Over the last couple of years, Jim Jeffries has probably become the fringe’s best-known exponent of dirty and potentially offensive humour. Drawing on personal experience, his latest set covers topics such as sex, paedophilia, racism, anorexia, disability, war and cancer, with apparently no pretence to revealing deeper human truths. But this is not to say there is no humanity here. Jeffries, whether he admits it or not, evidently does value humour for something more than momentary shock value. His recent shows for the armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan perhaps highlight the true value of a good joke: that it is both unifying and cathartic.
Risqué humour seemed to lose its place in mainstream comedy during the 80’s and 90’s. Revelling in the grittiness of his material, Jeffries expresses distaste for what has largely replaced it: surrealist comedy and comedy that, in his view, is overly intellectualised (while also expressing his hatred for the truly offensive comedy of the likes of Bernard Manning). While the public still enjoys the many comedians who fall into either of these areas, the reaction of Jeffries audience proves that there is a definite place for his own style too, and there are few comedians who make you laugh as hard as he can.
The only reservation about this show is that some of the best material is borrowed from last year’s set, which limits his credibility for criticizing other comedians, when he seems to be stuck in old routines.
In Saying that, Jeffries does not graft philosophy or morals onto his comedy routines, but if his jokes hold intelligence and occasional sensitivity, these are part of their integral humour, and that is why they stand up so well.