Are you ready? Seriously, are you really ready? Well, FX has brought back LEGIT for another season and co-creator/executive producer/writer and star Jim Jeffries has a lot to say about the subject.
If you don’t know who Jim Jeffries is by now, and I have to wonder what planet you live on if you don’t, he is an Australian who has no filter and sees nothing wrong with telling the truth as he sees it.
Beginning in 2008 with the DVD CONTRABAND, he became known with his HBO special soon after. Hitting the festival circuit, Jeffries has also performed doing spots of “The World Stands Up”, “Comedy Blue” and “Edinburgh and Beyond” for Comedy Central.
Jeffries also released the DVD’s I SWEAR TO GOD (2009), ALCOHOLOCAUST (2010) and FULLY FUNCTIONAL (2012). I mention these so you can catch up with the rest of us in understanding his comedy stylings. If you want to check out more go to www.jimjefferies.ning.com for a list of his upcoming shows.
Recently Jeffries had a chance to chat it up about the second season of LEGIT and how he comes up with the ideas.
Thanks for joining us Jim. What did you learn from season one that helps in season two?
In the first season, honestly I hadn’t written a sitcom before and it was a little bit more fly by the seat of your pants in the sense that the first season is based, …eight of the episodes were based directly from my standup. This season there’s actually one episode based on a standup routine. The rest of it is a full linear story this year that we’ve organically come up with. I’ve just now watched all Season 2. Season 1 had, to be honest with you, maybe three or four episodes that I wasn’t super proud of at the end of it, but you never make an episode going “I’m going to make a … one.” You know what I mean? You want them all to be good, but there were little tricks and little things that I maybe was slightly naïve about in the first season, so there are three or four of them I wasn’t super happy with. Now this year I’ve watched…. I think it’s substantially better than Season 1 and this season there’s one episode I’m not completely happy with; and I won’t tell you which one, because maybe you’ll like it.
Also when you’re writing the first season, you haven’t even cast the actors yet. You don’t know what their strengths and what their weaknesses are. You don’t know where they’ll take the character themselves. But now like for instance the character “Steve” is very well defined now, what Dan Bakkedahl does really good on…, so with this season he’s very good at playing big, so this season he becomes a full blown alcoholic, which progressively gets worse throughout the whole season. And not like a comedy alcoholic like from the movie Arthur, but like a real tragic figure, a guy who’s actually falling down the rabbit hole and he’s losing everything in his life. I think that’s a very interesting thing to put into a comedy, because often what you deal with addiction in comedy it is sort of a funny sort of like “here’s junky “Phil” who lives down the hallway;” but this one is the raw side of that. It’s still funny.
I am a huge fan of your stand-up even before your series on FXX; will you do another US tour?
I am on tour at this very moment. I just got back from doing—I was just at a gig on Saturday in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia on Friday. I did Atlanta last week. If you go on my website, I’ve got dates for the next three months and I had planned on recording a brand new special in Boston in two months’ time. I have a deal with a network, with a channel to release that, but I can’t tell you which channel yet.
Is Jim Jeffries your stage name and if it isn’t share your real name.
Jeffery is my middle name. I had to change my name from—my real name was Nugent, and that’s why the character in the show, the family in the show is called the Nugents because when I was living in Australia and started doing standup they used to introduce me as … or … Ted Nugent is not very popular in Australia; let’s just put it that way.
The comedy on LEGIT goes from really funny to super hysterical, you plan it that way?
We try to have a few little laughs and then try of have one sort of—one or two real big moments. I think that’s how life is. You’re with your friends, you laugh a little bit, you laugh a little bit, and then something big happens. I think a lot of network sitcoms its just laughs per minute. I don’t think they even care how big the laughs are. As long as they can pack so many into that timeline. We have episodes where there’s maybe five, six minutes where nothing funny happens, but you got to keep the story compelling is what I think.
Do you find that you’re getting more fan feedback?
