In the early hours of Sunday, June 12, a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killed 49 people and injured 53 others. Terrorism and gun control were immediately thrust (again) into the spotlight, and one of the most-shared videos in the media firestorm surrounding the latter featured an Australian comedian ridiculing an American audience for their love of guns. The comic’s name? Jim Jefferies
The 39-year-old performer’s previous comedy special, Bare, featured a 15-minute segment dedicated to guns, the violence associated with their use and those who use them, and Australia’s infamous Port Arthur massacre. Jefferies compared his homeland’s decision to outlaw guns after the 1996 mass shooting to America’s apparent apathy to gun control, and he was loathed and loved for it. So much that he was forced to revisit it in Freedumb, his latest special for Netflix.
Ahead of Freedumb‘s premiere on Friday, July 1, we talked to Jefferies about his fascination with the Second Amendment, being an atheist in Jerusalem, and what it’s like getting old as a stand-up.
I wasn’t expecting you to talk gun control again, but it’s still timely, unfortunately.
Yeah, I had to bring it up again because most people know me for that routine. It’s only been a year or so since that happened right after Charleston, but I wanted to address it because 50 percent of every mention of me is regarding gun control now. So I have to comment on it.
Do you mind?
I don’t mind having to talk about it, no. It’s something I’m fairly passionate about as well, so it’s not a subject matter that doesn’t continue to come up in my head. I’ve got more stuff about it since I’ve recorded Freedumb. There’s a third routine now, and it won’t end.
They’re not going to change anything. If politicians have a sit-in at congress for 20 hours or whatever the fuck it was, and the Republicans won’t even allow a vote to stop terrorists — people who were on the terrorist watch lists — from having a gun, then we’re not getting any new laws anytime soon. And it’s a shame because I think most people want them. I even think members of the NRA want certain laws, but nothing’s going to happen. It’s bizarre.
You talk about how much hate mail you received for the Bare segment, especially after the Paris attacks. Did you get any fan mail too?
Of course, I got a lot of love for the whole thing. I lost a lot of fans, but I also gained a lot of fans. And hopefully, at the end of the day, there was an increase in both things. Most of it was good stuff, but when someone writes you a complimentary message, normally it’s, “Hey, keep on doing what you’re doing. I agree with you.”
But when someone writes you a message because they’re angry, it normally has statistics that are pretty fudged, from some website called “The Truth.” [Laughs.] The hate mail normally doesn’t say, “Hey, I don’t agree with you.” It normally says, “You Australian piece of shit. You aren’t welcome in this country.” There’s a lot more to it.
Social media and comments sections are sometimes the worst.
I have trouble seeing the good in this world. For example, I had to stop looking at YouTube and reading the comments many years ago. In the middle of thousands of compliments, if there was one that said I wasn’t funny or something, that’s the one I read. So I don’t Google myself, I don’t look at myself on the internet, but when people write directly to you on social media, it’s hard not to see that.
You spend more time talking about your son and your family life in Freedumb than you ever have before. Do you think your stand-up is changing?
The hope is I’m still doing it like me, and that my jokes haven’t become like Jim Gaffigan’s or Ray Romano’s. Hopefully it’s still within the realm of me, plus I also don’t want it to be just all crass. Most of these are stories about — apart from me calling my kid “dumb” — me trying my best as a parent, rather than me being a degenerate parent. Almost every other parent in the world is just giving it a go, trying their best, and maybe because some of their own flaws, they fuck it up. [Laughs.] Not through lack of trying or neglect, but just because of who I am. Everyone’s got the same issues, and we’re all just doing our best.
Right, because everyone’s getting older and experiencing new things — including your audience.
With this job, I also hope that my fanbase ages with me. I’ll pick up some older and younger fans along the way. Though sometimes they’ll write to me and say, “All you do is talk about your kid now.” And I’m like, “Come and see me when you’ve had a kid.” What, should I talk about one of my stands and taking drugs still? It could have gotten really sad for me, on stage. I could have started to look like a sad figure — not to say that I won’t in the future. I don’t know what’s going to happen in my life. Maybe I’ll get single again and act like an idiot, or maybe whatever.
I knew I couldn’t keep living the way I was living, I know that much. Not to say that I don’t drink anymore because I go out drinking every once in a while. I sorta picked it back up when my kid was born, but I’ve got a good handle on it now in comparison to what I did. I don’t take drugs anymore. I haven’t had drugs in a long time. This is a different phase of my life. I used to talk about my childhood on stage — my brother, or my dad saying something stupid — but I ran out of those stories because there’s only so many of them I could tell. Now I’m talking about someone else’s childhood on stage, and all that’s happened to these stories is I’ve become the father in them. I’m sure in fucking 30 years’ time I’ll be doing a similar routine about being a grandfather.
Freedumb‘s your second outing with Netflix. How do you like that process compared to broadcast or cable television?
It’s great. Bare was 76 minutes long and this one’s 84 minutes long, or something like that. I always try to make them 70 minutes long, because being just a little bit longer than an hour is the perfect amount. An hour can be filled so quickly with junk and crowd work and crap like that. If you watch a lot of people’s specials, doing crowd work when their special comes to an hour… If you ever see a comedian do that, that’s someone who has 40 minutes of material for their special and they’re trying to pad it out. In my mind, they’re not ready to release one as soon as they do that.
The special is long, but totally watchable. Were you ever worried about it being too much for one sitting?
It’s running a little long, but that’s fine. I’m of the opinion that viewers can watch it however they want. Some might watch it in two parts, or take however long they like to get through it. If you turn it off because you get bored after 50 minutes, that’s your priority. If you come and see me live, I always do an hour and 40 minutes or two hours, so Freedumb is closer to what you’d see live than something that was engineered television. We did cut stuff out, though — about 20 minutes or so.
There were jokes in this special that, if I didn’t record them now, I was never recording them. There were added things, like I did a Donald Trump routine that I wrote five days before I recorded it. I knew if I didn’t record it, it would never become topical, and I really enjoyed performing it so I wanted to keep it around. Though I’m very wary of putting things that are time sensitive in my specials, because in 20 years, will Trump be relevant at all? Then again, I still watch Eddie Murphy’s Delirious for when he references Mr. T. It still makes me laugh to this day. And I think throughout history Trump will probably be remembered in a similar light as Mr. T — a guy with wacky hair who said funny catchphrases.
You speak briefly about religion — a topic you’ve talked about at length before. Any reason you decided to do less about it for Freedumb?
For the life of me, I thought I was done with it. I thought I didn’t have anything more to say about religion, and then this routine popped into my head. At the moment I’m not performing anything religious because I just did that last bit, but I’m sure it will come up again. As long as they’re all killing each other. I just performed in Israel.
Wow, how’d that go?
Great! I never feel bad about saying religious jokes in the South and upsetting a few Americans because I said something about Christianity. I told jokes about Judaism in Israel and it got a round of applause. [Laughs.] I’ve been to Jerusalem and joked around, and no one seemed offended. I was pretty impressed. It’s one of the most religious places on Earth, and there were probably more atheists there than in America.
Jim Jefferies: Freedumb premieres Friday, July 1 on Netflix. Until then, here’s a preview…