Jim Jefferies is tremendous value. Incapable of not being funny, the affable Australian is a one-man anecdote machine.
So much so that when we sat down with the great man to listen to his top five current stand-ups, Jefferies often wanders off-topic. However, given it's Jim Jefferies, that's exactly what we wanted.
Few people know modern comedy quite like Jefferies, who made his name on the UK circuit before going on to be a smash hit in the US. And now he's back in the UK for three gigs in London and Manchester, with audiences no doubt salivating ahead of his return.
Sure, his stand-up specials make for great viewing on DVD, and he invariably steals the show when a guest on US chat shows. But to really do the man justice, you simply have to see him live. So, ahead of his brief UK return, here are his top 5 ones to watch right now...
"About four years ago I did a charity gig at a theatre in Chicago and the line-up was Patrice O'Neal, Louis CK and myself, and we didn't sell it out. So when all these people go, 'I was always a Patrice fan,' or, 'I've been following Louis for years,' I don't know if that's true! That line-up now could sell out an arena. I remember we finished a show and we were sitting in the dressing room and Harold Ramis and Martin Sheen came backstage. I didn't recognise Harold Ramis because he was fat and had a beard. He came and chatted to me to say how much he enjoyed the show and I was all, 'Yeah, yeah great.' And I was already looking past him to try and talk to Martin Sheen. He left and I realised, 'F*cking hell! I was talking to a '''Ghostbuster!' I hadn't seen him for years because he'd been a kick-arse director. Now he's dead so I can never make that up to him. Sometimes I'll be at a party and a flood of shame will wash over my body and I'll think, 'Oh, I did that.'
Anyway, CK is in there for sheer volume of material and keeping the body of work right up there. We did the Nasty Show together. I headlined the Nasty Show one year, and was then back to being support for Louis the next year. And I thought, "What did I do wrong? What's so good about this guy?" Then I saw him and thought, "Oh. He is good." He is the everyman. It's part of the reason his TV show is reviewed so well - if they knock him, they're knocking themselves."
"I don't need my comedy to have swear words in it, and my favourite comedian at the moment is Brian Regan. He makes me howl with laughter. Bill Burr will be remembered in the annals of history for longer, but pound for pound Brian is great. People go, 'I'm a big fan of Seinfeld.' Well, you haven't seen Brian Regan. It's like when people go on about Bill Hicks. Hicks, to me, was just a poor man's George Carlin. I don’t know what that makes me: a poor man's poor man's George Carlin.
I like that Brian did it without television. I did it without TV in the UK and to begin with in the US. Specials are a different thing. Now that I've done the sitcom stuff [Jefferies' sitcom Legit recently ended its run on FX] I don't feel like my audiences have got bigger; I think it's the same. If you're really good then people will come and see you. Regan is really good. He is something special'. Another reason I like him is that he's so far removed from what I do - I'm never going to get ideas from watching Brian Regan."
"We're close friends, but I was a fan before I was a friend. It was on Ed Byrne's stag do and I was mashed up on drugs and talking with Andrew. I remember thinking, 'Wow! I'm talking to Andrew Maxwell!' I was telling myself to be cool and not talk about myself too much. These days I make a conscious effort not to do that in my life. I'll go to a dinner party and say to myself, 'Just tell three stories. And try not to top other people's stories.' Anyway, Andrew is one of those guys when he gets up at the Comedy Store, you don't know what he's going to say because he might have written a new 20-minute set that week. That's the biggest mark of respect for any comedian: the other comedians come out of the dressing room to watch him. Andrew is the one you come out of the dressing room for."
"I still get slightly intimidated sitting in a dressing room with him, and I'm arguably not that far behind him in terms of a fan base. But you know when you're sitting with the real deal. There will come a time in my life many years down the track when someone will ask me what it was like to work with Bill Burr, and I don’t know whether anyone will say the same about me. The last time I saw Bill I was recording a special in Boston. We were doing the sound checks, deciding where the chair should go, that sort of thing, and Bill walked in; he was in town because his brother was graduating. Bill came in to wish me luck and I thought, 'Wow! Bill Burr came in to wish me luck.' I don't think he made a special trip - he probably saw my name on the marquee or something - but it was very sweet."
Before explaining his reasoning for picking himself, Jim shares a few stories about going for auditions in Hollywood...
"I went for an audition the other day and had to do an American accent. I was nervous about that. It was the same director as The Help and the James Brown biopic. A big f*cking director. There were four people in the audition, and I made them all laugh. Afterwards my agent called and said, 'They think you're hysterical, the accent was perfect and they're surprised by how good your acting is. They're even thinking about writing a part in for you' - which is Hollywood bullsh*t for they like you but don't want you to feel bad. So I said, 'What about this [other] role?" And they said: 'You're not good-looking enough for this role'. I said, "Oh. Right.' And my agent said: 'So that's something we can work on." I said: 'You know I'm getting older, right?' I'm a five [out of 10 in the looks department]. I'd rather be a nine or a two. Twos get work. It's hard being regular-looking.
The only acting jobs I've ever got are those I've written myself or someone has written for me. I once auditioned for The Three Stooges. I heard Larry David was going to be in it and thought, "This is a big deal." I went in for Mo and the guy who went before me just played the big boss in Episodes in Season 3. He had the Mo wig, was dressed like him and was pacing around like Mo and I could hear them laughing. He obviously nailed it because he landed the part, and they auditioned a lot of people. I went in and went, "Why I outta!", and was pretending to slap people and was dying a bit inside. Afterwards they rang my agent to say it was one of the worst auditions they've ever seen. They said: "He was terrible."
I've another story about taking my shirt off. That was depressing. Me just standing there. No head of a studio has ever gone, 'Can someone get in a pale, token Australian?' I have to convince people to cast me. There have been auditions where people have asked for an Australian. And everyone there has looked like a Hemsworth brother: blonde hair, good body. And I'm sat there looking like I grew up in Dublin.
Personally, I think the best comic in the world is me, so I'll include myself in this list. As a stipulation, I know I'm not the best comic in the world. But for my tastes no one writes a better joke for me than me. I write things that I think are funny. I'm a comedian completely stylised to my own sense of tastes. I know I'm not the best but for my personal tastes I think I'm hysterical. I don't think the world should think I'm one of the best, but me personally. So I'll say my brother Scott because we have an identical sense of humour. He makes me laugh more than anyone."