Yes, I wouldn’t say I’m getting recognized more or that I’m more famous. I was already recognized a fair amount because of my standup, but I’m getting different demographics of people recognizing me. I’m getting more all ages. It used to be that people that came to my standup were just sort of men in their mid-20s used to come and watch me perform standup; but now I’m getting noticed by the opposite sex and … couples will come up to me in a restaurant and say we just love your show. It’s never couples that enjoyed me. It was always just the guy with his friends who enjoyed me. I kind of think that the show—I think people thought when I was going to make a sitcom that it would just dirty or it would just be whatever, you know and it is. It is dirty at times, it’s very similar what I do in standup, but it’s also I think it sounds sweet, almost sickly sweet at times.
Are we going to see more of Ramona this season?
We expanded a role for “Ramona,” but to be honest with you, I’ve got a bigger idea for her in Season 3, which I wanted to spin into this season, but I don’t know if we’ll go to Season 3, but I’ve got a bigger storyline than I couldn’t quite fit in for her at the moment. We went a lot with “Walter” moves into the house this season and so there’s a lot more for John Ratzenberger to do; but then also in this season my parents come over to visit, so we introduce two new characters there. It’s all about figuring out time, but yet you will see “Ramona” develop a lot this season, but not as much as you will the next season. As I said, I’ve got a big idea for her coming up.
Sonya Eddy is a super great actress. She’s like the nicest woman in the world. Yes, of course, I want to bring her character more out of just being a nurse. It seems that everybody, whoever meets that lady casts her as a nurse, she’s in General Hospital and I just watched … and she was a nurse in a nursing home there, so it’s not going to be—the storyline she has now we’re going to delve a little bit more into her personal life, her romantic life, and not so much that she’s just a career for “Billy.” She’s going to become more of a rounded person. I think in the first season there was a definite feel of maybe she was just a foil to our plans that would tell us that we’re bad people or whatever; but now she’s sort of more involved directly in our plans as one of the bad people herself.
Do you write your comedy to shock and awe?
No, I’ve never made conscious effort to—I think I’m known for my standup providing a lot of maybe atheist related anti-religion stuff. I’ve only ever done it because I thought it was funny and also because I’m heavily influenced by George Carlin. Is there a topic I wouldn’t talk about? No, as long as it’s funny, I sometimes to the level of things that you’re making the level of funny has to come up as well. I know comics that aren’t as …, but when you watch them, you’re more offended because they think it’s just all dirty words or just saying the words right or talking about pedophilia or something. Those subjects you can’t talk about. You got to try or at least attempt to be insightful or to have some type of reference that makes sense.
As for sacred cows in the TV show, the only reason we had the character of “Billy” as a muscular dystrophy character is because I grew up with a guy with muscular dystrophy, and I took a guy with muscular dystrophy to a brothel before he was going to die. He was one of my best friends and he’s still alive, mind you, so that all really happened. Then when you have a character like “Billy” in the show, he has to have come from a home, and so you have to populate that world and so then you have to bring other disabled actors, and so I think people could watch the show and say that we have a hard on for having disabled characters in that show, but that’s just not the case. It’s just organically where the story from my actual life started and where it built.
I like to think that especially with the character of “Rodney” that we’re not doing anything—we have a mentally challenged actor, who performs regularly on our show. But I don’t think we ever do anything gratuitous or—we try to treat him like any other character on the show as one of the guys; but we also don’t make him like a sickly sorry character where you have to be sorry for him like a Hallmark movie. I don’t know if that answers your question, but those are things I’m happy to say.
Since you’ve said the second season wouldn’t be so much of your standup, are you more focused on that now?
It made me focus on the standup in the extent that if I put all my stories into the sitcom, then I can’t perform it on stage, so it makes me write standup to do; but also I think writing a TV show, having that discipline where I have to go into an office every day for a few months until it was done maybe helped with the discipline of writing a standup as well. I used to never write my standup down. I still don’t write my standup on paper or anything; but I used to just organically do it on stage, have an idea, chatted it up a little bit. Now I’m keeping notes. I’m trying to keep up with the … of this world and try to bring out a special every year.
