Jimmy Carr On How Seeing Bands Inspired His New ‘Greatest Hits’ Tour

When you go and see a band, you want to hear the hits. Applying the same logic, acerbic comedian Jimmy Carr is about to do the comedy equivalent on his latest tour. He tells NME why.

You’re doing a ‘hits’ tour. How does that work?

“We’re doing The Best Of, Ultimate Gold, Greatest Hits Tour. Basically the idea is that I’ve been doing comedy now for about 15 years and I thought I would do a tour of the best bits. Just the good bits. Because I’m quite jealous of bands. You go and see a band, you go and see The Killers live, and they knock out the hits. You go, ‘I wish I could do that’ to a band, and they go, ‘Why don’t you just do that then?’ And I went, ‘Oh right, OK, I’ll do that!’ I think it’s going to be a really fun night out. And also I like that idea of being an entertainer, the idea of taking the best bits of everything that I’ve ever thought of and putting it all together in one night.”

No-one’s done a comedy greatest hits show before?
“Seinfeld did a thing called I’m Telling You For The Last Time, which was him putting all his old material to bed. He finally did a DVD and never told those jokes again, but it’s slightly different from that because it’s going back and saying, ‘I’ve done nine DVDs and 12 tours and I’ve done Edinburgh 10 times.’ I’ve got a big back catalogue of stuff, and you tend to tell those jokes for a year and then they’re dead to you, you just leave them, it’s like scorched earth with comedy. You do a tour, tell those jokes for a year and they’re really fun and people laugh, and then you never tell them again, and you don’t look at them again, so going back’s been really interesting to go back and say, ‘That’s really funny, that’s quite a fun idea.'”

So you were looking back at old tours to gather jokes. Any favourite gigs?
“There’s thousands. I do three gigs a week every week, and there used to be more. You get to go to incredible places. I’m doing Australia again in the New Year, the Sydney Opera House was amazing, I did Radio City Music Hall in New York, those kind of cool places. It’s often places where you’ve seen bands or a concert film. I always get a kick out of playing in Brixton or Hammersmith because I’ve seen so many bands there. That weird thing of going, ‘I’ve seen Elvis Costello on this stage and now I’m on this stage.’ Not as good, but still.”

What are your three favourite old gags?
“You have to buy a ticket! And they never work written down. Quips work, quotes work really well, but gags on the page… the context is a conversation between the performer and the audience, if it doesn’t get a laugh it’s not a joke, it’s not anything.”

Do most gigs tend to be the same?
“My shows, I’ve got an idea in my head of which jokes I’m going to tell and what the sequence is going to be and there’s a show there, even if no-one joins in. The difference between a good night and a great night is the extent to which people join in, heckle, shout out, tell stories. That’s why I’ve never wanted to play bigger rooms, because one or two thousand seats you can play, as soon as it gets bigger than that, if someone shouts out at the back, you probably can’t hear it.”

How did going from clubs to larger venues change your act?
“Not massively. It’s a lovely thing when you find your audience, or they find you. There’s people that have been coming to see me for 10 years on every tour, and it’s part of their thing, it’s quite weird. People grow up with you. I suppose if you’ve got the same sense of humour it’s kind of like being friends with someone.”

Have your gags ever really shocked a room? Or ruined a gig?
“Not ruined a gig, I think the more shocking the better. I get a real perverse pleasure from having a joke at the end of the show that you could never open a show with. That thing where you’ve slightly ruined the audience, you’ve messed up their moral compass so by the end of the evening they go, “Yeah that’s fine, don’t worry about that”. It’s quite nice. They’ve been on a journey.”

What’s been your worst ever gig?
“I remember my second gig was in a place called Up The Creek, that was run by the legendary [comedian] Malcolm Hardee, I got heckled off, it was pretty brutal, but really fun. The early years of being in comedy and the clubs and stuff, it was just fun. It was a fun thing to be at, and it was fun people.”

Has a heckler ever got to you?
“No, I’m fairly thick-skinned, and what do I care? Even when you start out you very quickly realise that if someone says something devastatingly, brilliantly funny and gets a huge laugh, you’re still onstage, it’s still making the evening better. If someone shouts something that’s boring that doesn’t get anything, that’s kind of annoying, they’re just kind of wasting time but if they shout something and it’s really funny, it’s great, it’s better for everyone. And you’re conscious in that moment that that’s going to be a great story, that’ll live on.”

What young comedians are you looking out for?
“There’s people coming through. The guy that won the big Fringe prize this year, Sam Simmons, we had on our show the other day, and he was just fabulous. James Acaster came on Cats Does Countdown recently and I think a little clip of him went viral, he’s doing really well at the moment. It’s lovely to see people coming through. Roisin Conaty, she’s playing the clubs still but hopefully she’s going to tour soon because I think she’s sort of wonderful. And I just went to see Joseph Morpurgo’s show Soothing Sounds For Baby, which was amazing.

Jimmy Carr: The Best Of, Ultimate, Gold, Greatest Hits Tour is on sale now. For ticket details please seejimmycarr.com