Brash Australian comedian Jim Jefferies is the latest addition to the late-night talk show line-up. He’ll introduce a global perspective with The Jim Jefferies Show beginning June 6.
The weekly show, currently slotted for ten episodes, will be Comedy Central’s answer to Jon Oliver: A Commonwealth comedian with an accent and a point of view. Jefferies will use the show as a new platform for his political commentary, with which fans are deeply familiar from his stand-up.
Jefferies drew significant attention for a bit on gun control and earned accolades for last year’s FreeDumb, a comedy special aimed at Donald Trump. He’s definitely got a lot of opinions – as his Twitter feed regularly reveals – and he’s ready to take on the news each week. The comedian, who is currently working on a new stand-up special, doesn’t necessarily see himself as specially qualified for this gig, but he’s heading behind the desk anyway.
We spoke with Jefferies about how the series will deal with current events, how he ended up here in his career and why America isn’t totally fucked.
Have you always aspired to be a late-night talk show host?
Well, of course you think of every eventuality. Like, “I aspire to be a movie star.” But, really, the only thing I ever thought I would be was a stand-up comedian. I didn’t think I’d be a late-night show host. But here I am. And who knows, I’m sure Arnold Schwarzenegger came to America he didn’t think he’d be governor. You take it one step at a time. I am sure I will never be president.
What are the qualifications for a good late-night host?
Being original is the best thing. You have to bring something to the table that the other people aren’t doing. I feel like it’s the same thing as with stand-up comedy where if you watch too much of anyone else doing it you won’t have your own voice. So I’m trying to keep myself pretty isolated from the other shows. Look, I watch Samantha Bee and I watch Jon Oliver and I watch The Daily Show, but I’ve sort of stopped watching them since I got my show because I want to do my own thing. I try to keep to myself.
What perspective does you feel your show comes from?
It’s going to be news-based. It’s going to be social commentary more than just facts and figures. It’s more of an opinion piece than the other ones maybe are. You watch a lot of news on TV and news readers are meant to be impartial. They’re meant to just give you the news. And now what we’re calling news on TV is really by pundits, not newsreaders. I’m more of a pundit than I am a newsreader. I’m going to be giving opinions. I’m going to be saying what I think. People get stuck in believing that what these people are saying are facts – they’re not facts. It’s just what these people believe to be facts. People giving opinions is now called news.
Is there anything that specifically qualifies you to be one of these people speaking an opinion on TV?
I’m really funny! But I don’t think there’s anything that qualifies me more than anyone else in the world, no. I don’t think that any newsreader, serious or funny, is more qualified either. It’s basically entertainment. I had a routine on gun control that went viral and then I had a routine on Trump that people liked, and I’ve had a few other routines that made the rounds. You just hope people find you talking about things entertaining. And you hope that maybe some people agree with you or you give a new angle on something. But I’m not qualified. I haven’t been to university and studied these subjects. But I have a healthy interest in politics and I watch the news. I’m as qualified and as unqualified as everybody else.
Do you feel there’s a genuine value to the late-night shows even though they’re meant as entertainment?
I think what these comedy news shows do that maybe news doesn’t do by itself is we start more discussion. I feel like the regular news starts fights, between family members and friends, but I feel like comedy news will start discussion. I don’t think we’re in this world changing people’s mind. But I think we’re definitely make conversations start. And conversations can lead to people changing their minds. So maybe we’re the tipping point at the end of an argument or the beginning of a conversation.
Where do you personally get your news?
At the moment I have three televisions in my office. I’m watching CNN and FOX at the same times. Luckily for me I have a team of researchers and writers on this show, so I’m more educated now doing this show than I was before. I do look at stuff online, but the problem with stuff online is that people want you to agree with them constantly. If you liked Hillary then you’re going to get all the stuff like “Trump’s an asshole” and if you like Trump you’re going go with the stuff that’s “Hillary is a crook.” Probably the truth is somewhere in the middle, but no one is getting moderate news sent to them. We’re all getting extreme point of views powered into us and it’s making us go further apart from one another. We have more information than we’ve ever had and we’re getting further apart. So now I’m more informed and more confused than I’ve ever been.
Is Trump aware of you?
I hope not. I don’t really want Trump bothering me in my life. Maybe he is, but he hasn’t said anything about me. I’ve tweeted about him before. I think he’s too upset with Alec Baldwin to worry about me. I feel like my type of comedy just talking about him doesn’t really piss him off. I talked about him doing the wrong thing with the Muslim ban and all these things, and I feel like that doesn’t bother him. It’s when someone makes fun of his skin tone or his relationship with his wife that he gets upset.
Is your show focused solely on America or will it take a global viewpoint?
That was the whole angle to this show when we sold it to Comedy Central – that we’re going to be doing more world news than any other show. Every episode will have a field piece and that field piece will be filmed outside of America. In the first one we have a field piece in Holland and in the second one we go to Australia. We’ve got one in China. We’ve filmed five so far. A lot of times I get accused of bashing America or hating America because I joke about America. But when I’m in Australia I joke about Australia. When I’m in the U.K. I joke about the U.K. You’ve got to do it someone’s face. Nowhere is a utopia. I feel like there’s this idea that if you speak about against the 2nd Amendment or you speak about healthcare you’re an America hater. I think the most patriotic thing a person can do it try to make the environment around them better. So I wanted to do these field pieces where for once I was showing that things are fucked overseas too. Like, “Hey, you’re doing it wrong, but these people are doing it wrong as well.”
We’re very focused on the negative right now in America. Is there anything you think we’re doing right as a country?
First of all, 80 percent of it is going well. The stock market is doing fine. The economy is okay. You’re kicking ass in every battle. You have a military so large that no one is really willing to fuck with you. You have great jobs. Your weather is fantastic. Your food is fucking awesome. Most of it is going fine, but no one wants to hear that. That’s not news. News is only what’s going wrong. And also, comedy is only what’s going wrong. There’s no point in joking about the good. There’s nothing entertaining about that. There’s a victim in every joke. The shittier things get the funnier they get. So I don’t hope the world goes to shit, but if it does I’m going to try to be right there and make a career out of it.