Giggle Beats

Opinion: Why Jimmy Carr is rich and I sleep in my living room.

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Lewis Schaffer | Giggle Beats

Lewis Schaffer offers some words on the Jimmy Carr tax avoidance row...

“I used to get laid in High School.
That is one of the benefits of being a substitute teacher.”

Jimmy Carr heard me tell that joke in 2001 or 2002 in Birmingham and suggested I start my set with that joke.

I read yesterday that Jimmy had stashed £3.3 million of comedy income offshore away from the tax man in just one year.

I felt oodles of bad feelings.

I didn’t feel bad because of all the money he has made from stand-up comedy. He deserves the dough. Even if I didn’t find Jimmy funny [and I do find him funny], many others do, and he has earned the money.

Yes, he’s squirreling the money offshore. It’s legal and something very “Jimmy Carr” of him. “Jimmy Carr The Act” is the kind of guy who would squirrel money away.

“Jimmy Carr The Person” drives a Bentley or a Rolls – he isn’t pretending not to care about money and pretending to love the people [generally]. If he were a lefty, such as Robin Ince or Josie Long, I would’ve had a laugh. But he isn’t.

No, I felt sick because he actually filed his taxes.

I’ve been sitting on my taxes for the tax years of 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Jimmy Carr came up to me in the early noughties at the Glee Club in Birmingham, Midland. We were doing a gig there. I was at a point when I could have been a star in the UK. Or at least made a decent living. Or at least not been such a loser that I was chucked from my home and family.

He wasn’t famous at the time but he was well dressed. That made me think more of him than the average under-suited new British comic of the time.

He offered me some unsolicited advice. I appreciate any kind of advice – solicited or not. Feedback is rare in comedy – other than having an audience stare at you or walk out. He was focusing on me and I love attention.

He heard me tell a joke that night in my set.

“I used to get laid in High School.
That is one of the benefits of being a substitute teacher.”

Jimmy suggested that I start my set with that joke.

I had a quite a few one-liners like that, which ironically are always two lines.

“The kind of girl I like is hard to find.
I like a girl with big boobs and a big cock.”

“They say beautiful women are shallow.
I only need two or three inches.”

That is very New York comedy style 2000AD. I call it: First person, extreme. Short jokes with the comic in the center and as evil as possible. It is the opposite of English-style, which, at the time, was “third person, mild” or “someone else, over there”. Imagine Gary Glitter in Wales and maybe add a fairy.

My agent slash wife screamed pretty much the same thing. “Just do twenty-minutes of the jokes you always tell. That is what Ed Bryne do does!” My buddy and Letterman comic Dan Naturman suggested I just “tell the jokes, as written, in the right order.”

I wanted to tell jokes, as written, in the right order.

I want to tell the jokes, as written, in the right order.

Only it involved a level of commitment to the material that I couldn’t make. That I can’t make. How could I be sure the joke I had chosen to start my set was the best joke to start?

Frankly, how could I be sure that anything I was doing was the right thing – from choosing a joke, to living in England, to being married?

How could I be sure the numbers I was to send to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs were the right numbers? Who knew if I am claiming every possible deduction and even claiming every possible piece of income?

If I had done what he suggested that evening in 2001 or 2002 I could have been the Bill Hicks of British-based New York one-liner comics. There wasn’t much competition – if any. There would have been a place for me on every comedy show in the UK.

Jimmy went on to tell the jokes, as written, in the correct order. He has told a lot of jokes, as written, in the correct order. That is why Jimmy Carr has £3.3 million to put in an offshore tax avoidance scheme. Jimmy Carr is sure about stuff.

Jimmy Carr actually was nice enough to care about me, Lewis Schaffer, an interloper in the British comedy scene, and one who may not have stayed around for the long haul. He’s a good dude.

Yesterday, because of reading about Jimmy’s taxes, I sent my accountant five tax years of numbers and was done with it.

Maybe someday I’ll tell a joke, as written, in the right order.

Lewis Schaffer is at the Newcastle Comedy Festival on Sunday 29th July. Details here. He also blogs at