Comedy heavyweight Jimmy Carr is coming to Fairfield Halls on Saturday, August 13. The Croydon Guardian spoke to him about his upcoming show.
Q: Are you excited about currently touring your new show, "Laughter Therapy"?
A: Absolutely. I think, 'how flattering that two thousand people have actually paid to see me.' In some towns where I play, there are 50 different options for a night out; but they have booked a babysitter and organised transport and food and come to my show. The amount of effort they take, you want them to go away from the show thinking, 'that two hours was the most I've ever laughed!' Over two hours, you have a real opportunity to ensure that it's their funniest ever evening - and that's what I try to do!
Q: What do you love most about performing live?
A: The buzz. Some people have only ever seen stand-up on TV or DVD, but it works so much better live. It's good watching at home with two friends, but imagine how much better it is watching in a theatre with 2000 people. In that company, you get carried along and laugh more. Laughter is such a social activity. I love that thing where 2000 people all get me at a level that even some friends I've known since the age of eight don't. That's an amazing connection to have with people. In the past couple of years, comedy has become a night out, like going to the movies or the theatre. There is nothing better than going for a night out, having a great laugh and talking about it with your mates afterwards. It's a very visceral activity.
Q: You have a wonderful relationship with your audience. Tell us about it.
A: It's wonderful. It's such a special space when you're on stage with an audience. You all share the same sense of humour - much more than you often do with members of your own family. The healthiest couples have the same sense of humour. If you have the same sense of humour, then there's nothing you can't get through together. In some ways, it's a strange bond, being in the room alongside 2000 strangers with the same sense of humour. But when people talk about community spirit, that's what it is.
Q: Can you expand on that, please?
A: Because the audience have the same sense of humour as me, I want to have a conversation with them. It makes a gig a very, very friendly place. If people don't like you, they just ignore you. But if they do like you, they want to have a chat. I've not yet met a fan who I didn't really get on with. It's like supporting a football team. Because you know you're right, you have a real sense of ownership. People who are into it think, 'of course, he's funnier than other comedians.' We're all in the room together- it's tribal. I sometimes think I should run a dating service in the interval. They're way ahead of the game because they've all got the same sense of humour.
Q: You have a real bond with the fans, don't you?
A: Yes. As an actor or a musician, you're on a pedestal and you have a special skill that makes you magical. But a comedian just has a sense of humour - and everyone has a sense of humour. Laughter is a reflex action - you can't fake it. My favourite noise in comedy is a laugh followed quickly by an 'ooo'. That means the audience laughed before their consciousness kicked in. A sense of humour is like sexual orientation - you can't choose it. I don't know if I'm the comedy equivalent of a sexual perversion!
Q: Do a lot of fans come to see you at the stage door after a show?
A: Yes, but I love that. I always wait behind and sign things for them. I really enjoy it, and I know it also makes it more of a memorable night out for them. I got to see Chris Rock, who is one of my stand-up heroes, at the Hammersmith Apollo. They said come backstage and meet him after the show. All I did was shake his hand and say, 'great gig!' But it made it much more of an event for me. To say hello to people and get some feedback is a lovely way to end the evening.
Q: During the warm-up shows, do the audience help you decide which jokes to put in the finished act?
A: Absolutely. They help me whittle 350 jokes down to 270. I do stand-up for a living - you'd imagine I'd know more than the audience about what's funny, but I don't. Lenny Bruce was right: the audience is a genius. There is this weird moment where the collective mind decides what's funny. It's a very humbling thing. This random collection of people knows instantly what's right and wrong. They are the ultimate arbiter about what will fly and what won't. It's amazing how consistent their opinions are. There's no other test - it has to be the audience!
Q: You're an exceptionally popular comedian who has achieved an immense amount already. Do you still feel you have new places to go?
A: Yes. Looking back at my earlier stuff, I'm much better now than I was then. I'm very grateful I've had the opportunity to grow as a performer. I've learnt that the looser you are, the better you are - I like a bit of loose! Because you're on TV, people think you're the finished product, but you're not. I saw Billy Connolly at the Hammersmith Apollo in January, and he was even better than he was in Montreal last year. He got the entire audience into his space - he was awesome! How brilliant that people can keep improving. Maybe someone reading this will think, 'I don't like him much now, but perhaps in twenty years he'll get the hang of it. I'll give him a go then'.
Q: So what helps you improve - is it down to experience?
A: That helps. If you talk an airline pilot, he doesn't talk about years in the job but hours in the cockpit. It's the same for me - hours on stage are what counts. Everything else is a training ground - the time on stage is what's real.
Q: You have a special affinity with the Edinburgh Festival. Why is that?
A: I just love Edinburgh - it's always been my thing. This year will be my tenth Festival. I started off there doing "Rubbernecker" with Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Robin Ince. As always, I'm putting together this new show for Edinburgh. If you didn't have that deadline, you'd never be able to make yourself write jokes every day. Why would you? I do have times where I think, 'oh my God, August seems to be coming up very quickly!' People underestimate the power of fear as a motivation. You're soon going to be standing in front of 2000 people for 90 minutes and trying to make them laugh - you'd better find some funny stuff quickly!
Q: You've also got a new DVD out this November, entitled "Making People Laugh." Tell us about that.
A: It's the DVD from my last tour, 'Rapier Wit.' The complete set of my DVD titles now spells out: 'Live Stand-Up Comedian In Concert Telling Jokes Making People Laugh.' 'Rapier Wit' features the entire show, recorded in Glasgow. I wanted to capture the feistiness of a Glasgow show, and there was certainly a really cracking atmosphere when we recorded the DVD. There's this great story from when Ken Dodd was playing at the Glasgow Empire. He was storming the gig when a voice in the audience piped up, 'it's all very funny if you like laughing'. That's the definitive heckle. You can't come back to that!
