STAND-UP comics usually herald their latest tour by telling fans it’s a brand new show. Jimmy Carr has decided to do things differently by retelling old jokes.
The host of Channel 4’s 8 Out Of 10 Cats has named his latest jaunt, The Best Of, Ultimate, Gold, Greatest Hits Tour.
“I wanted to see if it was possible, to see if you could do a stand-up show where you just played the hits like a gig from a classic band,” he explains. “I wanted to do a show where you have that first opening salvo of bang, bang, bang and it never lets up. I love the idea of just dropping bombs for two hours. One liner after one liner – all killer, no filler.
“Also I really love these jokes and, unlike a musician, I don’t usually get to perform them once a show’s finished touring. You just sort of put them away forever. That always struck me as kind of a shame.”
Jimmy, who’s performed more than 2,000 shows in his 15-year stand-up career, says even though the jokes are “pre-used”, no two nights are likely to be the same.
“Obviously there will be a lot of written stuff, but I like to find a balance between the guaranteed laughs of jokes I’ve come up with in advance and the off-the-cuff stuff,” he says.
“I think on a good night it is 80/90% of jokes that I have written and am performing to the best of my abilities. But the best bits always involve the audience, the bits where I don’t know what’s going to happen or where it will lead.
“Why go and see a show live? Why not just watch it on Netflix? It’s because the funniest bits are always the things that happened in the room that night. You’ve got to have a show ready though, just in case the crowd is reluctant to get involved.”
The audience can expect Jimmy to touch on some controversial subjects – in the past he’s made jokes about everything from cancer to gypsies, as well as his own difficulties after being accused of tax evasion.
“Comedy is all about building up tension and then releasing it,” he explains. “Talking about taboo topics is a fast way to build tension and the more tension, the more laughs when you finally release it.
“I’d also say that one of my favourite sounds in the world is laughter turning into shock. I’m obsessed by cognitive dissonance – the idea that you can make people laugh and be disappointed in themselves for laughing at the same time. And as long as the laugh comes first, even if it’s half a second before, it’s fine. I like the idea that you don’t choose what you laugh at, it chooses you.”
He insists that no subject should be off limits for comedians, adding: “It’s all about the intention, the meaning behind it. My jokes are just that, jokes. There is no grand vision, no political or social message. If the joke is funny enough then the ends justify the means.
“Look, I say some horrific things in my act and, yes, if you take those things at face value then clearly they’re unacceptable. But I think it’s pretty obvious that, in context, those subjects or ideas are merely vehicles for comedy, that they are designed to elicit laughter and nothing more.
“If I was using my shows to put forward a manifesto on how we should live our lives then maybe it would be a different story, but I’m not. I’m just trying to make you laugh.
And he won’t care if he offends you or – horror of horrors – you don’t find him funny.
“If you believe in free speech, you have to be prepared to hear things you don’t like – that’s kind of the deal. If you say someone is ‘offended’, what you’re really saying is that they’re feelings got hurt.
“That doesn’t put you in the right. If you’re not laughing, you’re well within your rights to just not listen. That’s absolutely fine.”
Jimmy Carr brings his The Best Of, Ultimate, Gold, Greatest Hits Tour to the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, on Sunday (30 April) and then returns on Sunday 6 August.