British comedian Jimmy Carr thinks there has never been a more pressing time for comedy. Whatever goes on in the world, he said in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, there’s always room to sit back and laugh.
“It feels like that, certainly from my perspective – the crisis in the Middle East, there’s Brexit, there’s Trump,” said Carr, “and you sort of feel like there’s never been a more important time to laugh.”
And the comedian is quite sure that Israelis are more than ready to laugh with him – or at him – when he takes the stage in Tel Aviv on August 11 as part of his The Best of Ultimate Gold Greatest Hits Tour. It will be his first time performing in the Holy Land but not his first visit.
“I’ve been to Israel before, many years ago, and really fell in love with it,” he said of a trip visiting friends on a kibbutz in the 1990s.
Now, Carr said, he has an excuse to come back for work and is ready to take in all the sights.
“Jerusalem pretty much delivers; I’m going to climb Masada at dawn – all the touristy stuff that you might say meh – I’m going to get involved,” he said, adding that he will be in the country for about a week to make time for everything.
Carr said that he also likes to take time to familiarize himself with the local buzz before he performs.
“I want to know what everyone’s talking about, what’s the big thing, what’s the unmentionable thing and what buttons to push,” he said. “You want people to know that you know where you are,” he added. “The worst thing ever is coming out and saying ‘Good evening, New Jersey’ and you’re in Chicago.”
When I told Carr that Israelis were talking about winning the Eurovision competition and the threat of an Iranian missile strike, he was quick to get on board.
“I feel like Eurovision is like a nicer mini version of the UN,” he said. “It’s a popularity contest, and it’s lovely to see Israel win one.”
Plus, he added, perhaps it could even help on the Iranian front as well.
“I imagine someone in Iran is going, ‘Well, that song is super catchy, I don’t think we should do anything.’” If you haven’t guessed it already, Carr is up to making jokes about just about anything. In the past, he has made headlines for certain jokes that have been deemed offensive or disrespectful. But there still aren’t any topics he will declare off limits for humor.
“I think everything is fair game,” he said, “but it has to be funny.”
And the vibe when hearing a joke live in a theater is pretty different to reading it in print the next day, he added.
He noted a theory by professor and academic Peter McGraw, who said “There’s no such thing as an offensive joke.”
“By dint of joking about something, you make it benign,” Carr explained.
Suicide bombers, said Carr, “are a horrendous evil awful thing, but by making a joke about it, you make it OK... By laughing about it, you take its power away.”
Carr is banking on Israelis being ready for his dark humor. And one thing is certain – he won’t be canceling this show, no matter what anyone else has to say.
“I love Israel, and I love my Israeli friends,” he said. “There’s no way I’m not going to put Israel on the tour. If it’s good enough for Radiohead, it’s good enough for me.”
During a recent slate of gigs across New Zealand, Carr was interviewed on TV by the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.
He’s hoping for a repeat performance when he lands in Tel Aviv this summer.
“I fully expect Benjamin Netanyahu to meet me at the airport and interview me on an early evening show,” Carr said. “I mean, there’s nothing else major going on that he should concern himself with, right?”
Tickets for the August 11 show in Tel Aviv range from NIS 179 to NIS 399. To purchase: 2207.kupat.co.il