When Jim Jefferies turned 40 in February, the Australian-born comedian decided to stop a routine that’s becoming harder to repeat in middle age: crash-dieting before recording his standup specials. During an appearance last June on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” Jefferies brought visual aids, including a photo of a smartphone app tracking his weight as a line graph.
“I have an app where I put my weight in every single day so I can see where my life’s going,” Jefferies explained, as a graphic appeared on a screen behind Kimmel’s desk. “Can anyone tell where I recorded my special?” he asked the audience, pointing to a dip in the graph: 200 pounds. The line then shot up to 210 pounds. “Then, I went on tour in Australia and that was horrible,” he said.
Why shed the pounds at all? “It’s pretty simple, really: I want to look good on camera,” Jefferies says by phone, describing how his weight plummets 20 pounds ahead of taping his standup specials (there have been seven). “I just eat half portions, do cardio every day. My kid will want to watch these specials in 20 years’ time. I don’t want him to think his dad was a fat s--- the whole time, do I? Even when I lose the weight, it’s not like I become stunning-looking. I’m just trying to hold it together.”
But that crash-dieting stops now, Jefferies says. The comic, who will perform Saturday, April 1, at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, has been spending his downtime lately — including during this interview — on the couch in his Los Angeles home, inhaling snacks and watching CNN. This is research for his weekly late-night Comedy Central series, “The Jim Jefferies Show,” debuting in June, which means his face will be on television far too often to bother maintaining his diet, he says.
“In my 20s, I didn’t give a s---, but now that I’m 40, I fell right into politics,” Jefferies says of the talk show, which will riff on the week’s headlines. “I used to be of the opinion that it didn’t matter who you voted for. The world balanced itself out and kept on truckin’. Which is true, but politics are still important.”
That’s an understatement for Jefferies, who has been delivering crass topical musings on politics and religion in his standup specials for the past decade. In “Freedumb,” his 2016 special, Jefferies argues that America isn’t as free as other countries (while backing away slowly onstage); and about President Trump (“he’s like a kid running for class president: ‘We’re gonna have two lunches, and there’s gonna be a soda machine in every classroom!’ ”).
Trump came up again in February during an appearance on “Real Time With Bill Maher,” during which he bickered with Trump supporter Piers Morgan about the president’s Muslim ban. Morgan claimed there wasn’t a ban. “Give him a chance,” Jefferies told Morgan, his voice close to shouting. “Hitler didn’t kill all the Jews on the first day. He worked up to it.”
In “Freedumb,” Jefferies also revisits a gun-control bit from his 2014 comedy special, “Bare,” which went viral on social media. That bit, in which he ripped the National Rifle Association and claimed Australia’s gun-control efforts are superior to America’s, resulted in angry Facebook messages from pro-gun activists. The letters are still coming.
“It consumes a lot of my life, that gun-control bit, so I had to talk about it in the show,” Jefferies says. “I had no idea what crazy was until I poked that hornet’s nest with a stick. Every interview, someone would ask me about it. Whenever there’s a massacre of people, people want my opinion, which I felt was a bit silly.”
Jefferies is hardly afraid to turn confrontational, especially when politics are involved, but reactions from the public have gotten “insane,” he says. He opens the “Freedumb” special by explaining that he doesn’t always believe his own jokes.
“We live in a moment where comedians make jokes, and people say, ‘Why’d you say that? Do you think that’s funny?’ ” Jefferies says. “I’d say, ‘Yeah, I do, because I made a joke about it. The president can tell us he’s being wiretapped, but actually, guess what? He’s joking. But when I say something, I shouldn’t be joking. So I needed to remind the audience that comedians are joking.”
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