Until Saturday night, I’d seen more comedy about Jimmy Carr than comedy by Jimmy Carr. Among my favorites are:
- Henning Wein’s “If someone avoids tax, then the common sense approach is that man’s opted out of society. He should be tried in court by a judge, not by Sean Lock on a panel show.” (The Alternative Comedy Experience)
- which refers to Sean Lock’s, “They’re not happy. Basically it’s all about the pensions because their pensions are quite substantial and we can’t afford their pensions because not everyone pays the tax.” (8 Out of 10 Cats)
- Stewart Lee’s observation that all Jimmy Carr has to do is shrug at the end of a joke and he can get away with being as offensive as he wants (Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle):
So, the alternative circuit finds Jimmy Carr an easy punching bag, and a lot of those alt comics are my favorites. What will I think of Jimmy Carr live in New York?
On Saturday, I attended Jimmy Carr’s Funny Business standup show at The Gramercy in New York City, the same tour that is currently streaming on Netflix. Check it out if you like edgy mainstream comedy. What do I mean by mainstream? It has the setup/punch joke structure that you might find in Tim Vine’s puns but none of Jimmy’s are PC and at least half of them are blue. (Ironically, one of the jokes Carr got in trouble for on Cats was one that shares the same punchline as a joke by Tim Vine, who does extremely safe and family friendly jokes. Both are about deafness that end with, “I never thought I’d hear myself say that.”) Personally, blue jokes aren’t to my taste, and I find the jokes that are un-PC for irony’s sake–similar to the ones Ricky Gervais does–not offensive but tiring after a while. But what Carr does he does well, and it was an altogether enjoyable show no matter what your comedy pallet may be tuned to.
Another popular technique in mainstream comedy is crowd work. During the show, he invites heckles. On March 26th, he received heckles about his tax evasion, his saliva spraying the front row, and his clothing matching Pee Wee Herman’s suit, which was coincidentally countered later via text: “Don’t let anyone make fun of your clothing, Jimmy. It’s the best material you’ve got.” Yes, he took texts from the audience in advance of the show (like a photo of Slappy with “I loved you in the Goosebumps movie”). He did the classic mainstream thing of, “What do you do for a living?” multiple times throughout the show, but because the people he selected had obscure job titles like “bureaucrat,” “part-time psychology teacher,” and “Verizon advertiser,” he resorted to, “Do we have any nurses in?” so that he could do his nurse material. It was a bit like Lee Mack asking people where they’re from at Pontins and winding up just going, “Anyone in from Kent?” so he could do his Kent joke. This didn’t really work for Carr’s lesbian material because no one in the audience admitted to being a lesbian, which, for a city like New York, baffled Jimmy. To be fair, Carr was very quick with all sorts of weird crap people shouted at him, a seasoned pro at crowd work.
- The show kicked off with Jimmy asking if anyone from England was in the audience. Most of the audience were ex-pats, of course. Jimmy said (pardon if I’m paraphrasing), “Whoa, I reckon we could take them.” He figured we could have another Boston Tea Party right here. “What was it you were so upset about with the Boston Tea Party? Oh, having to pay taxes? I can relate.” He got an applause for that one.
- On the subject of Donald Trump: “I’ve always been a fan of America, so I’m curious to see how it will end.”
- He reckons with Jet Blue, the Trade Towers would have been hit by a shuttle bus.
- His strangled penguin laugh. He recounted a time he laughed uncontrollably at a Nick Helm show (and demonstrated his laugh to us for a disturbingly long time) where Nick Helm had to stop his song and heckle Jimmy from the stage, “Hey, I don’t laugh during your shows!”
- There was a weird bit where he sat behind a desk and told some one-liners that were illustrated on the projection screen. That wasn’t so great, but the fact that the engineer missed the lighting cue by a mile, leaving Jimmy sitting in the dark for a ridiculous amount of time was hilarious. “This isn’t Cirque du Soleil,” Jimmy quipped.
If you’re interested in the Hammersmith Apollo version of this show, log into Netflix and have a watch.