Why 2017 Is the Perfect Time for the Brutal Honesty of Jim Jefferies
When it was announced that Jim Jefferies would be getting a weekly political show on Comedy Central, the last thing anyone could have expected was grace or subtlety. Throughout his career, Jefferies has become known for his extremely blunt approach to humor. His tendency to Go There on just about any subject you can imagine can be uncomfortable to say the least. So far, however, his extremely direct approach has been one of the most appealing parts of The Jim Jefferies Show. With America falling under harder-than-usual times, his brutal honesty is exactly what we need.
This was particularly true in the last episode, in which Jefferies spent the first two acts talking about the health care bill the Republicans are trying to pass, which would cause millions of people to lose their insurance. Jefferies wasted no time dissecting exactly how destructive the bill would be and thoroughly rejecting any notion that the bill has been made any less corrosive with recent alterations. At one point, he compared the idea that the revised bill would only cause 22 million Americans to lose insurance instead of 23 to being relieved your girlfriend had cheated on you with only 22 guys instead of 23. He also cleverly drew a connection between Mitch McConnell and Colonel Sanders, noting that both are “old white men from Kentucky getting rich off your heart attack.” His point was most thoroughly driven home when he referred the protestors of the bill in wheelchairs as “smug assholes.” It was a spot-on takedown of the shocking lack of empathy that has defined the Republican Party as they’ve attempted to pass this bill.
In the previous week’s show, Jefferies took a look at the Bill Cosby trial, which recently ended discouragingly in the form of a mistrial. Jefferies doesn’t hesitate to speculate as to why Cosby was able to get away with his crimes for so long (and to a lesser extent, is still getting away with them now). He introduces the “Fame-to-Blame Ratio,” where he observes that the more talent a celebrity guilty of a terrible crime is, the less likely they are to ever answer for what they’ve done. Alec Baldwin is seen on the not-so-bad side of the graph, because while he’s often in the news for the wrong reasons (his homophobic tirade against a paparazzo, the ugly cell phone message he left his daughter), he has yet to do anything that would reach the level of an atrocity. While Cosby and Woody Allen were held up examples of celebrities getting away with awful crimes, he noted that former Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle ending up in prison after his history of pedophilia was revealed as an example of a less talented celebrity going to prison for crimes similar to what Cosby and Allen have evaded legal consequences for, joking that “if only he’d moonwalked to the sandwich shop every day, things would have been very different.” When one considers how long Cosby’s crimes were ignored by society at large, there’s just no way of denying his point.
Before the show debuted, Jefferies expressed a desire to avoid doing too many jokes about Donald Trump. You could see where he was coming from; Trump can’t be entirely ignored (he’s the president, and he’s doing things that require serious discussion), but he also dominates every late night comedy to the point of becoming an omnipresence. That’s why it was nice to see Jefferies try something a tad different with a segment called “Trumps Around the World,” where he looks at other politicians who are similar to our 45th President. Last episode, he went to his homeland to interview Pauline Hanson, the far-right leader of Australia’s One Nation party. The interview was a bit jarring, as Hanson didn’t seem to think twice before making brutal, inflammatory comments about Muslim refugees. Hanson clearly felt comfortable around Jefferies (she repeatedly referred to him as “Jimmy”), and as such, let the bigotry fly, much to Jefferies’ bemusement. Jefferies was able to use his easygoing personality to lull Hanson into a false sense of security. There was no need to “eviscerate” her, because her own words did that job on their own. It was also a reminder that while we may be shocked to have Trump as our president, he’s not a unique phenomenon; the phenomenon of the “populist” bigot who appeals to voters with unabashed bigotry is hardly unique to the United States. As of now, Hanson has yet accumulate power the way Trump has, but she very well could, and Jefferies’ interview did a fine job of explaining why that’s such a frightening prospect.
The humor of Jim Jefferies will always be an acquired taste. He’s always going to see how close to the line he can get without crossing it, and that aspect of his humor means there are so people for whom he’ll never be an appealing option. Still, The Jim Jefferies Show is a near-perfect use of his abilities. By focusing on the many screwed up aspects of American culture (and some of the ones that also exist in his home country), he is able to use the extremely direct nature of his comedy to attack targets who truly deserve it, whether they be heartless American conservatives, advocates of capital punishment, or of course, Bill Cosby. It’s early in this show’s run, but it has the potential to be great. Jefferies’ laser-beam wit is attacking everything wrong with America at a time when we need it most. Here’s hoping he’ll be allowed to keep letting it rip into the foreseeable future.
Photo by Ali Goldstein.