On “The Jim Jefferies Show” this Tuesday night, the outspoken Australian comedian gets sworn in as an American citizen, a coveted status that he was afraid would be denied him by the President.
“I never mentioned in the show until this moment that I wasn’t a citizen,” Jefferies said in an interview with IndieWire backstage. “I didn’t want a red flag added onto my name. And Trump, I believe, is a petty enough man that he might do something like that. Nixon did this. Nixon started auditing late-night show hosts because they were making jokes about him. Then every single one of their staff got tax audits. So, it’s not beyond the realms of belief that Trump could be as petty as [Nixon was] because there’s just a phone call to be made and a list of people he doesn’t want.
“Like, I heard that John Oliver is not a citizen yet. He should be quaking in his fucking boots. John Oliver, get it signed. Get it done. Go down to the office, mate.”
Although Jefferies was born and raised Down Under, he doesn’t really identify solely with that country anymore, which is why he wanted to put down roots in America, where his son was born.
“I hadn’t lived [in Australia] since I was 20. I lived in Britain for 10 years before this, and then 10 years here,” he said. “For once, I wanted to feel like, ‘Alright, I’m home. And no one can kick me out. No one can tell me that I can’t do that.’ Now, I’m still very bitter that I can’t be President. That’s the one thing I’m not allowed to do. I can be Press Secretary.”
And just because he’s a new American citizen, that doesn’t mean that Jefferies will stop criticizing the country.
“I could say something very wanky to you right now and say that criticizing a country is the most patriotic thing you can do because wanting change is as important as conforming,” he said, “but the reality of it is there’s no point in me making fun of Britain while I’m here, and there’s no point of me making fun of Australia while I’m here. So, you got to do jokes about your surroundings. So, I am. I wouldn’t call it criticizing. I’d call it teasing.”
One of Jefferies most well-known bits is his commentary on gun control in the U.S., as seen below. He points out that in Australia, after the biggest massacre ever, the government cracked down on guns, and no more mass shooting have occurred in the country since. However, he observes that people in America seem to value their guns more than the saving human lives.
It’s been several years since that stand-up routine, but people are still looking to Jefferies for some sort of guidance.
“Every mass shooting, people do write to me, as if to ask me to say something. ‘What do you think, Jim?’” he said. “There was just this thing that happened in Thousand Oaks, and there’s not a lot for me to say. I’ve said everything I want to say. My stance remains the same as it did in the stand-up routine, I still believe in gun control. I don’t believe in gun bans; that’s a fallacy that people have, that they think if you believe in gun control you want to ban guns. That’s not true.”
Although Jefferies has benefited from the opportunities that America has afforded him, he also feels that it falls short of actually caring for its citizens.
“One of the flaws in the American dream is that there isn’t as much of a safety net as you may get in other countries,” he said. “I’m somewhat of a socialist in the sense that I believe in housing for the homeless and medical care for all. So, for me, the American dream has been having a TV show, and being successful, and having a nice house, and having everything. And all those great things, but if I could press magic button, my American dream would be to give everyone healthcare.”
Becoming a citizen was a surprisingly emotional experience for Jefferies, one that he wanted to share as a field piece on his show. It was a long process that began with him getting a green card seven years ago, and then the actual naturalization process began 18 months ago. Although he technically became a citizen in front of a judge, he invited a handful of his fellow newly minted citizens to join him on stage Tuesday for a ceremonial swearing-in. That’s how Roel Gutierrez, Andrea Brackett, Mohammed Maraqa, and brothers Pihon and Samuill Kalonji ended up raising their hands and repeating the naturalization oath conducted by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
“The five people that we had on, incidentally, were just people that were sworn in with me,” he said. “Every single one of them had an interesting story. Every single one of them had a job that really contributed to our society. Every single one of them was interested. We thought we’d end it with and do a field piece. It wasn’t maybe as funny as other things we’ve done on the show, but it was definitely I think, there was information being passed on. It was kind of moving.
“I just thought it would be interesting because I remember thinking people know the process,” he said. “They definitely don’t know the whole, ‘I’m going to denounce all princes’ and all that type of stuff.’ Until you say it, you don’t know it.”
Jefferies was referring to the portion of the naturalization oath that includes somewhat archaic language such as: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.” The oath is recited in full on the show.
Although Jefferies often refers to Trump’s behavior and policies, the comedian doesn’t have any specific comments ready if he suddenly got the ear of the President.
“It’s very hard to change everyone’s views on everything right away. Also, a man in his seventies, what am I going to come and reason with this person?” he said. “You don’t often get me quoting this, but I think what I’d do is the same thing that Kim Kardashian did: Try to change one small thing. Kim went in there, and she got a lady out of prison that shouldn’t have been in prison. I think if I could find a cause or something meaningful, then I would try to do one small thing.”
“The Jim Jefferies Show” airs Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.