to God…He's got a classic comedy fire a la Richard Pryor, but he burns his own trail in the process…
Purchase your tickets here!
Jim Jefferies sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about "Australia is Really Down Under," some of his favorite bands, a crazy experience at Glastonbury and so much more.
How did the idea for the "Australia Is Really Down Under" charity show come about?
Eddie Ifft and I were sitting at home, and he said, "It's terrible that there are floods in Australia." I went, "What are you talking about?" They had been happening for about four days. I went online and Google-d it. These floods are bigger and more horrific than what happened in Hurricane Katrina. More people have lost their houses. They reckon it's the biggest recorded flood in history anywhere—ever. I got the shits a little bit because I'd been watching the news for those four days. I was in the car listening to the radio, and I hadn't heard it really covered at all. When I did hear it covered in American news, it was done in passing. I was in Australia when Katrina happened. I remember Australians having benefits on television to help out people in America. I thought to myself, "There's enough of an Australian community here in L.A. and I can sell enough tickets if I put my name on the bill that'd be nice to help out a bit." It was an area that I used to holiday in as a child. My grandparents lived there. If they were still alive today, their house would be completely underwater. It's also where my dad grew up. I had to do something.
Did the show come together pretty quickly?
I've got to give credit to Eddie. I'm not famous in Australia [Laughs]. No one comes to see me, but Eddie is a popular comedian in Australia. Some of the places underwater were places he worked in regularly, so he was like, "Oh, Bloody Hell!" The two of us thought we could do a charity gig. I told my agent, and the thing was organized in about 10 or 15 minutes. The Hollywood Improv is my favorite venue in L.A. I'm just very happy that they gave us the space especially on a Saturday night. They've been great about that. I assume I owe some people some favors after this [Laughs]. Rob Riggle is on the bill now too! That was very nice of him to come down and help. There might be another very famous comedian coming down. It's a surprise though.
Comedy is the best way to cope with a tragedy like this.
The thing is, we've called the show "Australia Is Really Down Under" so we're already taking the piss right there [Laughs]. I'm with you. I've done a lot of charity gigs over the course of my career. Don't think if we come out we're going to be harping along about how hard these people's lives have become and that they've lost their homes. Buying the ticket is all you really have to do. We're just going to put on a show for you.
Do you write your routines out completely? Or, is improvisation really important?
The problem is I never write anything down [Laughs]. It plays over in my head and I keep doing it. I've done six solo tours in The UK, and that means I've written at least six hours of material. I can't even remember about two of it at any given time [Laughs]. It evolves on stage. I'll tell it in the pub a few times or to my mates on the phone in general conversation. Sometimes, it's not apparent that it's a routine until years later. Eddie and I do podcast, and we started telling each other all of those old stories we used to tell each other from years ago. Hopefully, some stuff will come out of that. Personally, I had to stop watching other comedians because I get too influenced. I banned myself from watching other comedians [Laughs]. The best thing is for me to draw from my personal experience. I'm very good at embellishing. I try to work it out on stage.
Is rhythm crucial to comedy?
I think my stagecraft is probably better than my joke-writing at times. I worked in the theater before I became a comedian. I went to drama school and all that rubbish [Laughs]. When I started doing comedy, I think I already had that bit sorted out. During the first two years of my career, I had already turned pro. Once you get over that hurdle of not being afraid of the audience, it's not bad. I don't think about walking around and the timing very much. It's a natural movement for me. I imagine if I didn't have any theater training I probably would be a lot more conscious. Anyone who has done a "Best Man" speech will tell you, "If you get the first laugh out, then the rest of the speech is a piece of piss!" Then you start playing around.
Who are your favorite bands?
I haven't owned a home stereo for years because now you've got everything on your computer and iPhone. When I was in my teens and early '20s, the big thing was to get the best speakers. You'd have these big speakers in your living room. The first thing I used to do was turn on music. When I become a road comic in the UK, the only time I listened to music was in my car but I was in there for a good 12 or 14 hours a week. Now, I listen to music in the car still and on my iPod if I'm flying. I don't sit at home and listen to it though. My musical taste hasn't really moved along though. I'm not getting into new bands like I used to, and I don't know if that's part of getting older. I still listen to Crowded House, The Beatles, AC/DC, The Killers, and Oasis [Laughs]. That's everything I listen to! Now, if someone tells me to check out a new band I'm like, "Let's see what the second album does and then I'll buy the first one. Let's see if they're going to be around because I don't want to get into them and get my heartbroken." [Laughs]
Music resonates the most when you're a kid.
There are songs that will make you remember. You go, "That's when I shagged that bird!" or "When I went to school, that was the big song!" Nowadays, people buy singles. I have classic albums I have to listen to in their entirety. Even with comedy, people will watch a routine on YouTube, but I see it as a whole show. Artists still see what they do as a body of work not just individual tracks. I see a lot of concerts. If anyone big comes to your town—say any band who has sold more than a million records—you should go see them because they're good for some reason! I always try to see whoever is the big thing that comes to town. I've seen The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Elton Joel, Billy Joel, and Guns N' Roses. That was something I always loved about my dad. We'd seen a old clip of Buddy Holly, and he'd say, "Oh yeah, I saw him live."
What was your first concert?
My first concert was Billy Joel. That was the first concert I went to with my mates. My parents took me to see John Denver when I was very young [Laughs]. I've actually seen him four times. My parents were big fans, and I still have an element of affection towards John Denver if I hear him on the radio. He wrote some good fucking songs [Laughs]. "Country Roads" is the number one karaoke song of all time because the Asian people fucking love "Country Roads" for some reason! In 1992, I was about sixteen and I saw Guns N' Roses. That was my first outdoor concert. My dad also took me to Elton John when I was really young.
Do you enjoy playing festivals?
I play Glastonbury each year and Reading and Leeds. Glastonbury is such a good festival. They have all the big bands. They had Paul McCartney one night, Oasis another, and The Killers another. Then, as the day goes on, you'll see some legends like Tom Jones, James Brown, and Neil Diamond. You can see all of these people you wouldn't ordinarily see in one afternoon. That's fucking good, especially when you're tripping out on mushrooms the whole time [Laughs]. Normally, when I go on stage, the tent fills up! However, one time I was headlining the Saturday show and there were 20 people in my fucking tent. I said, "Bloody hell, where do I have to get in my career before more people show up than this?" On the other side of the field, I could hear "Hey Jude" and 80,000 people going, "Ah Nah Nah…." I was like, "I don't want to be here. Why are you here? If you all go away, I can go watch that as well!" [Laughs]
Did you finish the show?
Yeah, I finished the show—miserably [Laughs].
Do you dig Jim Jeffries?