Jimmy Carr untaxed by Stockport hecklers

Comedian deals confidently with comments from audience days after having tax arrangements exposed

Thank you for coming out. I've had a busy week," said Jimmy Carr, master of understatement. Four days ago he was exposed for investing in a scheme that enabled him to pay roughly 1% income tax.

His initial response was fiercely unapologetic – until David Cameron named and shamed him. By Thursday Carr was dressed in a sober black, and tweeting for forgiveness. "I made a terrible error of judgment," he said. Of course he did: he got caught out.

This was Jimmy Carr's first gig post-humiliation, and everybody had an opinion. Even the woman selling me my ticket for Friday's gig in Stockport had her ha'penny worth. "Boy, he's going to get heckled," she said gleefully. What would she shout out if she was here? "Taxi for Mr Carr!" Not a fan.

But he does have plenty. How else could he stash away £3m in a year in a tax-avoidance scheme, treat himself to an £8.5m mansion, and drive a Bentley? Matthew Thornburn, a fan, didn't have any time for the moralists. "I think people have jumped on the bandwagon. What he did was legal, and it's been escalated by social media and the government. Why's he been singled out? Why not Gary Barlow?" Then he answered the question himself. "Because he's Sir Gary Barlow Soon To Be, and he wrote a song for the Queen."

The Stockport Plaza was sold out for two shows on Friday – this week's headlines helped get rid of the last few tickets.

"We'll just treat it as a normal night then," Carr said by way of an intro.

"No chance," bellowed Stockport's first heckler of the night.

"Well fine, let's kick off and see how it goes. Let's go back to causing moral outrage in the traditional manner."

But if it was ever going to be a contest between Carr and the hecklers, the comic won hands down. The audience were too interested in laughing and shouting out rude words to pass judgment. Carr almost seemed disappointed by how tame they were.

He asked one member of the audience what she did for a living.

"Teacher," she said.

"Teachers work so hard," he said sympathetically. Pause. "Five-hour days, half a year."

"At least we pay tax," she shrieked. But it seemed more in delight at the recognition than in judgment.

"What's the worst present anybody's ever bought you?" he asked the audience.

"A ticket for tonight," said a man close to the front.

"What do you do?" asked Carr.

"Tax inspector."

Carr blinked and responded: "Well you've not been doing a very good job. You better get your finger out." The audience cheered.

When one woman told him she was a banker, he said that normally he'd get on his high horse and make a few jokes at her expense. But he acknowledged this was not the right occasion.

So he got on with what he did best – causing offence. We could be listening to a triple X-rated Bob Monkhouse on acid. The filthy one-liners keep coming, delivered with headache-inducing expertise. Anal sex, blowies, hand jobs, bestiality, coprophilia and back to anal sex.

Carr is not what you'd call an issues comic. Some of the jokes are funny, most are impossible to repeat in a newspaper. As he says (and as Bernard Manning used to say) he is an equal opportunities offender so he'll take the piss out of anything – disabled kids, fat people, lesbians, fat, disabled lesbians. Much of it is a postmodern version of what the reactionary comics of the 70s gave us in the working men's clubs. "I love a blow job off the missus. Oh, the peace and quiet." "Not all fat people are jolly. Some are women." "Not all gay people are camp and funny. Some are lesbians." "A problem shared is a problem halved. Well it wasn't with Aids." At the end of most jokes, or midway through, he laughs like a seal. "Ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaa!"

To be fair, Carr is also a target of his own jokes. But he is careful to appear as Carr the pervert, a carefully honed persona, and never Carr the man who doesn't like to pay tax. "Ten per cent of women have cried in shop changing rooms. I guess they didn't expect to find me there."It's so embarrassing how I always have the biggest penis in the gym changing room. Then again, I'm the only one with an erection."

Towards the end of the evening he asked if there was anybody who had not been offended, and a few put their hands up. He looked disappointed and had another go. It was pretty much business as usual for Carr, with a few teaspoons of humility thrown in. When one fan shouted out he should be made chancellor, Carr replied "No, I have been a dick."

In a sketch on brand new thoughts, he came up with "a new accountant". The message was clear – any problem lies with professional advice, not my personal morality.

It would have been brave if he had addressed the issue, explained why he had not paid his full share of tax and why he now thought it was wrong. It would have sufficed if he'd just written some new jokes that incorporated his embarrassment. But tax doesn't fit neatly with lezzas and fatties and blowies. And Carr has never been a comedian of the heart or soul, and was never going to become one overnight.

At the end he thanked the audience again and said he felt humbled.

"Because the best phrase I can think of of to explain how I was feeling would be 'fucking shitting it'." And one last thing, he said, he just wanted to clear up a potential misunderstanding. "Sometimes after the show girls think I'm buying them a drink because I'm just a nice guy. Ha-ha-ha-ha—haaaaaa! Oh no."


Simon Hattenstone

The GuardianTramp

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