Jim Jefferies: Controversial, brilliant, unique

This generation’s leading comic to play three nights in Leisureland for Galway Comedy Festival.

JIM JEFFERIES defies easy categorisation, and can effortlessly upend any attempt to safely define him - save this: he is arguably the funniest human on the face of the earth right now.

Jefferies is controversial. He is provocative, and his comedy is belief-challenging, for while you laugh out loud, you will also find the funny to be thoroughly thought-provoking. Galway will see why when Jefferies performs his new show, Give ‘Em What They Want, in Leisureland, Salthill, across three nights at Galway Comedy Festival.

Born Geoff James Nugent in Sydney in 1977, by the time he reached his teenage years, he knew he wanted to do stand-up comedy. However, the dream was realised in a not so straightforward way.

“I ended up pursuing musical theatre at university because I knew I wanted to be an entertainer,” he told Hightimes.com “I thought as long as I could get into the arts maybe I could do stand-up later.”

He was studying to be an opera singer when he got nodules on his vocal cords which required surgery. “While the recovery time now is about four days, back then you couldn’t talk for about a month,” he recalled. “I just decided, ‘These [vocal cords] will come back; I should stop being so gutless and just do the thing I actually want to do.’”

‘A little bit of trouble’

By his 20s, Jefferies was finally doing stand-up, with his first taste of fame - or should that be notoriety? - coming in 2007 after being attacked on stage in Manchester by a punter who took umbrage at how Jefferies dealt with a particularly bothersome heckler.

It strangely marked the start of great things for the Aussie. Within a few years he would be based in the USA; script the acclaimed comedy series Legit; present three seasons of his own talk-show, The Jim Jefferies Show; become a popular co-host of podcasts like I Don’t Know About That; win Stand-Up Comedian of the Year 2019 at the prestigious Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal; and create 10 comedy specials - five of which have been broadcast on Netflix.

What makes Jefferies fascinating and compelling as a comic is his ability to defy and subvert attempts to pin him down as one thing or another. For example, the Left/liberal leaning The Guardian has accused Jeffries’ stand-up as full of “tedious misogyny”, [they missed Jefferies GQ interview where he said: “I’ve actually phased out the misogynistic jokes…you outgrow things.”] while the right-wing TheFederalist.com denounced his comedy as “leftist-propaganda”.

Both miss the point. Underneath Jefferies’ laddish provocateur exterior, runs a deep sense of irony and self-deprecation. He trusts his audience to be in on the joke - that Jefferies is looking at the worst sides of himself, and poking intense and unflinching fun at his own attitudes - past and present.

As Chortle said: “The underlying joke is often that he’s a selfish, unempathetic prick for feeling this way, though he gets to lash out at his targets, too.” And as Decider.com pointed out, Jefferies “distinguishes himself apart from Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais, calling them out for their jokes poking fun at the Trans community”.

All guns blazing

In recent years, Jefferies has drawn flack for his criticisms of Millennials and Cancel Culture, yet he is no reactionary. Often his comedy is on the same side as the Millennials (he’s just more able to poke fun at everyone and everything ).

Jefferies is a fierce critic of America’s liberal gun laws and is the man who bested in argument the darling of right-wingers and manosphere types everywhere - Jordan Peterson - in an argument about LGBT+ and Black rights, getting Peterson to admit he was wrong. As Vice.com said, “Peterson seemed, for the first time in a long time, to be at a loss for words”.

Jefferies also put his comedy and his political outlook to brilliant use when he took an interest in Ireland’s Repeal the 8th campaign, to legalise the State’s abortion laws, in 2018. He interviewed people from both sides of the debate, including right-wing, anti-choice activist Justin Barrett.

In a brilliant piece of comedy and political theatre, Jefferies made Barrett fly to London for the interview “so he has to endure the same kind of bulls**t every Irish woman has to go through if they want an abortion.” At the end of that interview, Jefferies bade farewell to Barrett, saying: “Justin, on behalf of the women of Ireland, enjoy your flight home.”

Laughing at himself

It’s not all politics and social commentary at a Jim Jefferies show. More than anything, and anyone else, Jefferies is the butt of his own jokes, uninhibitedly honest about his sex life, the drugs he has taken, his struggles with alcohol, and even his toilet habits!

In the end, Chortle came closest to the essence of a comedian who remains challenging to define:

“He stays true to himself as the uncouth, sweary bloke from rural Australia not quite fitting it. He’s here to report back on that rarefied world and its ridiculous ways…but at its core is an aversion to bulls*** and willingness to call it out.”

Jim Jefferies plays Leisureland on Wednesday 25, Thursday 26, and Friday 27 October as part of Galway Comedy Festival. Doors are at 7pm, with show at 8pm. Support is from Andrew Maxwell and Glenn Wool. Tickets on sale from www.galwaycomedyfestival.ie


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