Before I left for Montreal, a comedian told me that walking the streets of London with Jimmy Carr is quite the experience, seeing as fans tend to stop Carr quite often to tell him how funny he is. Carr doesn't yet have that same fame in the United States, though it's more our fault than his. Despite doing two half-hour Comedy Central specials (the most recent of the two airing this spring) and several appearances on Conan and Leno, the clever Carr remains a bit of mystery to us Americans. Why the mystery?
Jimmy Carr provided one of the stand-out performances in the John Cleese-less Britcom Gala at Montreal's Just For Laughs a week ago, and also opened up for Louis CK twice (where he met a rowdier, albeit still welcoming crowd) with his dark, dry wit. Carr flew straight from Montreal to Los Angeles after the fest to tape a five-minute set last night for the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.
To me, it's funny to watch the crowd try to play catch-up on Carr's punchlines. Also: how they're split on his jokes about politics that open the set, but really eat up his more sexual material — which must have had Carr skirting the line with NBC's standards and practices censors. He did take out tags on one joke about women's breasts, and seemed to change another line that skewered Americans to become "Scottish women." Most in the U.K. media who describe Carr's stand-up focus on him being dry, dark and deadpan. He's got a tightly written absurdity similar to other one-liner stand-ups such as Zach Galifianakis, Demetri Martin, Steven Wright or the late Mitch Hedberg, but with an outlook that manages to be both devious and disarming at the same time.
Take these one-liners, for example:
"It's a good indicator that a woman fancies you if, when you're talking to her, she touches her hair," he says, putting his hands to his head. "If it's her pubic hair, it's a sure thing."
"If you're going to have sex with someone you don't know, and I can't stress this enough, always, always, always ask."
"When I was younger, I couldn't talk to women, because I was hiding in their wardrobes, masturbating."
"The church wanted to move forward on female bishops, but bishops only move diagonally. Gay priests can move wherever they want, though. Because they're queens."
As for Montreal, the Just For Laughs people ranked Jimmy Carr's 2003 Gala as #19 on its countdown of 25 moments to celebrate their 25th anniversary a couple of years ago. This clip will show you some of Carr's older jokes, as well as a glimpse at what the televised JFL Galas look like: