Australian comedian Jim Jefferies is coming to America with the FX comedy series “Legit.”
Jefferies plays himself and he gets into wacky raunchy adventures like taking a paralyzed friend to a brothel. We spoke with Jefferies when he met with the Television Critics Association to introduce his new show.
CraveOnline: What was the process of adapting your comedy to a scripted series?
Jim Jefferies: The thing is, Me, Rick [Cleveland] and Peter [O’Fallon] wrote it. For the most part, I’ve written all the storylines and then I get them to go off and do it on the page with the dialogue and everything like that, and then I punch them up for jokes afterwards, but I’ve never been a great guy at writing anything down actually on paper, even with standup.
Even with original storylines that we’re having in in the thing, I’ve tried to make the show have a definite arc and always link back to the original standup stories. At times some of these scripts are too close to my actual life that I’m worried about what family and friends are going to think.
CraveOnline: Last summer, comedians like Daniel Tosh and Dane Cook were accused of crossing the line. What were your thoughts on that?
Jim Jefferies: Look, no one crosses the line if it’s really funny. If everyone in the room laughs, the line hasn’t been crossed. What we’re talking about is not people crossing the line. We’re talking about failing jokes, jokes that are failure. Every comic makes rape jokes now. So Daniel Tosh makes one and because he did it at a bad environment, I’d have to see the gig. It would have to be in context.
CraveOnline: I think Dane Cook set up that he was trying new material and maybe admitted it didn’t work. Tosh said he was talking about taboo subjects.
Jim Jefferies: It’s just that he wasn’t funny in that moment but I wasn’t there so I can’t categorically say that he wasn’t funny in that moment. It sounds like what Dane did was he just wrote some s***ty jokes.
CraveOnline: Not to pick on Dane, Tosh might have too. I don’t think anyone in the audience thought it was funny.
Jim Jefferies: Yeah, he just did some jokes that didn’t go down very well but this is the thing, right? I’ve had plenty of jokes that haven’t gone very well but I just haven’t been famous enough to have to apologize.
CraveOnline: How soon after a tragedy would you try to find humor about it?
Jim Jefferies: See, it depends because I’m having a child. The next day after what happened in Colorado, I wasn’t joking about the incident, but I started joking about when I watch news like that, I started thinking, “I hope my kid doesn’t shoot a lot of f***ing people.”
That’s not about the whole thing. Looking at those parents, everyone goes, “They must’ve brought him up wrong, then I started worrying,” but that’s an avenue off from that subject. Then there’s certain things, you can joke about the war, but you can’t joke about the Holocaust. You can joke about things in Iraq, but you can’t joke about 9/11. You only know about these things until you actually say a joke and it goes flat on its ass and the audience will tell you what you can and can’t joke about.
CraveOnline: Is there something unique about the Australian sense of humor?
Jim Jefferies: I believe no, but Australians will be very angry at that statement. Australians think they have a very definite sense of humor. The British also think they have a very definite sense of humor. Funny’s funny. I lived in the U.K. for 10 years, obviously I’ve been living here for four years and I haven’t found any differences with the audiences.
If anything, people get into me for doing anti-religious jokes and I talk about atheism so much that they say, “Oh, that must go down badly in America.” Actually it goes better in America because there is a more angry counterculture. If you’re an Australian, and you go, “There’s no God,” people go, “Yeah, what about it?” In Britain, they’ll go, “Well, I’m not going to get into an argument with you.”
Where Americans are so passionate about it either way. Then people argue that British are more silly or dry, or they’ll say they’re silly in one breathe and then they’ll say they’re dry in another.
CraveOnline: What made you want to tell “offensive” stories?
Jim Jefferies: I’m just not very good at writing jokes as such. Also I really enjoyed Eddie Murphy when I was a kid. When he used to tell these stories about his parents and stuff, with the G.I. Joe in the bathtub and his mom throwing her shoe at him. I always found that I enjoyed comics that at the end of the show you felt like you knew them a bit better.
I enjoyed that more than the one that I laughed at the most, the one that I felt like I bonded with over the course of the act. Plus also, in America it’s a lot more difficult. Everyone’s in L.A. doing a five minute set, a five minute set, a five minute set. Get up at the Improv, you do five minutes, they bring another guy for five minutes, another guy for five minutes. In Australia we didn’t have that many comics and I used to go and play these bars like on the outskirts where I’d been in comedy for like three months and they’re like, “You’re doing 40 minutes.”
So I just learned the power of stretching something out and just talking and talking until something hit. I never had a snappy “Tonight Show” set ready to go and even today I do turn down doing “Tonight Shows.”
CraveOnline: What scares you more, the birth of the show or the birth of the child?
Jim Jefferies: Look, I’m happy they came along at the same time because now I can afford to do both. When I say afford to do both, I can earn the money to take care of the child and also I won’t get a TV show and end up like Charlie Sheen on a whole lot of drugs, because I’ve got a kid at home. So everything’s worked out good. It’s a good balance for me.
CraveOnline: With the story about taking a paralyzed friend to get laid, do you expect comparisons to the movie The Sessions?
Jim Jefferies: I had this as a routine on a stand up DVD from two years ago. So it turns out they nicked it from me.
CraveOnline: Will every episode be a road trip of sorts?
Jim Jefferies: That episode is a road trip, but that won’t be every episode, no. Every episode doesn’t involve taking a disabled person to a brothel. We didn’t think we could make it carry over the full season. So it’s all based on my standup. That episode is actually something that actually happened to me in real life. I had a friend who had muscular dystrophy that I took to get a blow job. We thought that would make a good TV show.
CraveOnline: Since it is a raunchy show, how hard is it to make that sincere moment at the end of an episode work?
Jim Jefferies: I just think storytelling, it will always come out as long as it’s actually happened to me. I’ll let you guys in on a little thing that happened on the show. I got the girl who played the prostitute, Kate Luyben, pregnant in real life. So this worked out great. We are very happy, but I rang my mother up to tell her about this TV show, and I said to my mom I said, “Probably the two biggest bits of news in my life ever, I’m going to become a father, and FX has given me a TV show.”
And I rang my mother up and said, “Mom, they have just given me my own TV show,” and my mom said, “What’s it called?” And I said, “‘Legit.’” And she goes, “How can they call your TV show ‘Legit’ when your child is illegitimate?”