It’s easy to forget that only five years ago, Jimmy Carr was making his Edinburgh solo debut in a musty basement. In fact, as he readily admits, until his last week the audience could happily have taken two seats each. But so rapid has his rise to fame been that for the last three of those years, Carr has had the luxury of limiting himself to only eight Fringe performances at some of Edinburgh’s largest venues.
As the years have rolled by, the memories of Carr's straight-faced, almost cold early routines have too. As he has gained in confidence and absorbed influences from those around him, the jokes have got edgier, the shows more fluid and the comic now feeds off his audience like a predator: “More than anything else, although I write the same kind of stuff that I’ve always written, I think I’m a better performer than I was two or three years ago. Remarkably better,” he jokes. “It’s weird that there’s more audience stuff, more edge and obviously every word has changed, but under all that, essentially it’s still the same act.”
In the year 2000, when Britain thought that the days of one-liners and shows packed with actual jokes were permanently consigned to the archives of Radio 4, few could have foretold Carr’s swift ascendancy. But as the man himself describes the inspiration for his comic persona, it’s easy to understand what it was we all fell for in those early days: “What I used to like when I went to see comics like Steven Wright and Emo Philips was that you’d see a 20 minute act or an hour long act and there would be hundreds of jokes in it. And I’m all about jokes."
Continuing, Carr seems almost bitter that he has had to justify his style a few more times than he would like: "Long stories and stuff, you could always just tell the last three lines and most people would get the gist of it. So I like the idea of having a lot in there, lots of jokes in a small space of time.”
But Carr's ubiquitousness and mass-appeal cannot be explained by a few stand-up gigs and his "breakthrough" performance at the Royal Variety Gala alone. As famous as he is for his comedy, Carr's extensive work on TV singles him out from amongst his peers.
When talking to Carr from one busy office to another, Fest
tentatively decides to broach the subject of his infamous Channel 4 career. Starring in a couple of bizarre game shows and several “Top 100 greatest…” alongside presenters such as the always hysterical June Sarpong, Carr has attracted much criticism and derision from peers and comedy fans alike. Just taking a cursory glance at the Google search results from, “Jimmy Carr, tv, rubbish,” you soon get the idea.
One chat-group in the forums of his own channel is entitled, “Jimmy Carr to be axed.” It soon becomes apparent from reading the conversation that the members are not talking metaphorically: “His stand-up stuff is good but he is in some bloody appalling TV shows,” says one disillusioned admirer. Another revels vicariously in a certain comic’s personal attack on the TV star: "I loved it when Avid Merrion took the piss out of Jimmy Carr on Bo Selecta: 'Hello. I’m Jimmy Carr and welcome to the 100 world’s greatest...shoes.'"
It doesn’t stop there. www.TVscoop.tv has a vast array of articles and opinions recording the public’s hatred of Jimmy Carr’s televised work and the satirical website, unencyclopedia.org reports Joe Pasquale as saying, “I only promote the cunt because otherwise I’d be the most irritating twat on television.” (NB, this quotation is not true).
So what’s Jimmy’s side of the story? Seemingly practised at deflecting this line of questioning, he exhales before explaining: “I’d done a bunch of stand-up gigs that some producers had seen. When stuff came along like Your Face or Mine
, I wasn’t too cool for school and I didn’t turn my nose up at it. A lot of stand-ups do, but I just thought it sounded like a really fun thing to do.”
Apparently still at ease with his decision to enter the world of TV head-on, Carr makes an attempt to wrap-up the talk of Channel 4: “It just felt like something that I could say, 'I’ll just give it a go and see how it goes.' And I really enjoyed them and thought they were fun and they opened me up to a bigger audience. But stand-up is where it’s at in terms of my life and how I lead my life.”
Feeling brave and relaxed enough to probe a little deeper, it's now time for the games to begin. Prior to the interview, Fest
prepared a few show ideas that could work on TV. How would they go down with the man from Channel Carr?
Chilli with Jimmy - "Face of Channel 4" (What DVD) Jimmy Carr and co-presenter June Sarpong take us on a culinary tour of Mexico. Swigging sangria and gulping tequila, will the lovable pair get closer than anyone would like to witness?
"Yeah I can see it. Maybe a travelogue. I'm thinking a lot of these are going to involve puns. I've often thought that just because of my name I'll end up doing some kind of Top Gear show just because people's imaginations are limited and they'll go: 'He's called Carr. He drives a Carr...it writes itself!'"Carrbeque - Famous comedian, Jimmy Carr invites seven Big Brother contestants round for a barbeque with a difference - if Jimmy and his guests can agree on the ugliest attendee, they're for the grilling.
"Ermm, yeah. I mean, that's a stretch. Even as a pun that's a stretch. I think, as a show idea that's right up there with Pet's Win Prizes
."Pimp My Carr - Straight-laced dandy, Jimmy Carr resurrects a tired brand. Lavishing purple velvet on dashboards and frilly cuffs to wing mirrors, will the people of Leith enjoy their chintzed up motors?
"I'd think me actually becoming a pimp would be the reality show that people would want to see. I'd be up for that, definitely."Carr Face - Join TV presenter and comedian, Jimmy Carr on a mission to persuade a member of the general public to have his image tattooed on their face - who will agree to be "Carred for life?"
"Listen, I appreciate the minutes of time you've obviously put into this. I don't know if any of them are actually saleable ideas. I'm just trying to think whether I've ever been pitched anything worse - I'm sure I have. I remember once, someone pitched a show and it was celebrities going and living in a Nazi Death Camp in Germany to experience what it would have been like. Can you imagine? Literally the worst idea anyone's ever had. You wouldn't last long on that show. I mean, there's death in the title. But I imagine there would be cappuccinos and catering and everything."Just Jimmy it in! - Stand-up comedian, Jimmy Carr talks to psychotherapist, Claire Raynor about why so many of his jokes centre around his simultaneous desire for and fear of anal sex.
"That's fairly deep. Anal sex is a funny concept isn't it? It's one of those great treats of comedy; accusing a heterosexual man of being homosexual is just funny. I don't know why. It seems as preordained as people falling over. I think you're reading a little too much into what are essentially jokes but God bless you for that." The Three Carrs - Jimmy Carr tours the beautiful countryside of Provence in a '75 MG with special guest, Maxine.
"Well yeah, that's fine. I was hoping for Alan but the terrible sister Maxine will do. It's a shame that she was a wrongun'. I tell you what, I'll do them all."