Sam Holmes

The truth about Jimmy Carr’s ‘offensive’ joke

The truth about Jimmy Carr's 'offensive' joke
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Jimmy Carr is known as the hardest-working man in comedy. He loves making people laugh and most of all he likes making people laugh at the things they know they shouldn’t. He also loves making money and knows full well that audiences have become a lot more sensitive in recent years. That’s why he opens his Netflix show by saying: 'Before we start, a quick trigger warning. Tonight’s show contains jokes about terrible things. Things that may have affected you and the people you love. But these are just jokes. They’re not the terrible things.’

If you continued watching after that and were offended, I’m sorry you were upset but that’s on you. No one made you watch. The Netflix special, His Dark Material (another clue in the title), wasn’t dropped into the Queen’s speech on Christmas Day.

I didn’t laugh too much watching it. Not because it wasn’t funny, but because I’d seen many of the same jokes a few weeks earlier at a work-in-progress at the Soho Theatre, one of the most right-on, politically correct comedy spaces in the country. I was surrounded by superfans and the London elite who all laughed from beginning to end. As I made my way out of the theatre, there was no one angrily tweeting, no tutting in the bathroom stalls. We had all listened to an hour of very well-crafted, well-timed, and very dark jokes within the context of a Jimmy Carr show.

It was great to watch the Netflix show, seeing which jokes he’d dropped, which he’d moved and which he’d made even darker. For a month, the show was readily available, probably watched by millions. I had not heard even the whisper of a Twitter storm, because just like the Soho Theatre crowd, we had all chosen to watch it and had seen it in context.

But then some TikToker decided to take the darkest joke from the show, something Jimmy himself calls within the show a ‘career ender’, and present it completely removed from context.

‘When people talk about the Holocaust, they talk about the tragedy and horror of six million Jewish lives being lost to the Nazi war machine. But they never mention the thousands of Gypsies that were killed by the Nazis. No one ever wants to talk about that, because no one ever wants to talk about the positives.’

If you believe that joke is actually what Jimmy thinks, he is a monster. But he is joking and so it is not. He’s a comic and a brilliant one at that. He knows that this is a tightrope walk of a joke to get people to feel comfortable enough to laugh at, and he does it perfectly. Let’s break it down. The final act of his show begins with:

‘Right, let’s get to the career enders, shall we?’

He then goes on to do several dark jokes that slowly build to the one everyone is now talking about.

He peppers this routine throughout with commentary talking about how he knows that what he is saying is purposefully dark.

‘You paid good money to see an edgy comedian right? It would be remiss of me not to deliver on that. It’s never about offending people it's about making people laugh...That being said, this next five minutes is going to be closer to the bone than a fat girl eating KFC.’

After a few more jokes he checks in with the audience to make sure they are still enjoying themselves. ‘Ok we’re all still in? Great!’

The joke that everyone is raging against is the crescendo of this special. If you just played the loudest note from the ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ to people, they would be shocked, annoyed, and probably complain. That’s what hearing this joke out of context is: a crass, upsetting noise. But the whole piece of music is great dark material.