But this new season, as I said, is not really based on the standup. I had a few fans that enjoyed the show, but they were a bit pissy that it wasn’t all new material for the sitcom, so now hopefully we’ll be pleasing them as well.
Have you noticed any difference in the way the general public sees comedians in general?
I noticed it not from the general public, but I sort of noticed it from the actors we have on. With the actors there are two types of actors. There’s the actors who can acknowledge that they could never do standup comedy. Then there’s the pretentious ones, who believe that acting is harder than standup comedy. I definitely don’t think it is. I also think making a comedy is substantially harder than making a drama. Maybe that’s arrogant of me to say that, but if I ask you right now what’s your ten favorite dramas of the last five years, you’d able to rattle them off easy. There are five of them on the air right now.
I was watching True Detectives … The Americans are coming out. Brilliant, right? But if I ask you to give your top ten sitcoms over the last five years, you’d be struggling to even find at least ten that you like. There’s as many sitcoms or half hour comedies coming out as there is dramas, so this is my argument. You put more actors and more comedy actors in a drama, we do a better job than if all those dramatic actors came over and tried to do our comedy. There are actors everywhere who is going to read this and hate me for saying that.
FX did a replay of the episode where you are at career day talking to high school kids about being a comedian. A lot of shows are having the stand up as its main plot.
Yes, I think standup comedy in its heyday, in my mind I think went through one in the ‘80s and I think it’s back again as popular as it’s ever been. But I find it weird that people go Louie … himself in a standup show, so this show is similar to Louie because Jim’s playing himself. My argument is no, no, no, Louie’s show was similar to Seinfeld and Seinfeld’s show was doing something similar to any other comic …. We use to give comics these fake occupations in sitcoms. We’ll make a show. We’ll call it the Bob Newhart Show, but we’ll give him a different job.
What’s the second point? Let the guy play himself and in a job that he knows being funny and that sort of stuff. There’s a run of these shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld, Louie, Legit where it is a kind of a genre in its own right and I think it’s … great genre. I think it’s the best I do. What better way to showcase a person’s talent than to showcase their actual talent?
So what do you watch on television?
I was a big fan of Breaking Bad. I’m really into True Detectives and The Americans at the moment…are the three shows that I’m sort of watching. As for half hour comedies, there’s nothing out at the moment that’s really got my … I watch Louie. I really like the first five seasons of The Office, but then it sort of went south for me. This one is going to sound weird, but my girlfriend is really into this show and so we watch a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race at my house. I’m quite the authority on what a good drag queen looks like and what a bad one does. I’m putting it out here right now that if anyone can write this in your article, they have guest judges, I want to be a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I wouldn’t take … and I would it properly and I wouldn’t be rude or nothing. I just want to be a judge because it would make my girlfriend very happy.
After four episodes into the season something changes, can you talk about that?
I know what episode you’re talking about. That character, played by Jill Latiano was the character “Katie Knox,” I can say this much, will become my … Episode 4 all the way through to the end of the season. It will be—a decision is made and that storyline is something that actually happened in my own life. It’s never something that happened in my standup, but it’s something that happened to me in reality. A girl that I loved in high school I reconnected with for a very bad situation. I just said that like Borat; so a very bad situation.
That storyline will be the major character action and “Steve” has his own problems with he’s getting his kid back until he gets a girlfriend. The character of “Jim” … “Steve,” their lives go down the toilet and the character of “Billy,” his life starts to improve and to get better. By the end everything comes to a big decision on the last episode. Like I don’t know if the show will be picked up or cancelled, but if you start watching it, please watch it to the end, because it does have a great ending to it.
When naming characters based on someone you know do you get permission or think they won’t see it?
