While an infamous onstage assault is well in the past, Aussie comedian Jim Jefferies is as outspoken as ever, writes Richard Fitzpatrick
HECKLING is the lifeblood of a stand-up comedy gig. Comedians court it. The audience appreciate the comedians’ courage in falling back on the speed of their wits to entertain. It often leads to the most memorable moments of a show.
In the case of Australian comic Jim Jefferies, one particular exchange at the Manchester Comedy Store in 2007 led to a bloody mouth, and YouTube notoriety. The five-minute clip which captures an audience member racing up on stage and clocking him a couple of times before being jumped on by security staff has been viewed millions of times.
Jefferies had just put a heckler in his place by snorting:
“I’m gonna leave you alone like your dad did. Too bad your uncle didn’t.”
Five minutes later, his assailant, who was unrelated to the person who Jefferies had heckled, bounded on stage and attacked Jefferies.
After the assault, Jeffries disappeared behind the stage curtain only to re-appear a few minutes later to complete the gig, throwing caution to the wind with the line:
The combative, Sydney-born Jefferies lives in Los Angeles these days. He’s carved a niche for himself with a sizeable following for his stand-up in the United States and with his TV vehicles, including a travel series on Comedy Central (The Jim Jefferies Show) where he picks fun at political and cultural oddities around the world.
Jefferies used his familiarity with Ireland — which he reckons he’s visited about 20 times over the last two decades, and where he returns in December for a gig at Dublin’s 3Arena — to telling effect with one of his personal favourite episodes on the Repeal the Eighth abortion referendum.
“It was cool because we were the only people in the United States who recorded something on it,” says Jefferies. “It wasn’t being reported on CNN or Fox. Whether people agreed or disagreed with it, they had no knowledge it was even happening before we broadcast on it.”
Jefferies became a US citizen last year. Why not? He’s fully assimilated. He points out, after all, he’s the father of an American child, his ex is American, and he drives an American muscle car, a Dodge Challenger.
“When I’ve talked about America on stage, and I’m told to ‘go home’ or that I was not to comment because I wasn’t from there, I sort of thought I’d like to get a certificate so I could tell those people to fuck off,” says Jefferies.
“With my son being American I never wanted there to be any trouble in case they started revoking people’s green cards. Also hosting a critical talk show I felt at any moment my Australian citizenship could have been flagged. I probably would have become a citizen in a few years but instead decided to speed it up a bit.
“Being sworn in, I didn’t think I’d get as emotional as I did. I got a bit teary. It means something. The feeling of acceptance, of being wanted. I’ve always thought that people who fight to become citizens of a country are normally a bit more patriotic than a person who has just been gifted it as a child.”
Jefferies also loves the place, especially everything that’s outsized about the land.
“I love going to places like Disneyland,” he says.
Irish fans can look forward to his reflections on his new home, as well as his visits to this country at his show next week.
Jim Jefferies will perform his show the Night Talker, on Saturday, December 7 at 3Arena, Dublin