Jim Jefferies: The Night Talker | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the O2, London
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Jim Jefferies: The Night Talker

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the O2, London

‘I forget I’m famous,’ Jim Jefferies says at one point in his new stand-up show, as he recounts being spotted during a particularly ignominious incident.

But he’s undoubtedly doing well in Hollywood, with his own topical Comedy Central show just coming to an end and another sitcom in the pipeline. He enjoys all the trappings that such success brings, sending his seven-year-old son to an exclusive $40,000-a-year private school and dining at Michelin-starred restaurants. 

Yet for all that, he stays true to himself as the uncouth, sweary bloke from rural Australia not quite fitting it. He’s here to report back on that rarefied world and its ridiculous ways to the likes of us.

On stage, too, he maintains an unaffected air of being a straightforward guy with no airs or showiness. There might be a bit of rockstar swagger in his attitude – and the prodigious booze and cocaine intake – but at its core is an aversion to bullshit and willingness to call it out.

He has an affectionate pop at Jack Whitehall for bringing a troupe of dancers to this very O2 stage last week, when all he needs is a rarely used armchair. Whereas the younger comic had spectacle, Jefferies goes for intimacy, even sitting on the front of the vast stage at one point to draw us in closer.

A few spontaneous riffs reinforce the vibe that’s more comedy club than arena – including heckler control as sections of the crowd get fleetingly boisterous towards the end. And he’s happy to try out what he says is new material in front of 8,000 people (he hasn’t quite got the pulling power to require the O2’s upper circle, but still these are impressive crowd numbers).

Jefferies is the very definition of roguish charm, and for all the allusions to bad behaviour he’s a good guy, or at least trying to be.

The shtick is that he’s intolerant – of the French, of Italian-Americans, of women, though he points out his material is a lot less misogynistic than it used to be. There’s one vile joke which delights his crowd, but generally the idea of him saying something appalling is kept as a threat, rather than realised. And when he does evoke bad taste, such as in his Michael Jackson routine, it has a sense of purpose, however contrived, rather than being just gratuitous.

His intolerance also extends to lactose, a physiological flaw which gives the the show its spine: a shaggy-dog story about his race against time to not shit himself after indulging in a cheesy delights while on a date at one of those gourmet restaurants. 

The 42-year-old digresses frequently and at length, but this anecdote – knowing he has exactly 40 minutes to get to a toilet before the effects kick in – gives the whole show a sense of urgency and jeopardy worthy of Mission: Impossible.

Notwithstanding this scatological subtext and his unsophisticated persona, Jefferies is a sharp commentator, as anyone who’s seen his viral routine on US gun control can attest. In one of the best routines here, he teases the millennials for their impatience with less woke older generations without ever slipping into the easy lane of dismissing them all as fragile snowflakes. Quite the opposite, in fact.

There’s also a warm heart behind all the c-bombs and outrageous material, proved when he mulls the behaviour of his family with affection – even when that affection is tested by their failings. Yet he is the first to admit to his own shortcomings, making himself the ridiculous butt of his jokes.

Such a combination proves that for all his TV success, live is where Jim Jefferies thrives best.

Jim Jefferies; The Night Talker is touring the UK until December 14. Dates and tickets

Review date: 4 Dec 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: O2 Arena

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