Published Jul 28, 2016To some, Jimmy Carr may come off as curt and almost apathetic, but beneath that deadpan stage persona is a warm man who is as excited about comedy as he was when he started doing it over a decade ago.
"New people come along that kind of blow your mind, and you also want to see people that you've always admired..." Carr tells Exclaim! "I suppose being in comedy is analogous to being in music. If this what you do for a living, you just kind of enjoy being part of the scene and watching it. It makes you want to work harder."
Between hosting the British hit TV show 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, managing the pressure to create a new act following the release of his ninth standup special this spring, and touring through from Canada to China to Croatia, he has plenty of reasons to be burnt out. Nevertheless, Carr seems happy, and even still thankful, to be where he is.
"In show business, people aren't interested in where you are, people are interested in your trajectory. So they're interested in 'Last year he was nowhere, and now he's a huge success.' Or 'Last year he was big in Britain, and now he's a Hollywood star.' But actually, you know, life is really good. I think trying to maintain this is pretty hard, you know. My life is like trying to feed a joke eating monster on a daily basis."
Carr's simile is far from an exaggeration. As a one-liner comedian who also loves crowd work, creating new material is a massive undertaking: for each hour of standup he does, Carr has to create, arrange, and memorize literally hundreds of jokes, plus figure out where to leave space for improvisation.
"I don't think there's much science to it. You kinda go 'What jokes can follow other jokes?' 'cause sometimes you just can't follow [a joke]... it's too edgy or just very funny." Carr says. "[Other times] you'll chat to the audience and improvise to come off of something that you know is going to win. You think: 'Oh, that'll get a big laugh, and that'll buy me three minutes of goodwill to mess around with the audience.' Sometimes it's about kind of shooting stuff around... [but] you know where your big hitters are. You know what are the jokes that are always gonna work."
Carr's edgy sense of humour also makes his act an impressive feat. In the past, Carr has been the subject of controversy for his daring jokes about everything from amputee veterans to dying in car crashes, but it hasn't deterred him in the slightest from skilfully walking the line between hilarious and offensive.
"If you're sitting around with a group of friends, there's nothing off limits. You can joke about, y'know, death and taxes and religion and everything. I think the more you treat the audience like your friends, the better." Carr explains. "[It's best when] you kind of go: 'Oh they're gonna get that this is a joke, and the context of this joke is we're in a club or we're in a theatre, and this is only designed to make you laugh. We're not trying to change the world here.'
"The audience is a genius — Lenny Bruce said it first." the British comic continues. "The audience decides what is and isn't funny, and what is and isn't acceptable. So ultimately, if they don't laugh — this show, any show in my career — if the audience doesn't laugh three nights in a row at something, you never say that thing again. Y'know, if they consistently laugh all the time at that joke, then it's in. Ultimately they decide: it's all done by laughter."
Carr's reverence for comedy seems unending. When asked what makes him happy in life, his thoughts never drifted into guilty pleasures or even interpersonal territory: again, Carr comes back to his passion for his work.
"Laughter is remote tickling, and it allows us to make things that aren't okay in life okay. I mean that in all seriousness." Carr offers pensively. "The fact that I do a job that involves a lot of laughing and giving laughter to others, I think it's happiness in its purest form."