Jim Jefferies brings his brand of debauchery to the Rickshaw

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On Saturday, October 22 at the Rickshaw Theatre

How do you explain a standup comedy show that wasn’t advertised anywhere featuring a nonhousehold name selling out two shows to the tune of about 1,000 tickets? Is it a) the result of the North American comedy boom, b) the power of social media, c) a testament to the comedian’s abilities, or d) all of the above?

If you answered d), give yourself a round of applause. All those factors surely played into the zoolike atmosphere at the Rickshaw Theatre on Saturday night when Jim Jefferies made his Vancouver debut.

If you’re not a die-hard comedy fan, chances are you haven’t heard of the raw Aussie. Fans were lined up down the block waiting to get into the added midnight show after the regularly scheduled 8 p.m. gig sold out. It was part of the first Dark Comedy Festival on Tour, a make-work project from Toronto comic Rob Mailloux, who we last saw here opening for the godfather of dark comedy, Doug Stanhope, and who opened nicely for Jefferies, too.

Jefferies doubtlessly went to school on Stanhope. Both comics love to get hammered on-stage, talk unabashedly about their debauchery, and revel in articulating the unthinkable. Oh, and both are master storytellers, as well as being freakin’ hilarious.

Young shock comics often make the mistake of thinking it’s the naughty words and imagery that get laughs. While spewing out filth without a strong comedic foundation may achieve the desired nervous titters initially, it ultimately is unsustainable. Comedy audiences are savvy enough to know the difference between empty words and well-crafted crass ones—even ridiculously drunk and raucous crowds, as Saturday’s late show was from the get-go.

When Jefferies claimed, for example, that AIDS doesn’t exist, that wasn’t the joke, despite the laughter it elicited for its sheer audacity. Nor was it meant as a political statement intended to be true. Rather, it was a jumping-off point for a unique and self-deprecating take on his own sexual history. His reasoning is that nobody has put more effort into getting AIDS than he has, yet he remains, to his own astonishment, AIDS-free. He followed the outrageous declaration with a crude tale of a liaison he once had in Thailand which, if you can get past the blunt force of the chosen words, reveals a brilliant joke complete with misdirection. That’s powerful stuff, as base as it may seem on the surface. Sure, Jefferies told his share of even more cringe-worthy tales from his sordid past and twisted cranium, but they were never less than compelling.

Jefferies insisted the second show was one of the toughest gigs he’s ever performed at, due to the overall drunkenness both on- and off-stage, as well as the weirdest. To commemorate and honour the occasion, he ended with something just as weird: a group sing-along of the theme from Cheers. And the cult of Jim Jefferies dutifully belted out the old sitcom classic.

With talent and charisma like that, one wonders how big the 34-year-old comic could be if he would only use his powers for good instead of evil. We might never know. But that’s okay. Degenerates need heroes, too.

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