Comedy review

In Tel Aviv, comic Jim Jefferies avoids controversy, but voids himself

Comedian trades sacred cows that were once his mainstay for scatological trip down memory lane, riffs on hummus and looks for a hookup with Gal Gadot

Australian comedian Jim Jefferies performs at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, California on December 7, 2017 (Dustin Snipes/Red Bull Content Pool via AP Images)
Australian comedian Jim Jefferies performs at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, California on December 7, 2017 (Dustin Snipes/Red Bull Content Pool via AP Images)

In just a few years, Netflix has elevated standup comedy in the public consciousness, creating a wave of new standup fans around the world. Saturday night in Tel Aviv, comedian Jim Jefferies became the latest high-profile comic to bring his show to Israel’s shores, captivating thousands of fans at the Shlomo Group Arena.

Originally from Australia, Jefferies cut his comedy teeth in England and took America by storm after his fifteen-minute bit on gun control went viral on Youtube. Since then, Jefferies has released several more specials, hosted a Comedy Central show, performed in Israel in 2016 and 2018, and become known for his blunt, take-no-prisoners delivery.

In a time when society has become more sensitive to diversity and differences, many opinions that were once tolerated on and offstage are no longer considered acceptable. As Jefferies stated explicitly just minutes into his 2016 “Freedumb” special, his jokes are not those opinions. What made Jefferies one of the most popular comics in the world, he continued, was his ability to come off as likable while saying things that, out of context, would sound awful (and doing it as well as anyone else).

On his current “Night Talker” tour, Jefferies spent less time joking about “things you shouldn’t say”, instead devoting much of the show to a story that can only be called self-deprecating… er, self-defecating.

In the unlikely event that you someday have an unfortunate “accident” on the way to the bathroom, you’d be hard-pressed to NOT have your friends in tears from laughter. But it takes a special storyteller to narrate his personal embarrassing journey for forty-five or so minutes, culminating in…. well, you know.

There were several food references along the way, including his confusion over our national obsession with hummus. A friend from one of Jefferies’ last trips assured him that he’d have to try several different kinds of hummus, as if the comic would ever insist on subjecting a tourist in Australia to ten kinds of vegemite.

Not that Jefferies shied away completely from his hard-hitting commentary, making fun of Michael Jackson’s behavior while telling us that we should have known from his lyrics: “I’m bad, I’m bad, I’m really really bad.”

The funniest parts of a standup show are often those not foreseen and Saturday’s was no different. When Jefferies asked what “Shalom” meant, people responded, “peace!”, prompting the comic to answer, “Peace?! What do you guys know about peace?” Later in the show, when a problematic mic made a “boom”-like sound, Jefferies didn’t miss a beat, saying, “please yell ‘Allah Akbar’ first.”

And what Israel-based show would be complete without a Gal Gadot story? As if parenting wasn’t hard enough, Jim had to deal with his son’s aversion to making friends with Wonder Woman’s daughter despite being classmates at the same school. Surely, the comic wondered, Israel’s most famous actress must have some relatives in the audience and, if so, would they be so kind as to make an intro?

Towards the end of the show, Jefferies’ scatological story took a detour when a fan walked right up to the stage and handed the comic a necklace with a certain C-word frequently used by the Australian. After a brief interaction during which Jefferies dissected this man’s thought-out plan, he remarked, “It’s the thought that counts… and your thought was dumb.”

The last five minutes of his 90-minute act were both sentimental and hilarious, starting with Jefferies confessing that his mother had recently passed, and declaring that having made fun of her in many of his shows, he would now tell a story that made her look good. Why, Jefferies asked his late mother, would she keep coming to his shows even while admitting that she didn’t find him funny? Because, he answered on her behalf, she enjoyed seeing everyone else in the crowd laugh at him.

Jim’s mother would probably have enjoyed Saturday night, even though they weren’t laughing at her son, but with him.

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