Q: What extras does 'Making People Laugh' have?
A: It includes extras such as 'Jimmy's Twitter Diary', a Comedy Central Special, a section on me meeting and greeting fans after the record, and bonus stand-up material, including 'Jimmy Carr Just For Laughs,' a selection of my gala performances from the Montreal Comedy Festival.
Q: How do you cope with a high public profile?
A: Let's not get carried away. As soon as you need a bodyguard, it becomes another world. Comedy is a low grade of fame. We're clowns and jesters. In the social standing of entertainers, we're just one up from jugglers. We're only two rungs up from those guys who spray themselves gold and stand still for a living.
Q: Is there a downside to fame?
A: Not for me. You are who you are when no one's watching. So if you're driving down a remote country lane and you throw your coke can out of the window because no one can see you, then that's who you are. But if someone were driving along behind you, you'd never do that. Being famous makes you a better person because you're constantly being watched in a way that most people aren't. It keeps you honest. I'm sure I'd be a terrible person if left to my own devices. But luckily, I'm being kept under constant surveillance by people who have Heat magazine's number.
Q: Are you in the happy position of not having to court the press?
A: I am. I'm not in the tabloids every day. I'm respectful of what the press have done for me, but I'm not reliant on the press. If I never appeared in a paper again, I'd still sell tickets. The best possible advert for my show this year is my show last year. It's 'Laughter Therapy'. Recommended dosage: one show a year.
Q: Do you feel your humour is sometimes near the knuckle?
A: I'm told my sense of humour is really dark, but nobody thinks their sense of humour is dark - they just think it's funny. It's great that I have the freedom to say whatever I want on stage and people have the freedom to complain about it. A couple of lines might go near the edge, but people have literally bought into what I'm doing and I feel have permission to say what I want.
Q: Do people ever get offended by your material?
A: No one ever gets offended on behalf of themselves, but on behalf of someone else. It's laudable of them to get offended second-hand. Freedom of speech is easy if you agree with someone. Where it gets more interesting is when you don't agree with someone but still have to defend their right to joke about things.
Q: So do people get too aerated about your routines sometimes?
A: People should remember that it's a joke, not an opinion. I'm trying to be funny. You can say what you like as long as you're to make people laugh. But the jokes are not who I really am. There is nothing in my show that 2000 people aren't in on. Occasionally people will pick out one of my jokes and magnify it. In any given year, you could take 50 to 100 of my jokes and say 'that's despicable,' but they have to be seen in context. A lot of the time, it's about misdirected anger. If you do a joke about horrendous injustice in society, people will complain because they're annoyed about horrendous injustice in society. But nothing in my show has a political stance. I'm not trying to get any reaction apart from a laugh. The idea is to make the world a more joyful place!
Q: Do you worry about criticism from the papers?
A: Occasionally, I get a hard time from the press, but if you're going to be edgy, that just comes with the territory. You have to be a big boy about it and stand up to be counted. You apologise if necessary, but don't be arrogant about it. But you have to remember that being offended is nothing too bad. It's just words - nothing serious has happened.
Q: What do you have to say to people who claim you're on TV too often?
A: You have to go out of your way to watch me on TV. I'm easy to avoid. When people say to me, 'you're on TV too much,' I reply, 'are you saving the batteries on your remote? There are 200 channels - watch something else!' TV reviewers have the worst job in the world because they're the only people who have to watch TV they don't like. In the same way, you'd have to make a pretty big mistake to buy £25 tickets for you and your missus and think, 'I really hate this guy!' That's a major error - it's more than just bumping your head on a door.
Q: Do you still get the same thrill as ever out of touring?
A: Yes. It's my job. There is no other job apart from entertainment where people just take a year off. Pop stars say, 'we recorded an album and then we took a year off'. You did what? You're a grown-up, it's your job! What would I do with a year off? I'd have option but to get into trouble! But fortunately stand-up is my job, and I absolutely love it. A lot of comedians have acting aspirations, and there are always offers to do other things. On any given Sunday night, I could be a detective driving a vintage car with a personality quirk. I can't decide whether to be divorced or alcoholic - maybe both! But for me stand-up is enough. It's a great job.
Q: Tell us more.
A: It's such a privileged position to be in. I don't want to sound overly 'aw shucks' about it, but this is an unbelievable job to have The day I stop getting a kick out of stand-up is the day I get a proper job. I did have a proper job for five minutes, but I didn't like it much. Now I've got a job where I can sleep in till 11am. Your days are your own, then come the evening, a bit of guy-liner, a touch of tinted moisturiser and you're away! People think I left my job to become a successful TV comedian. No, I left my job to join the circus. I feel so grateful to have a life less ordinary.
Q: Why is that important to you?
A: I grew up in suburbia and I had a boring childhood. Now I'm scared of being bored - that's reflected in the type of comedy I do. It's three jokes a minute because I don't like being bored. I love gigs on a Sunday night. Nothing happens on a Sunday night, it's the most boring, melancholy night of the week. But people who come to my show are squeezing the last bit of juice out of the weekend.
Q: Finally, why do one-liners work so well for you?
A: Audiences don't have to enjoy every single joke. If you didn't like that one, don't get hung up on it - there'll be another one along in a minute. But doing one-liners is a voracious monster. Each joke only takes 30 seconds, or ideally 20 seconds. It would be great to be able to do longer routines. I think a lot of comedians have children because they need a show - 'I knocked up the missus because I was desperate for some material about twins!' If I ever run out of material, I'll simply go and have colonic irrigation. There must be loads of material in that!