Jimmy Carr: Natural Born Killer (2024)


Jimmy Carr: Natural Born Killer Review

The darting eyes are unfamiliar. Jimmy Carr’s eyeballs never caused him so much trouble when he was younger. The comedian’s new Netflix show, Natural Born Killer, sees his pupils flit from side to side with such frequency it could be a game of table tennis. Or, as Carr might put it in his mockney drawl: “Watchin’ a game of fuckin’ table tennis.”

Why does he feel the need to wrap his punchlines in panicky ocular movement? Well, the man’s material is so edgy that he has to look around the room to check if the woke police are in. “This next joke might get me cancelled,” he says at one point, like a teenager smelling his farts and chuckling that he could get thrown out of a sleepover. If doing stuff that might as well have been cribbed from an old Jim Davidson set can get you “cancelled” (“There’s a reason men propose on their knees they’ve fucking given up”), Carr must be.

But it’s tough to cancel someone who doesn’t believe in anything. There is no moral compass guiding Carr’s act. What does he think? Who is this for? Judging by how many of his jokes he laughs at an incredibly depressing tic absent from Carr’s earlier standup you would be tempted to say that the show is targeted at the 51-year-old himself. Occasionally, his sad little honk is the only one we hear, like a goose wondering where its friends have gone.

At certain points, Carr checks out whether his public can accept him. He is clever, and this pantomime of thoughtfulness cheapens everything involved particularly when the jokes are at the expense of trans people, vegans and those with disabilities. Is Netflix not inundated with standup about trans people? Does Carr use his platform for nuance? Or does he say it’s because he identifies as a comedian that his pronouns are ‘he, he, he’?

You have to swim through cliches to find an original gag to keep you afloat. Did you know dads are lazy? That women know how to wrap their hair in a towel? And that people from Norfolk marry their own relatives? It feels like Carr knows that his trite material now puts him at one end of a 21st-century comedy spectrum. One liners whose punchlines rest heavily on the word “fuck”. At a time when there is so much invention on display among standups Stewart Lee turning the form inside out, Joe Lycett using comedy for mischievous good, Sara Pascoe refusing to dumb down her material is this not time for Carr to pivot towards thoughtfulness and playfulness? No, he thinks far better to double down on the brand and attract those who will really laugh at gags such as: “My girlfriend snores quite a lot. But luckily I’ve got these noise-cancelling fists.” No one would deny that is a joke but who is likely to laugh at it? Someone who thinks the concept of beating your wife is inherently funny; or someone who actually likes comedy?

One oddity of Natural Born Killer is the impression Carr wants us walking away with. He seems desperate for us to think he’s among other things a paedophile and rapist. One joke one Carr no doubt considers edgy ends with him dismissing a 23 year old woman because when he mistakenly thought she was a child, he wanted to have sex with her. Carr could present himself as any version of himself, why does he prefer being a paedophile? If it’s “just a joke” then why isn’t it a better joke?

Most mystifyingly, Carr uses his special to moralise about subjects such as rape and abortion in a way that is impossible to take seriously because of the material it follows. “D’you wanna know my rape fantasy? Someone goes to jail for rape,” comes nine irony-free seconds after he has joked about fancying his chances of not getting caught raping someone because so few rapists are convicted.

After showing glimpses of himself as someone who has insights around fatherhood and then immediately burying them, Carr ends the show with a faux pep talk on sex to a teenage boy. Following some vaguely commendable bits on consent, he decides to end with the line: “Don’t stick your dick in crazy.” There is no hidden depth here this pearl of wisdom is exactly what it seems. And so the special finishes on an even lower point than it started, with a millionaire telling an impressionable young man that if a woman seems mad, he shouldn’t have sex with her. It’s just a joke!

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