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Jim Jefferies: Alcoholocaust

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Jim Jefferies has earned himself a reputation for being fiercely offensive; an image the straight-talking Australian is happy to foster, playing up the alluring persona of a hard-drinking rock and roll comic trampling over society’s niceties.

Indeed, in the opening minutes of Alcoholocaust, his new show heading to Edinburgh next week and recorded for DVD release at London’s Lyric Theatre last night, the 33-year-old mimes sucking cock, brands all lesbians as humourless and launches a misogynistic tirade that doesn’t even attempt to hide behind a veil of irony. Later we get an off-colour, but admittedly funny, routine about Auschwitz, while on the language front, his cpm – cunts per minute – count is almost off the scale.

He performs the show in front of a logo comprising two back-to-back scripted Js, the flourishes of the letters forming what could be mistaken, aptly enough, for demonic rams’ horns behind his head. The hard-edged, uncomplicated foul-mouthed rants are, however, done with a sense of playfulness, and act as a way of establishing that this is a show without boundaries. And once this is understood, he reveals himself to be an evocative storyteller, showing that behind all the brutal bluster is a comic with heart.

He has a stab at being an intellectually provocative act, too – although his atheist outlook is all-too familiar on the circuit -– if not in God-fetished America where Jefferies now spends most of his time as he attempts to crack Hollywood. In a crowded field of non-believers, his arguments seem over-familiar, where his personal take on morality isn’t that far removed from Bill & Ted’s ‘Be excellent to each other’.

Yet his strength isn’t in such pseudo-thoughtful posturing, but in revealing his humanity. He mentions in passing that he suffers depression -– and there’s probably a future show in that – and confesses that too dependent on booze, vowing to quit after the Edinburgh Fringe, a tall order given that he can’t even stop for the 70 or so minutes he’s on stage. Then there’s his yarn about entertaining the troops in Iraq, in which he’s not afraid to appear stomach-churningly terrified by situations that the soldiers consider everyday.

His coup de grace, though, is his extended final routine. It’s a section that involves hookers, the seriously disabled and bodily excretions – yet still manages to be touchingly life-affirming. It’s a tale which Jefferies promises he hasn’t embellished in the slightest and concerns his childhood friend Dan, who is seriously disabled by muscular dystrophy. At 33, he’s way beyond his life expectancy and needs help with the simplest of tasks, so when he asked to be taken to a brothel to lose his virginity, the events are pretty much guaranteed to make an unforgettable tale.

And Jefferies tells it expertly, with no sense of exploitation or sentimentality, but the sort of matter-of-factness in which any story of a lads’ night out might be told. He draws out the humour of the extreme situation without ever going for cheap laughs, demonstrating a maturity and depth that the ‘offensive comic’ tag he’s saddled with could never hope to cover. He is offensive… but he’s so much more besides.

Review date: 27 Jul 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Lyric Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue

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