In spite of the fact that I consider myself a bit of a comedy nerd, Australian stand-up Jim Jeffries hadn't popped up on my radar until I checked out the new DVD of his spring HBO special, Jim Jeffries: I Swear to God. He's foul-mouthed and ill-tempered, even by pay cable standards; the disc comes with an "mature content" warning sticker, and boy do they mean it. His dark act veers further into nihilism than you might be used to seeing on an HBO special ("I never enjoyed a moment of my life," he mentions at one point, almost as an afterthought). He's a prickly sonofabitch, sure--but he's also awfully funny.
Over the course of the show's 57 minutes, Jeffries takes on Christianity (with a blisteringly funny bit on the afterlife), the Noah story ("He lived to be 950 years old, but they never mention that in sermons--because we might think it's bullshit!"), other religions, the poor breeding habits of pandas ("Do you think pandas know they're Chinese, and they're taking the 'one child' policy too serious?"), smoking, and dwarves. He tackles racism ("I'm not racist, I'm a bigot--it's completely different") , travelling the world, profanity, orgasms, and nightclubs ("If you're over 25 and you still go to nightclubs, you're a dick").
Some of his best material concerns his love for alcohol; to those who don't drink because they "don't like the taste of it," he bellows, "NOBODY DOES!" His family stories are also laugh-out-loud funny, particularly the tale of how he and his brother made an unfortunate discovery in the garage.
The material (for the most part) is solid, but his ace timing and delivery help seal the deal; for some reason, I'm always drawn to profanity-spewing comics with thick accents, and in many ways, Jeffries' heavy brogue and love of blue language is reminiscent of a young Billy Connolly. His act is dirty, yes, but seldom uncomfortably so; his bit about the social and interpersonal dynamics of promiscuous females is raw, but it's candid and burns with some honesty and truth, in the same way that Richard Pryor's best material often did.
His last story, a stomach-churning tale of sex toys, masturbation, and scatological misfortune, may go a bit too far, even for me, even for this show. It closes an otherwise stellar performance on a rather weak note, and that's a shame. For most of its running time, Jim Jeffries: I Swear to God is an uproariously funny turn by an exciting new talent.
The disc's anamorphic widescreen image is a decent, though Jeffries' skin tones are a little washed out (then again, considering his steady diet of booze and drugs, he might just be a pasty dude). Black levels are slightly uneven, but background colors are rich and full.
The 2.0 audio track is passable, though unexciting; all of Jeffries' jokes are clear and audience response is well-modulated, though again (and not to sound like a broken record here), I sure wish HBO would step up with 5.1 tracks for their comedy performance discs, so as to present a more immersive and concert-like experience for the viewer.
No bonus features have been included.
Jim Jeffries: I Swear to God is, without question, an adults-only show; the language and subject matter are rough-edged, even for HBO. But if you've got the stomach for it, it's worth a look; Jeffries is a genuinely funny guy, and an interesting new stand-up worth keeping an eye on.
Jason lives with his wife Rebekah and their daughter Lucy in New York. He holds an MA in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU. He is film editor for Flavorwire and is a contributor to Salon, the Atlantic, and several other publications. His first book, Pulp Fiction: The Complete History of Quentin Tarantino's Masterpiece, was released last fall by Voyageur Press. He blogs at Fourth Row Center and is yet another critic with a Twitter feed.