For the first time in my 20-plus years as a journalist, I had to lay a ground rule down before interviewing "a comedy hero for our times", according to The Guardian, Jimmy Carr, and it was that he was at no point to laugh. Apart from many things, he is famous for his signature laugh, which even he admitted is "infectious", and it would have set me off and I would have been incapable of conducting the interview, and, after a quick snigger, he politely obliged.
Carr is currently on a world tour called "The Best of Ultimate Gold, Greatest Hits World Tour" and as part of that he is going to be performing for the first time in Spain here in Palma later this month.
Carr, read political science at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He graduated with a 2:1 in 1994. He then went on to work in the marketing department at Shell, before he was made redundant in January 2000.
"And at that point I decided to do something completely different. I had always thoroughly enjoyed taking the piss out of people at school and I thought how about trying to do it for a living. There is nothing more I enjoy than taking the piss out of people, even in my spare time, I do it 24/7, can’t help it.
"I think many people become comedians because they may have had a sick member of the family as they were growing up and used humour to try and make the patient laugh, to cheer them up, that was the driving force behind me any way. Trying to make life less ordinary."
So, in January of 2000, he performed his first paid stand-up gig, having only done his first unpaid pub show the previous month and since then he has gone on to tour the world, write and host and star in a series of radio and TV shows, in particular 8 Out of 10 Cats do Countdown, and win a host of awards.
"I love doing Countdown, it’s fun for all the family, it’s funny, quick and educating. Yeah the odd swear word slips out but it’s no big problem nowadays."
Carr’s trademark talent is his deadpan delivery, dark humour, and heckler interaction and he is going to be bringing his greatest hits jokes to Palma for the two hour show.
"So far I’ve toured with ten shows and one day I was thinking about all these rock bands and singers who go out on a greatest hits tour and thought: 'why don’t I do that?’ The only trouble is that in each tour I use some 300 jokes so I’ve had to select the best from around 3,000. There will also be some new material, it’s going to be fun. That’s what I’m all about. Even though I studied political science I tend to stay away from politics. Firstly I think for anyone over the age of 30 who goes on about their degree, something has gone wrong in their lives, and also, I don’t want to alienate people in the crowd. That’s not what I’m about. Coming to see Jimmy Carr is about having a good night out. OK, you can sit at home with a bunch of mates and watch a comic DVD but watching comedians live is a whole new experience. There’s the interaction between the comedian and the crowd and the members of the audience. It becomes one big comedy party. So, you get together, come and see me, have a laugh a few drinks after, or before, or both, and you have a good night out.
"That is one of the reasons comedy has become so big in the UK over the past few years with sell out performances at some of the biggest arenas usually filled by rock bands. It’s a good, fun and cheap night out.
"And I’m really looking forward to coming to Majorca. Never been, a lot of my friends have, so I will spend a few days looking around, no doubt pick up some new material. I guess most of the audience with be expatriates but I’ve performed in other foreign countries and I’ve found that, thanks to social media and the internet, people are watching comedians all round the world and always in English, they are not being dubbed. So, non English speakers are not only improving their English, they’re getting to know and understand the comedians. In the UK I have people who come from all over Europe to see my shows and I’ve performed in over 34 countries and everyone has always understood me.
"I once went out to Japan for a gig. I expected it be full of expatriates, but quite a few Japanese came along out of curiosity and they loved it. So I hope there will be a sizeable number of locals in the crowd plus fellow comedians always come along to check out what material other colleagues are using. So, yeah it’s going to be fun and I’m excited about making some new friends through the show."
On a more serious note I asked Carr why he thought so many great comedians have committed suicide and suffer from depression. Robin Williams took his own life two years ago as have the likes of the great Tony Hancock and many others over the years.
"To be honest, more dentists probably commit suicide than comedians. I think that the fact when a comedian takes his or her own life, it attracts more attention because of the irony of the whole sad affair. We are all expected to be funny and at the top of our game all the time, but very few professionals, whatever their career, are able to do that, we all have our ups and downs for various reasons, so I don’t really give it much thought.
"For me, I absolutely love my job. Like I said I get paid to take the piss out of people all the time, it’s a big circus, it’s like being allowed to behave like a big kid and mess about all the time while meeting all sorts of rich and famous people and going to parties. I get to stay up late and eat lots of Chinese food.
"I think the quote I love best is ‘laughter is the shortest distance between two people’ by Victor Borge the famous Danish comedian, pianist, and conductor and I hope I can prove that in Palma."
Jimmy Carr is performing at the Auditorium on 23 August, 10pm.
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