Timing is everything when it comes to comedy — it’s more than simply how a performer frames, phrases and delivers a joke.
Timing is even more important for a comedian who’s also the host of a weekly cable TV comedy show that derives its laughs from current events.
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That’s one of the challenges that Jim Jefferies faces, as he and his small staff put together their weekly show, “The Jim Jefferies Show,” which debuted with 10 episodes on Comedy Central in June and will continue for another 10 weeks with episodes that began airing Sept. 19.
Jefferies, an Australian-born performer who enjoys mining American politics just for the laughs, says the production schedule of the weekly show doesn’t leave a lot of room for error.
Which is why Jefferies seems to have mixed emotions about President Donald Trump’s penchant for tweeting.
It isn’t the president’s 3 a.m. bombastic or controversial tweets that annoy Jefferies; those are usually comedy gifts, once he and his writers get their hands on them.
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What stresses out “The Jim Jefferies Show” crew the most is when they’ve locked the show down over the weekend ahead of a Tuesday afternoon recording and Trump gets into a Twitter-storm on a Saturday or Sunday. Or even Tuesday morning.
“If something big happened over the weekend, we write a new story on Monday, then we hope nothing happens Monday night or Tuesday morning,” Jefferies explains during a phone call from his office at Comedy Central. “But if Donald Trump sends some stupid tweet, then we have to start again and rewrite it for Tuesday before we record it. So it’s an ever-evolving thing.”
Jefferies is content with his weekly show. He knows there are other comedy shows that have gone daily and play off the news headlines — “The Daily Show,” for one — but Jefferies, 40, wouldn’t want that kind of pressure.
“I don’t know how ‘The Daily Show’ does it, because I couldn’t do it every day,” he says. “(They) have three times as many writers as we do, but it is a more stressful gig, I’m sure. I was very happy when John Oliver started doing (‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ on HBO) once a week and Samantha Bee (‘Full Frontal with Samantha Bee’ on TBS) started doing it once a week. They sort of set a precedent for me coming in and doing it once a week.”
Plus, it gives Jefferies more time to explore his favorite form of comedy.
He’s done some acting, appeared on other shows and does a cable TV special every 18 months. But there’s nothing he enjoys more than grabbing a microphone, stepping into the spotlight in front of a room of strangers and then proceeding to do an hour or more of standup.
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“Standup is my favorite form of comedy. I’ve acted, done all these shows, but I know that standup will be the thing I’ll still be doing in my so-called retirement,” he says.
Jefferies returns to Atlantic City to perform 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, in Borgata’s Music Box. He’s not sure whether it’s an extension of the show he brought to Borgata last September, but he’s fairly certain that with the advent of his TV show, his audience will find nearly all of the material — if not every joke, gag or wisecrack — new.
The weekly TV show, which has been known to take a drive down the political comedy highway, has helped improve Jefferies’ standup material, too.
“I used to do a lot more political stuff in my stand-up, but I’m not doing it as much … at the moment because that’s what I do all day at work (on the TV show),” he explains. “I think my standup is actually getting a little sillier, because all the jokes I’m writing are political and I’m putting them straight into the (TV) show rather than putting straight into my standup. I would say that my standup, while it’s more aggressive and offensive and stuff, it’s also more light-hearted.”
Jefferies believes his Australian heritage gives him something of a boost when he’s plying the waters of American political comedy.
“I think there’s an advantage to being an outsider. But it doesn’t necessarily make it easier,” he says. “I get a lot of flak from people, ‘You’re not from here, you shouldn’t make any comments,’ or, ‘If you don’t like it, go back to Australia,’ all that type of stuff.”
But he also sees a hint of hypocrisy is those who criticize him for his comedy.
“I find it very odd that most Trump supporters are very adamant about people being ‘liberal snowflakes’ and being such delicate people,” he adds. “But then if you tease Trump. they lose their mind. It seems slightly hypocritical to me.”