THE DAY AFTER his sitcom Legit was cancelled, Jim Jefferies filmed Bare, his fifth stand-up special. The timing cut both ways.
"People were still paying me to do stand-up comedy," Jefferies remembers thinking. "There was some solace in that I was about to do another project that next day." Throughout Bare, Jefferies' disappointment is well masked. Legit's cancellation is only briefly mentioned.
"At times during that recording I could've snapped," Jefferies says, "told them all to fuck off and everything right then and there on stage. But I thought: Make sure you do a good show because if you don't have this, you don't have anything."
On the phone Jefferies is blunt, bold, personable, and funny. (Those turned off by his brash persona should know: Jefferies has been more engaged, generous, and respectful than the majority of comedians I've interviewed.) As he is on stage, during our conversation Jefferies seems almost physically unable to share anything less than the totality of his feelings. Now, a year later and with some distance, he reflects on losing Legit.
"I was depressed for months after it got cancelled," he says. "That show shouldn't have gotten cancelled. It was a good show.
"The official reason is about numbers," he continues. "The real reason is because the guy who I created it with, Peter O'Fallon, is a complete and utter fuckwit and couldn't stop bothering the network every five minutes." But Jefferies' post-mortem isn't all piss and vinegar.
"I didn't realize until after that it was the only show with disabled people but their disability wasn't the moving force of their character," he says. "That probably upset me more than anything, that they were out of work, because the opportunity they had on that show is not coming around again."
Indeed, Legit was an unusual sitcom. Among the principal characters were a quadriplegic with muscular dystrophy and his brother, a sad, beaten alcoholic. Much like in Jefferies' stand-up, Legit found humor in tragedy. More than in his stand-up, Legit showed heart.
"I think maybe it was a little bit sappy for some fans of mine," Jefferies says of the show. "But it wasn't too sappy for me. That was how I wanted it."
After being moved to the fledgling FXX for its second season, Legit was cancelled—just as it was coming into its own. (The same happened to W. Kamau Bell's Totally Biased.) Given the substantial qualitative leaps Legit made in season two, the show's premature demise is all the more frustrating.
Jefferies remains undeterred. He continues writing scripts and pitching. (He's now working on one with Rhys Darby.) He's also committed to stand-up, which he never left. And thanks to Legit, his audience has grown.
"I think before, maybe, I was just depicted as a guy that did dick jokes or was a bit crass," says Jefferies. "And I am. But I think maybe after seeing the show people could see that I'm a little more than that.
"Definitely more women are coming to shows, more couples, and slightly older," Jefferies adds. "This is the weird thing. This is probably why the show never worked: I was meant to be making a show for men aged 16 to 29." He laughs. "I made a show that women enjoyed, from 25 to 35."
Can't get enough Jim Jefferies? See our full interview here.