Contrary to what those who only know him because of his ferocious and cunning stand-up routines that take down gun rights advocates and Donald Trump supporters might believe, Jim Jefferies doesn’t think the United States is a land of nincompoops.
“This whole idea that I hate America because I’m making jokes about America?,” the Australian comedian says during a press junket in May. “I fucking joke about my brother all the time. I don’t hate him. I don’t think Australia is far superior or Britain is superior to America. I think they’ve all got their faults.”
He simply thinks he, a human who grew up on the other side of the world without guns (but with, he reminds, government sanctioned healthcare), brings a different perspective to these situations.
“The reason that my gun control routine did well is because I thought the whole situation was crazy; not because I had conflict in my head,” he says. “I looked at it like what’s going on? Whereas, [Americans], whether you like them or not, you understand. Although there are things I’m indoctrinated on. I can’t fathom why you wouldn’t have health care, that you would keep it in the private sector even when you bring in something like Obamacare. I can’t wrap my head around that.”
Jefferies plans to prove just the opposite of this supposed animosity with his eponymous weekly news show, which premieres tonight, June 6, on Comedy Central. Similar to the formats popularized by The Daily Show and the various shows it hath wrought, The Jim Jefferies Show will feature the comic sharing his perspective on the news from behind a desk as well as in-the-field reporting on larger topics, usually with an international bent. But these exposes aren’t just going to mock our heritage or political persuasions.
“In the first episode, we’re going to Holland to see Black Pete,” Jefferies says. “Black Pete is a Christmas tradition where all the people go in blackface. Now, Holland is arguably one of the most liberal societies we have in our entire Earth: prostitution, drugs, gay marriage, they’re all there. [They have an attitude of] ‘you like it? Well, we’re not going to get in your way.’ Except for Christmas. Then they all like to do blackface.”
To be clear, Jefferies is a fan of late-night news programs like Daily Show, TBS’s Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (he’s especially tickled that, like his new show, they’re all hosted by foreigners). But he does hope his program sends a unique message. He says that he considers his show to be more a “think piece” than a “lecture.”
“There’s no place where you go to and are like ‘this country’s a utopia’,” he says. “But you should try to make your surroundings into one. Wherever I live, I try to say that’s how I reckon how a place can improve. Now, I’m not the fucking king of the world. I can’t change anything. I’m just giving my opinions.”
Jefferies points out that there’s a huge appetite for these kinds of programs right now; The Daily Show recently hit a ratings record and Bee has enough clout behind her after two seasons hosting her own show to organize her Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner protest/special. But he says not all of his episodes will have a message about our government’s current regime.
“Some of the comments that I’ve read are ‘oh it’s another liberal coming on to fucking be a cock and bashing [Trump],’” Jefferies says. “That’s not the intention at all. I’m just being reactionary to what’s going on around me.”
Despite his attempts at depicting an equal playing field, Jefferies knows he’s got a long hill to climb when it comes to winning over certain perspective audience members. Like anyone who honed his or her craft on stage in front of hecklers, he’s really looking forward to battling internet trolls, saying “it used to get me down, but now riling people up is just fun.”
“I’ll tell you this about people and hate mail: Every day, I go to the shopping mall and three or four people will stop me and have a photo and tell me how much they love me,” he says. “But for some reason, I think 50 percent of the internet tells me they hate me. Now, I have to assume that while I’m walking around in that mall, another four people are going I fucking hate that guy. But they never walk up to you. I have an opinion that these people [online] are fairly cowardly, so I’m not too concerned.”
And, he argues, what does it matter if he secretly does bleed as cobalt blue as Red Staters fear?
“The simple fact of the matter is I can’t vote,” he surmises perfectly. “So what is my political agenda? All I can do is give a few opinions and hopefully people will listen.”
No wonder the slogan for his show is “hear him out.”
The Jim Jefferies Show airs Tuesdays on Comedy Central at 10:30 PM ET/PT.
Watch us interview Jim Jefferies live in the Paste Studio.
Whitney Friedlander is an entertainment journalist with, what some may argue, an unhealthy love affair with her TV. A former staff writer at both Los Angeles Times and Variety, her writing has also appeared in Esquire, Elle, Complex, Vulture, Marie Claire, Toronto Star and others. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son and very photogenic cat.