Though they often pay well, there’s something to be said for the personal cost of a corporate gig. Ask any professional stand-up comedian – most have a horror story or two to share, from calamitous cruise sets to footy club farces. For Jimmy Carr, though, corporate engagements actually served as inspiration for his latest show.
Asked to deliver his very best material from across his career, Carr happily obliged. But in discovering his archived gags were being appreciated anew, Carr had a lightbulb moment. “I thought, these people live in this country, they’ve seen me, they knew who I was and they didn’t remember any of the jokes. So I thought, I bet my paying audiences would really enjoy (hearing past jokes) as well.”
And so, the UK comic’s Best Of, Ultimate, Gold Greatest Hits Tour was born. “It feels like being an old-school entertainer,” he says. “I’m doing my absolute best show. I’m trying to be as entertaining as I possibly can. Thankfully, people can’t remember jokes. If people were better at remembering jokes, I wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Not that Carr takes anything about his profession lightly. In fact, his work ethic is out of this world, with his current tour set to take him through to the end of 2018. This follows an equally enormous 2017, in which he was essentially a globetrotting comic. According to Carr, it’s all by design. “I think it’s a muscle that you work,” he explains of his hectic schedule. “I notice now that if I do two shows in a night, I’m more relaxed on the second show and I’ve been doing this for years. I think it’s like stretching, it’s like going to the gym – if you don’t use it, you lose it.”
For Carr, it’s all a matter of getting into his “gameshow mode”. “If I do an episode of Qi and 8 out of 10 Cats and I do four of those a week, you get in that mode – you’re in that space where if someone says anything, your mind is a rolodex of jokes that’s just there. Then if you take two weeks off, you’re a bit rusty,” he says. “That’s why I don’t take any time off. I like working. Work is more fun than fun. It’s great having that kind of work.”
All of Carr’s hard work has led him to this milestone tour. It’s a chance to plant a flag in the ground and take in the scenery before scaling even greater heights. Carr takes a moment to reflect upon his progress. “You grow up in public when you do this for a living. When I first released a DVD and I was putting things out, people noticed my delivery was very stifled and I don’t think I was bringing enough laughs out of a routine,” he recalls. “I looked like I had a stick up my arse for the first five years on stage because it’s nerve-wracking. It takes ages to get used to it. I think with comedians, it’s like talking to pilots – it’s not about how long you’ve been doing it, it’s about hours on stage. And I think now I’ve got the ten thousand hours. I’ve gotten better. And so to go back and deliver this stuff, you go, ‘I can do this now. I know how to sell these jokes.’”
That said, Carr is more concerned with providing a fun evening than his flawlessness as a performer. “You can get a bit precious sometimes as a performer about it being perfect,” he says. “If 80% of the show is you delivering the lines and people laughing where you thought they would laugh, great, but the 20% where it’s a bit loose and you’re messing around, that’s the fun bit.
“And that’s the bit I think that people engage with. That’s where you’re adding value,” he says. “In a world now where we look at our screens all day, every day, going out and being part of a live show is an absolute joy. It’s necessary now. Whatever you’re going out to see, it’s good to feel part of something because a lot of the time we feel a bit alienated. All this communication technology has left us feeling very lonely.”