Jim Jefferies Discusses the Accent Advantage and Making It Big in Comedy One Gig at a Time
Published Sep 22, 2016"Hello? Hey Cindy! Go fuck yourself, thank you, bye bye." Jim Jefferies, the L.A.-based comic with a thick Australian accent, quickly hangs up on a telemarketer who interrupts our interview, then laughs and thinks aloud about what he wanted to say to her. "How have you got this? Why are you bothering me? They always ring up so chirpy: 'You've just won something!' I don't want to win anything. I don't want to win any prizes, or any awards or anything like that."
This is Jim Jefferies, hardened and unfiltered, but also just chuckling through the normal annoyances of life like the rest of us. Though he's got a worldwide fan base, a few television show pilots in the works, plus a critically acclaimed TV show and seven standup specials under his belt, he sees himself as an average guy who's worked hard for what he's got.
"See, there's two ways you can sort of get anointed as a great comic — I'm not saying I'm a great comic. I mean a famous comic, a popular comic," Jefferies says modestly. "The two ways are this: you can do what I did and you can play all the festivals and you can grind it out, keep going to clubs and every time you go back to the club, slightly more people come to see you, and then more people come to see you, and eventually you're playing big crowds.
"The other way is an executive from a TV network just points at you and goes 'I like that guy.' And then you go on TV and people like the TV show and then all the sudden, you're a popular standup." Jefferies explains. "I was never going to get pointed at by an executive in Australia because of the nature of what I did. Being a filthy comic. Being just a standard white guy as well, [it] isn't good for their diversity on their channel. We're a dime a dozen.
"For me, I had to move to a different country because I had to move somewhere where there was a bigger population." Jefferies also thinks about how moving to the UK then America helped his career, and likens Australia's comedy scene to Canada's. "[Australia and Canada] have the same problem: big land mass, not many people, probably only a few local channels. Britain works from the angle of 'It's got 60 million people on a confined island and it rains all the fucking time and they have to go indoors.' That's the perfect environment for standup comedy. America works cos it has 330 million people and it has a ton of television. It's not the fact that Canada and Australia are close-doored or not as comedy savvy, or the people aren't as smart and they don't respect you until you come back. It's just, there aren't the opportunities."
Given that he's been doing standup since he was going to college in his early 20s and he currently writes material at the incredible rate of an hour-and-a-half per year, you'd think Jefferies would never have to fight for respect. Nonetheless, people still try to undermine his talent. Fortunately, Jefferies is too smart to let it get under his skin. "'He gets away with it 'cos of the accent' is what I get a lot in America. I even get that sometimes in Britain. Other comics often say that behind my back. But the biggest show I ever did in my career was in Perth [Australia], and they don't fall for my accent. They've got the same fucking one don't they! So it can't be my accent then, can it?"
Jefferies isn't rattled by the debate about political correctness in comedy either. "I'm sure [political correctness] is at a very high sensitivity at the moment, but it only feels that way if you're reading stuff. If you don't read anything that's about you or about your comedy or about what people are feeling or whatever like that, you just sort of do what you do. It only matters if you're paying attention to it, is what I'm saying.
"I've never sat down with the intent of trying to shock or anything like that, it just so happens that the sense of humour I enjoyed watching as a kid is the type of humour I try to emulate as an adult. It's not a decision. It might sound a bit wanky, but it's the truth."
Settling down with his girlfriend and son, Jefferies is now enjoying life with a family, though not in a white-picket-fence way. "I have watched every episode of RuPaul's Drag Race... I know a bizarre amount of drag queens now. And it's weird because one of the guys that drives my tour bus in America drove the drag queen show before me, and I used to just sit there and hear all the stories so I could go tell my girlfriend because I knew what a big fan she was."
It's been a long journey for Jefferies both in terms of geography and the sheer hours he's spent performing for crowds ranging from ten to 10,000 people, but he's finally where he wants to be. "The thing where I thought I made it was when I paid my house off. It wasn't actually a moment on stage — it was the first bit of financial security. It was the first time I looked at my house and it was all paid off and I thought, 'Alright. Jokes paid for this.'"
Jim Jefferies headlines the JFL42 festival in Toronto on September 24.