Jimmy Carr is a regular guest on QI, and as a huge fan of the show I often got the chance to get a taste of his humour. Watching QI led to the invariable habit of trying to find the individual work of many of the comedians featured on the show, and Carr was one of them. Understandably, I was delighted to be able to watch him live in South Africa, at Emperor’s Palace this April.
The English comedian has toured South Africa before, and he displayed a keen understanding of his audience. Jokes about Mzansi were thus inevitable. Carr tossed in a few about JZ and Juju, and though amusing they felt a bit stale – more so, because our own comedians have already tackled this topic and kept it more current. I mean, come on! International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane dozed off in parliament the very week of his performance, and our comedic appetites are salivating as we wait for more jokes around her unhonourable behaviour.
Carr likes to shock and push the boundaries of societal decency, and this often comes with a proliferation of naughty words and even naughtier sex jokes. Which begs the sorry question – do we really live in an age so conservative, that we still deem sex controversial? That answer would be yes – and we need comedians like Carr to normalise the practice of talking about sex.
On stage Carr sounds practiced and polished. Maybe that’s not something you’d expect from a comedian, but it’s something you’d expect from someone who has mastered their craft, and been at it for years.
One of the unexpected elements of the show, and one of my favourites, was his use of caricatured sketches. For a segment of the show, he sat at a desk like a mischievous schoolboy while the sketches flashed on a screen in front of the audience – accompanied by an (in)appropriate joke, of course.
Audience participation is key to comedy, and Carr cleverly invites the audience to heckle him – something with which he has plenty of experience. By flipping the situation on it head he not only makes the most of a previously discomfiting situation, he also shows the audience that he can still think on his feet.
Carr has turned comedy into a performance. He often forewarns his audience that he is going to say something they don’t like, and has a delightful tendency to explain his jokes. Nothing kills a joke quicker than to explain it, but the deft manner with which he handles this makes it funny, and illustrates how Jimmy Carr has turned comedy into an art.