We interview one of Britain’s best-loved comedians, Jimmy Carr, about his upcoming Hong Kong show
One of Britain’s best-loved comedians, Jimmy Carr will be visiting Hong Kong once again this September, to rile up a comedy-loving audience with his legendary one-liners and (sometimes controversial) quick wit. Along with a whole host of television credentials (8 Out of 10 Cats, Countdown, The Graham Norton Show) Jimmy has played nearly 2,000 shows to more than 2 million people across four continents. He’s been a staple of British comedy and television for well over a decade now, and is currently halfway through a mammoth world tour aptly named “The Best Of, Ultimate, Gold, Greatest Hits World Tour”. So, of course, we jumped at the chance to chat to him about his upcoming show and his thoughts on Hong Kong.
How are you today? Where in the world are you currently?
Very well. I’m having my tea, I’m just in the studio, just about to record a show. I’m back in the UK, albeit briefly. I’ve had a very busy week. I think I’m about 16 countries in and about 98 flights in for this year. So, it’s kind of busy and I’ve just been on the road pretty much constantly.
Are all countries just blurring into one now?
Well, actually no, not so much. I mean, when I go and do a show, I try to do something during the day … You go and eat somewhere, you go and chat with some local people – it’s a great way to travel the world. You kind of get a sense of the places and it gives you an excuse to go and talk to people. When I go away with my other half – like when I’m not actually touring – we go to Italy for the weekend. [We] tend not to chat to the locals. You just kind of keep yourself to yourself and look at stuff. But for comedy, you have to go around. I need to make jokes about this. What am I going to say?
We’re so excited that you’re coming back to Hong Kong this September. You’ve been here before – did you get to explore much of Hong Kong last time? What were your impressions of HK?
Yeah, we got to see an awful lot. I mean we absolutely loved it. I mean people often talk about an assault on the senses or they talk about East-meets-West kind of thing. But, it really felt like Hong Kong is where that culture clash is going on. We went to… I mean the food was unbelievable! We went to that place – Mott32…
We’re fans too!
You’re familiar with Mott32? It’s like the best dim sum I’ve ever had! We went to the China Club, David Tang’s old place. We stayed in this place called The Upper House, which is one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in. I mean, it was phenomenal, and then we did all of the touristy stuff, just walking round those… what’s that amazing, kind of… escalators?
The Central–Mid-Levels escalators?
Yes! We were just trying to just go and get lost in Hong Kong for the day. Which was just such fun. I had no idea as a tourist, what the different areas are or what they’re like. But it all felt very safe and very welcoming and… I love that idea. It felt like – I’m never going to get to go to the future. I’ll never get to go to wherever Blade Runner is set. But it feels like going to Hong Kong gives you a little glimpse of what that’s like.
Then there’s loads of like these British expats there, and Americans and Australians. It felt like last time I played at that school [KG Five] that it was a really international crowd. It was just a really fun place to be for the day. So on my trip this year, I’ve arranged it so I’m going for my birthday. I’m going to Hong Kong to party in Hong Kong for my birthday – and then I’ll do a show. I plan to go drinking; it’s a place to go out!
We’re thrilled to hear that you’re a fellow lover of Hong Kong! When you’re going from country to country, do you change or alter your material depending on the audience?
Yeah, I always try and make it a little bit local-centric. I mean there’s a basis of the show that can only happen in its current location. There’s a 90-minute show that’s just there, and I’m going to tell these same jokes pretty much in the same order, most nights of the tour. But, then there’s another 20 minutes for stuff that you do, that’s just like, while I’m in Hong Kong, ‘This happened this morning’, or something in the news or something happened that day… [and] then some of it you’d just be talking to the audience. You do, ‘What do you do? What are people like here? What are their jobs?’. Some of it should be like a scene that you could put straight on to Netflix show, right? Make it like a perfect show, 90 minutes of just jokes straight through. And some of it should feel like this is only happening here, live, tonight. This will never happen again. We’re in a space together. We’re an audience with a comedian and … we should make it better for people.
What was your first impression of a Hong Kong audience?
Well, it’s very much like being in the UK. But, it was almost more like doing one of these corporate gigs in the UK. Because it felt like everyone there worked in finance, or for a big company, that was coming along to the show with friends from work. Quite a lot of big groups came along together for the show. Like big groups of friends on Facebook had seen the show was on, and all the British people came or the Americans came or the Aussies came with their big group of friends. I don’t know, the gig felt a bit like being at a work party!
We wanted to ask you about the title of the show – which is amazing – “The Best Of, Ultimate, Gold, Greatest Hits World Tour.”
Well, I didn’t want anyone to be confused as to what I was doing! I’ve basically given myself a sabbatical year. I’ve basically said I’m going to go back and … I toured the UK for the first ten years of my career and I didn’t tour internationally. So, I never told these jokes overseas. Some people would have seen certain bits on YouTube before, but they won’t have seen all that material. I mean it’s all my favourite jokes of my career and I want to just…I wanted to enjoy being a performer. I wanted to enjoy going out there and just having fun.
How has touring changed since you started? You mention that were touring for the first 10 years in the UK.
It’s got bigger. I mean, when I started, there was no one touring in the UK. There were very few comics touring. Like a couple of old-time guys. And then the circuit just kind of erupted. I mean I’ve been very lucky. I think a lot of show business is luck, and I came up at this time when there was this new resurgence in comedy and an interesting time when people wanted to start going out to see things live. So, comedy became something like going to a restaurant, or maybe … bowling, or maybe you go and see comedy. It became like another one of the options that people have.
And people like going out to see a show. I think there’s always a thing with live performances where you see movies sometimes and then you watch it again in five years’ time and you can’t even remember that you saw the movie. ‘Did I see that Avengers movie or no?’ It’s not a big deal going to the cinema. But you never forget who you saw live. Good or bad, you never forget.
You mentioned that touring has changed and that the circuit’s growing. In recent years, several well-known British comedians have visited Hong Kong. We’ve had Kevin Bridges, Bill Bailey and others. Is there anyone else that you think Hong Kongers should keep an eye out for?
Well, now, I’m trying to think. I love Rob Beckett who I do ‘8 out of 10 Cats’ with. I think he’s extraordinary. Sean Lock is one of the greats, if you ever get a chance to see him – he’s amazing. There’s a lady called Roisin Conaty – she’s fantastic. A lady called Katherine Ryan who’s just a brilliant live stand-up. Catch her on Netflix, I’m sure she’ll be touring internationally at some stage. I mean it’s a great scene at the moment. There’s a lot of people doing really good shows and it feels like… in a music scene… no one’s taking bread from your table. Someone else is doing a great comedy show, only makes people want to go and see more comedy. It’s brilliant.
It’s great to see you and so many more comics coming over to Hong Kong lately. There is a local comedy scene here, so it’s great if that could be promoted even more.
Well, hopefully, we’re the gateway drug to the local scene as well. If someone like me comes over, you know, a thousand people might come out, two thousand people might come out to see a big show. And then they might think the next week, ‘Well actually there’s a comedy club here, why don’t we go? …we like comedy.’ And they know that they like it and then they go and have another night out and see some local people…that’s the idea. I’m the marijuana to the local product of crack cocaine.
Jimmy Carr will be performing his “The Best Of, Ultimate, Gold, Greatest Hits World Tour” at Rotunda 3, Kowloon Bay International Trade & Exhibition Centre, Kowloon (KITEC) on Sunday, 16 September. Tickets can be booked here.