In the second-season premiere of Legit (debuting tonight on FXX), comedian Jim Jefferies plays comedian Jim Jefferies as a guest on the radio talk show Loveline with Dr. Drew, and is forced to confront his possible sex/porn addiction.
As much as critics may have wanted to compare Louis C.K.’s Louie initially to Seinfeld, Jefferies and his Legit co-star cohort are much closer to the spirit of Jerry Seinfeld’s hit sitcom — even if the Jefferies and his friends inhabit is much darker. Where Seinfeld’s “The Contest” episode merely hinted at its subject matter, tonight’s “Loveline” episode of Legit finds Jim and Steve (Dan Bakkedahl) quite literally getting off while watching porn, as they fail to remain masters of their own domain. Or succeed. Depending upon how you want to spin it. Arden Myrin also guest stars in tonight’s episode.
As the chairman of the 12-step meeting Jefferies attends in Legit tells him: “There’s a kernel of truth all amongst your jokes there, Jim.”
Ay, there’s the rub.
How much truth to the TV Jim Jefferies? The real one told reporters Monday: “I get slightly offended when people go obviously Jim Jefferies is playing an exaggerated version of himself where this guy is a ruthless … or something like that. And then I’m like I’m playing, I’m playing—it’s not that exaggerated. It’s pretty close to me and I don’t think I’m an …. I think even when I watch it, I think the character on the show is a pretty decent guy all in all. I think for the most part he’s not evil or anything like that. He’s an idiot, but I think the nice things he does outweighs the bad. I don’t think anyone in society is completely nice or completely bad. I think that all of us are two sides of the coin. I just hope that it’s a fair representation of guys like me. I hope I empower other sleaze bags and … that they can be good people as well.”
After all, the premise/title of the show has Jefferies trying to live out a more legitimate adulthood.
As we see in the second season of Legit, however, while Jefferies hopes to better himself, Steve is sliding toward the bottom of his bottle. Jefferies said Monday that he and the writers learned that Bakkedahl is “very good at playing big — so this season he becomes a full-blown alcoholic, which progressively gets worse throughout the whole season. And not like a comedy alcoholic like from the movie Arthur, but like a real tragic figure, a guy who’s actually falling down the rabbit hole and he’s losing everything in his life. I think that’s a very interesting thing to put into a comedy, because often what you deal with addiction in comedy it is sort of a funny sort of like ‘here’s junky “Phil” who lives down the hallway;’ but this one is the raw side of that. It’s still funny.”
Season one relied a great deal on stories reframed from Jefferies’ own stand-up performances. Season two has “only one episode that’s based on my stand-up routine,” he said. “If I put all my stories in my sitcom, I can’t do them onstage.”
Writing new organic stories for his TV alter-ego has helped him write new material for his stand-up, too.
“I think writing a TV show, having that discipline where I have to go into an office every day for a few months until it was done maybe helped with the discipline of writing stand-up as well. I used to never write my stand-up down. I still don’t write my stand-up on paper or anything; but I used to just organically do it onstage, have an idea, chatted it up a little bit. Now I’m keeping notes. I’m trying to keep up with the … of this world and try to bring out a special every year.”
I asked Jefferies if he has noticed a changing attitude from the public toward not just him specifically, but to the very occupation of stand-up comedian.
Jefferies replied: “I noticed it not from the general public, but I sort of noticed it from the actors we have on. With the actors there are two types of actors. There’s the actors who can acknowledge that they could never do stand-up comedy. Then there’s the pretentious ones, who believe that acting is harder than stand-up comedy. I definitely don’t think it is. I also think making a comedy is substantially harder than making a drama. Maybe that’s arrogant of me to say that, but if I ask you right now what’s your 10 favorite dramas of the last five years, you’d able to rattle them off easy. There are five of them on the air right now. I was watching True Detective … The Americans are coming out. Brilliant, right? But if I ask you to give your top 10 sitcoms over the last five years, you’d be struggling to even find at least 10 that you like. There’s as many sitcoms or half-hour comedies coming out as there is dramas, so this is my argument. You put more actors and more comedy actors in a drama, we do a better job than if all those dramatic actors came over and tried to do our comedy. There are actors everywhere who is going to read this and hate me for saying that.”
But just in terms like I noticed over the weekend FX replayed the “Family” episode where you’re doing a career day at the high school and just talking to kids about being a comedian. Even just from then to now I’m seeing so many other show pitches and treatments that revolve around stand-up comedy as a plot device.
“Yes, I think stand-up comedy in its heyday. In my mind I think went through one in the ‘80s and I think it’s back again as popular as it’s ever been. But I find it weird that people go Louie … himself in a stand-up show, so this show is similar to Louie because Jim’s playing himself. My argument is no, no, no, Louie’s show was similar to Seinfeld and Seinfeld’s show was doing something similar to any other comic …. We use to give comics these fake occupations in sitcoms. We’ll make a show. We’ll call it The Bob Newhart Show, but we’ll give him a different job. What’s the fucking point? Let the guy play himself and in a job that he knows being funny and that sort of stuff. There’s a run of these shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld, Louie, Legit where it is a kind of a genre in its own right and I think it’s fucking great genre. I think it’s the best I do. What better way to showcase a person’s talent than to showcase their actual talent?”
“I hope there’s another 10 of these shows and we all have a go at it,” Jefferies said.
P.S. Jefferies says he and his girlfriend watch RuPaul’s Drag Race and notice they have celebrity judges. “Please make me a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Jefferies said. “I wouldn’t be rude. I’d do it properly. It’d make my girlfriend very happy!”