I hadn't realised how much attention I need: Carr loving return to stage in Dubai
First gig in 22 weeks for comedy legend a testament to UAE's handling of pandemic
"If a comedian tells a joke and there's no audience there, is it anything?" We weren't expecting our opening interaction with legendary British comedian Jimmy Carr to be quite so philosophical, but perhaps an unforeseen consequence of having to spend so much time at home has rendered us all budding logicians? The star of stage and screen returned to his natural habitat for the first time in 22 weeks on Wednesday night at Dubai's World Trade Centre for the first of a three-gig 'Terribly Funny' tour and was relishing the opportunity to get back to his trade and craft in front of actual people. "I hadn't realised how much attention I need," the stand-up stated after telling us the sell-out performance went well. "During lockdown my family found out - eight o'clock every evening I need attention!"
In his native London, where the Covid-19 pandemic maintains a strong grip, theatres unfortunately remain shut as a result of the ongoing measures to prevent the spread. An invitation to the UAE, therefore, provided perhaps the only outlet in the world to again thrive in the spotlight.
"The guys here have put on a beautiful show when nobody globally is doing so," Carr said. "It (Wednesday's date) was socially distanced and responsibly done. It's a half-full arena which really felt full.
"It feels like the authorities here really nailed the lockdown. Everyone is wearing face masks. Walking around it feels like we're through the worst of it. Playing a live event is such a privilege. We are tribal creatures. I think it's a fact you're eight times more likely to laugh when you're in a group."
Carr - who began his entertainment career in the early 2000s and has seen a meteoric rise through live tours and television vehicles such as Your Face Or Mine?, Distraction, which aired on both sides of the Atlantic, panel show 8 Out of 10 Cats and Comedy Central's Roast Battle - was a familiar face to millions on YouTube during the early stages of the #StayHome initiative with a self-produced nightly quiz. His effort to provide a little amusement to those grappling with the then unprecedented situation was as much about fostering community spirit as it was telling jokes. As time on the sofa progressed, however, Carr felt it was a prime opportunity to develop new material.
"The first couple of weeks were great," he said. "I watched Tiger King in one day, but I think there's a reason holidays are ten days or two weeks. Even two weeks are too long, there needs to be an outlet. So I put myself in writing mode."
While he didn't divulge specifics, Carr stated he wasn't yet tempted to go down the podcast route as many contemporaries have done with their extra time.
"I might do one, but you need to sort out a strong subject. Podcasts are great because they're a way of comedians owning their own productions."
To be fair, with the continual projects Carr enjoys, he cannot be blamed for not immediately wishing to add yet another medium to his arsenal. Though to praise his reputed worth ethic, he said, was unworthy.
"I work about as hard as everyone else but I'm in an arena where no one works that hard. I work every day but no one else does that in comedy because they're all a feckless bunch!"
How will you be exploring Dubai during your stay?
"I did a little bit of shopping in the 'enormo-mall' (The Dubai Mall). I got lost! I felt like a toddler. I needed to ask the nice man the way back to my hotel. It's also incredible here if you're a foodie. I'm a big fan of Katsuya: my favourite Los Angeles sushi place. That's here. There's La Petite Maison, Zuma, everything is here."
The latest series of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown is currently airing, which began as a one-off. Are you surprised it has endured?
"There are YouTube videos of me literally crying with laughter. We put together a show and then our guests come and bring another level. It's crazy and somehow there is a game of Countdown going on at the same time. I don't know how that show works but I love it."
Second night review
A socially-distanced gig need not be a quiet one as Jimmy Carr's second performance of his Terribly Funny mini tour at the Dubai World Trade Centre proved on Thursday. The sell-out show created more noise than most musical concerts to which we have been party at the same venue. Seamless entry after having our temperature checked half an hour before curtain-up, left plenty of time to find our sanitised seats before nipping down to the concession stand for a very reasonably priced beverage deal accompanied by a hotdog and burger.
An actual onscreen 10-second countdown ramped up the electric atmosphere before Carr took to the stage, making his welcome presence immediately felt with a mix of devastatingly funny one-liners peppered with some local flavour. Interaction with the crowd was where the jokes really hit; the audience obviously becoming more vocal the longer the evening continued. References to a possible night out at an Al Barsha hotel eatery with a romantically down-on-their-luck patron brought the house down. And those who believed time was going to be at a premium, organisers Done Events must have splashed out because a generous two full hours of material topped with encore ad-libs was what we were clamouring for after months with no nights out, and were gratefully received. Five stars.