Jim Jefferies Live: The Unusual Punishment Tour, which played the Durham Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14th, showcases the comedy of Australian stand-up comic Jim Jefferies, who created and stars in the FX sitcom Legit and the new Jim Jefferies Show on Comedy Central. Comic Forrest Shaw was also on board as the opening act.
The Unusual Punishment Tour, currently making its way across the United States and Canada, features the same in-your-face social commentary that has pricked up audiences’ ears for nearly a decade, thanks to comedy specials on HBO and Netflix.
The material is all new, per Jim Jefferies’ policy. “Once a bit has been recorded, I never perform it again,” he stated during his show last weekend. He often references older bits, meaning newbies may wish to flip through the back catalogue. He disclosed early in the evening that he has yet to write material about Harvey Weinstein, so that scandal was off the table. At least for now.
The show opened with Jefferies fuming about how awful non-English languages and accents are. Those unfamiliar with his satirical modus operandi might assume that he is, in fact, terribly racist. What you would discover (if you are paying any attention at all) is that he is mocking the racists themselves by speaking their nonsense aloud in a new context. But if this style — basic satire — is not your thing, I would skip this show.
I expected an anti-Trump tirade, as the Aussie ex-pat had wrestled with American politics throughout his most recent Netflix special, 2016’s Freedumb. “I know you Trump supporters are going to leave here and start typing online that I just talked about Trump this whole show,” Jim Jefferies said last Saturday. “I’m telling you now that I’m only doing 10 minutes on Trump.”
Those 10 minutes were spent on the President’s tendency to sexually assault women and then brag about it. After that, it was not about Trump but his fan base. Jefferies’ spin on “immigrants are taking our jobs”: “I can’t tell you how many white people I turned away who wanted to be my housekeeper” and “you’ll miss the Mexican workers once the first white person has to spend $47 on a pineapple. And that’s not even a Whole Foods pineapple.”
On our unstable healthcare system: “I support a wall. On the U.S.-Canadian border. They’ll need one to keep you all from jumping over once your healthcare runs out,” said Jim Jefferies.
As is his style, most points were made through small scenes. A Canadian man’s hypothetical encounter with the TSA at an airport showed the difference in social norms between our two cultures. A hypothetical pizzeria owner explained that there are big problems with his pizza, whereas some customers feel that #AllFoodMatters. “But we’re not talking about other food right now. There’s big concerns about the pizza. No one mentioned anything else.”
Whether he is changing minds I cannot be sure. His transparently progressive statements do not attack conservatives per se, but rather point out — in his view — the ridiculousness of their stances. “If the Las Vegas shooter was black,” says Jim Jefferies, “we’d blame #BlackLivesMatter. If he was a Muslim, we’d demand more bans. But since he’s white, we blame poor hotel security.”
This brought us to the topic of firearms. Fans are always happy to hear him speak on the matter, after his 16-minute rant on gun control from the 2014 Netflix special BARE became his trademark bit. He combines facts, observations, and his hypothetical characters to destroy pro-gun arguments one by one until the Second Amendment looks like it has been run through a paper shredder.
“A defensive weapon does not need a scope,” Jefferies argues, noting that no civilian needs a sniper rifle, nor does he need more than three guns. Then came a surreal bit about the “right to bear arms” going beyond guns: “The only thing that’s going to stop a bad guy with a chainsaw in Target is a good guy with a chainsaw in Target,” he quipped.
The second half of the nearly two-hour set featured personal anecdotes: his brother urinating on the family carpet because he couldn’t get a Coke, meeting a drunken Al Pacino at a billionaire’s birthday party, and using a child’s potty so he can feel like a giant. Jim Jefferies joined the ranks of many contemporary comedians speaking publicly about their personal struggles with mental illness.
Walking the thinnest of comedic tightropes, he listed his favorite and least favorite disabilities, describing the positive and negative characteristics of their sufferers. This was his attempt to include those that are typically excluded from comedy because of pity or fear of public backlash.
Can a person in a wheelchair be an idiot? Yes. But not because he is in a wheelchair. Can a blind person be cruel? Yes. But not because she is blind. Jefferies’ understands the difference. Whether you feel that is an appropriate topic for comedy is up to you. But the audience largely accepted this bit as good-natured ribbing rather than mockery.
Having lived in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Jim Jefferies has a multi-angled perspective that few of us do. Some argue that those who criticize America are unpatriotic. But what we really need right now is some tough love. Someone to call us out on our B.S. and help us see ourselves with some objectivity. This is a service that Jefferies appears more than willing to provide.
JIM JEFFERIES LIVE: THE UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT TOUR (AEG Presents, Oct. 14 at the Durham Performing Arts Center).
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.facebook.com/JimJefferies/videos/10154351059713524/.
Jim Jefferies (Perth, Western Australia-born stand-up comedian, nee Geoffrey James Nugent): http://jimjefferies.com/ (official website), https://www.aegpresents.com/artist/108864/jim-jefferies-tickets (AEG Presents bio), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1812944/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/JimJefferies (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/jimjefferies (Twitter page), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Jefferies_(comedian) (Wikipedia), and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm0DJ7GBsBZ7-Nq5x10c9hQ (YouTube).
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Dustin K. Britt, a Triangle native, is an actor and director. He holds an M.A.Ed. in Special Education from East Carolina University and teaches locally. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment. You can find him on Facebook as Dustin K. Britt and via his movie blog Hold the Popcorn.