Jim Jefferies on Life Post-Television
When the comedian’s cult show Legit got canceled, he returned to his stand-up roots (and inked a deal with Netflix).
ComedianJim Jefferies recently watched helplessly as his TV series, Legit, got canceled after two seasons on FX. The network pulled the plug on the darkly funny show because, despite some praise from the critics, no one really watched it. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Jefferies taped a new stand-up special, Bare, which will debut on Netflix on August 29. It’s a crass, hilarious hour on topics like gun control, sex, and casting a disabled TV character. We spoke with the comedian about his writing process, the ups and downs of life on television, and trying to become his own type.
How do you determine what you’ll talk about when doing a new stand-up special?
The topics sort of pick themselves. I never sit down and focus on “OK, well, now I’ve gotta write some material about this.” It’s whatever is in my thoughts at the time, and then how long the joke is depends on how much I can say about it. Often the problem I have is that a lot of my jokes are very long-winded. I wouldn’t be a good comic on like America’s Got Talent or Last Comic Standing, where they perform for three minutes at a time. I wouldn’t get one joke out.
When the topics pick themselves, do you ever find yourself talking about something you never thought you’d joke about?
In this special, there’s a maybe 14-minute routine on gun control. I came from Australia, where they don’t really have guns, and I lived in Britain, where they don’t really have guns either, and I’ve never particularly cared whether a person had a gun. Now I’ve become someone who’s become a voice for the gun-control people. It’s something I didn’t see happening. Being edgy for me was saying there’s not God, or something like that. I was just preaching to the choir because the people who were coming to see me were already atheists. But with this new special there are people who are going to watch it who are pro-gun. It’s a lot more tense of a situation to be in, and it’s not one I particularly sought after.
What is your focus right now in your career?
My TV show Legit has only been canceled now for a few months, so I would have been working on season three to that. I’m trying to write new TV shows at the moment, and I’ll be taking them out and trying to sell them. I do go for acting auditions for some movies. I’m a make-my-own-luck type of guy. I don’t think my career is ever going to be made from auditioning. I think I’d be better off writing my own material. In the same sense that Ricky Gervais went from being a pudgy, funny-looking guy who you’d never cast in anything. Now you get call sheets where people want a Ricky Gervais-type character. That’s just from him writing for himself and performing in all his movies. Now he’s his own type.
But obviously if Francis Ford Coppola or Judd Apatow is reading this, I will do a film.
Let’s hope Francis Ford Coppola is reading this article!
I’m sure he is. He seems like a Maxim sort of guy.
You’ve mentioned a few times that you want to make a Legit movie. Is that a real possibility?
It’s always a possibility. The thing that’s sad is at the end of season two the characters really liked each other, and I had a really great way to wrap everything up. I had half of season three written, and I wanted it to be all wrapped up in about five seasons. I had a big ending, and it’d be nice to tie everything up in a bow. This might sound a little bit sappy, but me, Dan Bakkedahl, and DJ Qualls became really close—like best friends. It was just sad when we thought we’d be working together again, but we wouldn’t be.
When I go in with my next idea and pitch it, it will be with them. All we can do now is go to baseball games together. It’s a little sad because the three of us stick out like a sore thumb, and you get people who like the show asking if you’re filming something. You’re like, “Uh, no, just hanging out.”
So does it feel gratifying to have a new special on Netflix so soon after the cancelation?
I’ve done four stand-up specials in the past five years, and I didn’t fuck this one up. If you don’t think it’s good, then you’re wrong. I know it is.
Photos by Matthias Clamer / FX Networks / Everett Collection