This much I know: Jimmy Carr

The comedian, 39, on atheism, Marmite and drawing the line

I have a very strange laugh. I laugh on the in, not the out, so it sounds like a seal honking. I don't know where it comes from.

I didn't do very well at school until I was 15 or 16. I was entirely dyslexic. I really am very bad at writing and spelling. But then I left, and I worked incredibly hard and diligently. I felt like I had something to prove because I didn't want people to think I was an idiot.

Every comedian is Marmite. You have that reflex action whereby you laugh or you don't. You either love us or are left lost. The tragedy for comedians is there's nothing more they want than to be liked. We desperately seek approval. It's almost like a personality disorder you can do as a job.

I've become a fundamentalist atheist. I think the idea that death is not the end, that your dog's just "gone to live on the farm", is limiting and can prevent you making the most of all the time you have. I don't think it's any coincidence that I lost my religious faith and "manned up" – left marketing [with Shell] for comedy – in the same year.

How hard you're working is a good indicator of whether you're doing the right or wrong thing with life. There's that quote about "Work is being somewhere when you'd rather be somewhere else" – but I can't work too hard just now, because I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.

I try to look on the upside. If you fixate on the worst-case scenario and it actually happens, you've lived it twice: once in your mind and once when it happens. Deal with it once, then move on.

I've recently picked up the word "dude" from a friend in Montreal. It's nice. "Hey dude." I really like the way that it feels. And it's a disarming word; it seems to calm everybody down.

I don't think comedy can change anything. Satire, maybe. Just maybe. I know that obscure members of the cabinet were never as well known as during the Spitting Image years.

Channel 4 has big balls. I don't tend to work much with the BBC. I like lawyers and commissioners with enormous cojones who say: "If it's funny and you believe in it, on you go." Bizarrely, that free work environment actually makes you more responsible.

There's no lesson to be learnt from my shows. No takeaway "Aha!" moment. I'm trying to release endorphins by making people laugh. I'm not sending any message, and I'm not running for office.

Criticism of me is absolutely valid. People have a right to be offended. But I also reserve the right of freedom of speech to make a joke about whatever I want. I respect that people might say: "He's a terrible human being" but when they say I step over the line – well, they're drawing the line! I'm not.

Jimmy Carr: Being Funny is out now on DVD


Euan Ferguson

The GuardianTramp

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