Interview: Jimmy Carr

Freddie Parton talks to Jimmy Carr about what's in humour, his love of the controversial, and his upcoming UK tour Channel4’s round-faced comedian Jimmy Carr became a regular feature on our screens after fronting shows such as 8 out of 10 cats and Distraction, as well as a plethora of Top 100 countdowns.
But his real love is for live shows – no bad thing, given that he is currently involved in a twelve month tour. Repeat Offender is being performed in over 140 venues around the UK.Well known to overstep the line at any opportunity, his highly sarcastic and offensive humour is not for everyone. Carr warns, “It’s not for the easily fucking offended… It’s not even for people that are difficult to offend. Essentially it’s for people who are without a moral compass.”Most controversial have been his jokes aimed at the physically disabled, including Steven Hawking. He brushes criticism off lightly, saying, “In terms of taste and decency I think you can say pretty much anything in a comedy show. I think being politically correct is important if you are a doctor or a lawyer or a policeman or you work for social services or any of these important jobs in society where people are relying on you. But as a comic I say rude things and offensive things and it’s not for everyone.”Jimmy describes his hour-and-a-half long show as effectively “a long list of jokes”.
“It’s quite funny, but there’s no real theme to it. There’s no method in my madness. It’s just 45 minutes in the first half, and then 45 minutes to an hour in the second half. It does exactly what it says on the tin for a comedy show, which I quite like.”As with previous tours, Carr began performing Repeat Offender in September with a series of gigs at the Edinburgh Fringe – one of the most important events for the nation’s comics. His television work means that he can only perform on Fridays and Saturdays, but this suits him. “I think it’s the best bit of my job because people like going out on Friday and Saturday. Wherever you are in the country – Weston-Super-Mare on a Tuesday night – it’s difficult to get people out. They are thinking: “Hang on, CSI: Miami is on. What you talking about? I’m not going out.”He continues, “It’s nice to go out when people are out in a good mood on a Friday night. They’ve got out of work they’ve had a few drinks they are going to a show. Saturday is the same. They are really fun days to do it. There are a few Sundays in there, and again Sundays are great. You’ve only got to be funnier than Heartbeat. Nothing to beat on a Sunday night.”After years of performing, Carr feels that he has formed a special relationship with the towns that he performs in – towns that he probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise. He likes to meet his audiences and has even started to recognize some of the regular faces that have been to watch him over the years. “When you meet people after a gig, you often meet the same people two years in a row and bizarrely you kind of remember some of them. It’s like “Oh, hello. Been well?” Or the heckler from last year heckles again. It’s quite a nice thing.”He actually enjoys the heckling and recalls a gig in Belfast where he recived his most bizarre audience response. “I walked on and people said ‘fuck off’. I went: ‘Hang on. You’ve paid to see me. This is crazy’. And they went: ‘Well we’re quite aggressive’. They were a great audience.”As well as his various tours and television shows, Jimmy has also released a new DVD of his work, Comedian, a culmination of his last two tours and some uncensored material that didn’t make it past the television censors, all delivered with his trademark ironic glint in his eye.Carr (perhaps unsurprisingly) is a fan of comedy DVDs, “The best thing you can do with a comedy DVD is invite three or four mates over, get a pizza and some drinks and watch it. It’s a great night. There’s no substitute for having other people around you. It’s weird how social laughter is. You laugh with other people.”Carr has an almost scientific interest in comedy itself, how jokes work and what humour is, an interest that has led him to co-author The Naked Jape, due out in September. He describes his work on the book as “quite a labour of love”. As well as exploring different elements of jokes, their history and anthropology, the book also includes Jimmy’s “perfect list” of jokes.Isn’t there a risk of overanalysing comedy to the point that it is no longer funny? Jimmy agrees, smiling. “There’s a great quote in the book from a French guy, ironically, who said: ‘Analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog. No one is that interested and the frog dies.’”Surely this academic approach doesn’t sit comfortably with comedy’s rock’n’roll image?  “Yeah,” says Jimmy. “I’m like a rock and roll star with a fat face that people laugh at.” He pauses and thinks for a second, “Not that rock and roll.”