I didn’t use her name. Actually the name of that character is called “Katie Knox,” which is the name of the girl that my brother lost his virginity to. I don’t know how to get in contact with her or she probably won’t even know who I am, because I’ve changed my last name and my brother is a fairly forgettable guy. Hopefully we won’t get sued by her.
When you are writing the script and using something from your life, do you doll it up or add a little poetic license?
No, I normally play it out pretty much exactly as it happened. If I can add a little bit of funny to it that didn’t happen, then I will. Sometimes you’re doing things directly from your own life, especially if they’re sad things, it’s very cathartic to actually make them into comedy, you know? But the only time I worry about it is if I’m hurting other people in my personal life. Normally I can change the name or I can change the location to say these things happened in America; they didn’t happen in Australia. There’s always enough change in it that people can even lie to themselves and go maybe he’s a talking about a different girl or different friend or a different thing.
Except for when it came to doing a storyline involving my parents and I’m using the exact dialog from what both of them have said to me in my life and some of it is a little bit harsh. My mother I know gets very upset by the whole thing because she thinks I only remember the bad bits of my childhood. I try to explain to her the bad bits are the funny bits and no one wants to watch a show about my good childhood or good things that happened to me with me and my parents. My parents have not seen the show. They’ll see it when it airs in Australia. I’m very nervous about them watching the episode that involved them, because I’m displaying a lot of their dirty laundry and maybe that’s not fair on them, but I’ve got to write a TV show ….
Are you getting John Ratzenberger back this season?
We got John Ratzenberger; he’s in about eight episodes this season. In fact his character, I’m not giving too much away, separates from his wife for a while and moves in the boys, so the cast of three becomes a cast of four for a few episodes of main characters. It is a joy to be working with…. I know he’d probably hate for me for saying that, but the way we got John Ratzenberger into the show is every time we wrote a script for Season 1 and we write that father character and we were doing a table read around with the two other writers, just the three of us would be reading the scripts, I’d always read the part of “Walter.” Whenever I read the part of “Walter,” I would do a John Ratzenberger impersonation. I always would just say, “hey, hey, you know what Jimmie? You got enough to do that anyway naturally.” In the end we just went, why don’t we just call him? Maybe he’ll do it. He jumped at the chance. He came straight on.
The guest stars we have this year I’m super excited. We have Carrie Fisher in an episode and she was just great. She’s not playing Carrie Fisher. She’s playing like an executive of the network. We got Bob Saget in the show. We got Buster Drew obviously is in the first show. We got the midgets from the Howard Stern Show who is going to be on. We got Tom Arnold to come in and do his thing. … and George Lazenby, he plays my dad, who is James Bond for one movie if you remember.
Have you thought of pairing him up with George Wendt for the show?
We considered that, but I was a little bit—I had a character and I thought maybe we could make George Wentz play the character, but then I wanted the show to have its own identity, its own feel. I don’t see the point in doing homage to an old show. As much as I’d love to see those two together and work with them, that would be awesome, but I watched—there’s like that show Kirstie on TV Land and it’s feels like every episode they’re trying to work in Jason Alexander or George Wendt or John Travolta, so they’re going, look anybody who ever acted with, look, they’re paired up together. It’s nice for a minute. You go…but then maybe it takes you out of the reality of the show you’re watching for a little tiny bit.
Whenever you watch It’s Sunny in Philadelphia, they don’t try to pair up Danny DeVito with Tony Danza, so they can have a Taxi reunion, so I don’t think we’ll be doing that. As much as I would enjoy doing it and making it, I just think for the quality of the show that might be a bad step.
Personally I don’t think anything Jeffries does is a bad step! I can watch his stand up performances and laugh myself silly and then follow it up with the series LEGIT on FXX. So if you are so inclined to comedy that is as far off the beaten path as you can get then hit up LEGIT, Wednesdays at 10 p.m.