Shattering proof my life really is a Carr crash: Jimmy Carr's memoir

Shattering proof my life really is a Carr crash: Trashing a £100k Tesla on a test drive, a future partner whose first impression was positively criminal and some very raw life lessons… the final part of Jimmy Carr’s brilliant confessional memoir

In Yesterday’s Mail, top comedian Jimmy Carr revealed how he overcame his problem drinking. Today, in the final extract from his new book, he tells how he met the mother of his child — and offers his favourite rules for life. 

I became a father in my late 40s. When my son is 25, I’ll be 75. Now, that’s around the time he’ll be on the first big adventure of his life. He’ll be trying to find his purpose. He’ll need guidance.

I take a lot of omega-3 fish oils and I try to eat right and exercise but, let’s face it, I may have forgotten all my wisdom by then and where I left my keys.

Jimmy Carr and wife Karoline Copping attend the Woodside End of Summer party to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation

At least I’ll still look the part. Thanks to the wonders of my plastic surgeon, I’m hoping my son won’t realise I’m older than the other dads.

He’ll come and talk to me about his problems because, unlike the other dads, I’ll never seem shocked or surprised, disappointed or sad, primarily because Botox has robbed me of the ability to move my forehead.

Just like everyone else you know, I’m going to die, although in my case, large parts of me will not biodegrade. I imagine my teeth will outlive us all.

If I can still recognise my son and remember anything else 25 years from now, the wisdom I pass on will come from stand-up comedy. It taught me all the skills I needed for life, except for tax accounting.

There are five superpowers that all stand-up comedians have, things that we do better than regular folk. Does that mean we’re better than regular people? Yes. Yes, it does.

First we have communication —the most obvious superpower of the comic.

There are five superpowers that all stand-up comedians have, things that we do better than regular folk. Does that mean we’re better than regular people? Yes. Yes, it does

You watch a comedian on stage, and they seem to be having a completely natural conversation with 3,000 people. That is a learned skill.

The comedian’s communication settings are on 10 per cent ‘send’ and 90 per cent ‘receive’. Comedians are constantly listening and observing; whether to our audience or simply to the world around us. We’re always alert. Listening out for anything that doesn’t make sense, the logic flaws, the nonsense, anything that makes them think ‘hang on a second . . .’.

Secondly, timing. It’s not only about what you’re saying, it’s about when you’re saying it. Do you need to give the audience a little more time to catch up with your pace? Are you all in the same groove? A good, solid tempo makes everything you need to do a whole lot easier.

Thirdly, we have pattern recognition. What comedians do is look at the patterns in life. Comics get so good at pattern recognition that they’re able to mess with the patterns. And patterns are what jokes are: the sudden revelation of a previously concealed fact — that’s all of comedy right there. You need the jolt of a surprise to get them to laugh out loud.

Fourthly, comedians have a superpower when it comes to honesty. There is a brutal honesty with comics when they get together. Trust me, stick a couple of comics in a room, give it five minutes and call the police, because I guarantee you someone has said something unacceptable.

Recalibration is a part of honesty. Comedians are constantly changing and adapting to make things funnier. Sometimes you’ll fall in love with a line and the audience doesn’t like it. What do you do?

What you do is change it — again and again — until, eventually, it gets a laugh. An audience’s laughter is brutally honest.

Lastly, failure is a superpower. Every great comic is ‘Captain Failure’. Every comic writes more jokes that don’t work than jokes that do. There’s never been a comedian who is an exception to that rule.

All failure is just feedback. You look at something and think, ‘OK, that doesn’t work, I’ll change it.’ If something doesn’t work, you change your behaviour, you recalibrate and make it better. You don’t just fail the same way a thousand times, you fail differently each time until you run out of ways to fail. And at that point, it’s called ‘success’.

I’ve been a success. You may think that’s because I’m very talented, funny and charming, not to mention the good looks and humbling modesty. And to you I’d say, ‘Thank you.’

Of course, you may think I’m an unfunny, one-note, talentless idiot. In which case, my achievements must seem all the more remarkable and interesting. Look how far I got on one tank of gas.

Please, don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t think any of you are special. I don’t think any of you are destined for greatness and I don’t think success is going to just ‘happen’ for anyone.

I don’t think I’m special either. I don’t think I was ever destined for fame and fortune. All I was doing was trying to be a better comedian and I ended up having a better life.

That fourth superpower, ‘practising honesty’, sounds like a philosophy preached by crunchy granola-eating, sandal-wearing, electric car-driving hippies. That said, I like the idea of owning your mistakes, correcting them and moving on to fulfil your purpose — and I now own an electric car. I’ll tell you how it happened.

My special rules to get through life 

CHOOSE THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

Avoid people with bad attitudes. Some people will hate you just because you don’t hate yourself, and I hate that.

NO CAN DO

The ultimate productivity hack is saying ‘no’. Say no to anything you don’t want to do — it’s a hard choice in the moment but then you don’t have to do the thing you don’t want to do.

‘Do you want to go to Ikea this Saturday?’ No. ‘Can you pick me up from the airport?’ No. ‘Do you want a shot of Jager?’ No. ‘Do you want to marry Steve from the chip shop and have his ugly kids?’ No.

FAKE IT

Pretending to be a better person and being a better person is indistinguishable to the casual observer. Pretend to be happy and after a little while you might just be happy. The mask becomes the face.

TIREDNESS IS THE SOFTEST PILLOW

Work hard both physically and mentally. Because working works, a tired dog is a happy dog.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

A 10 per cent change in diet is equivalent to 100 per cent change in exercise. Exercise is the icing on the cake — the cake you shouldn’t be eating.

MAKE HARD CHOICES

It’s pretty simple. If you can be hard on yourself now, you can be fit and rich and happy and all that good stuff in the future. But you do have to start now.

I’m in Westfield London. There is nothing I wanted to buy, I wasn’t hungry, I’d just had a coffee and was mooching around waiting for my girl. And then I see it, the Tesla store — you can buy a car in the shopping mall now.

I ask the salesman in the shop, ‘What’s the deal with the cars?’ And the guy goes, ‘Do you want to take one on a test drive?’ ‘Yes!’

Twenty minutes later, my girl is sitting in the passenger seat, the guy from Tesla is in the back and I am driving.

The car’s got these incredible doors in the back, like a Mercedes Gullwing or the Back To The Future DeLorean. When the doors lift up vertically to open, there’s a bit of me that will forever be 14 — it’s just cool.

We drive around and it’s fun, like driving a massive go-kart.

After doing a lap of Shepherd’s Bush, we head back. Westfield London is a huge shopping centre and the garage there is a confusing maze. We get a little lost, take a wrong turn and the Tesla guy suddenly pipes up from the back, ‘Wait, stop. I’ll move those cones, we can take a left here.’

He opens the back door, ‘wuhoosh’, and it goes up like something from Star Trek. I feel like Captain Kirk. He runs over and moves the cones.

Now, I’m a nice guy, a super-nice guy, ask anyone. I wasn’t going to make this Tesla bloke walk all the way back to the car. It’s 20 yards, I’m in a car, I’ll go pick him up, what could be easier?

The car’s still in gear, I press the accelerator and [email protected]%&! I took the door off the car. I hadn’t noticed that the back door was still open and it hit a gantry above.

I hadn’t taken the door clean off, it was still hanging by one piece of cable, so the door was twitching around like a half-dead Terminator — it was dying but it wasn’t dead yet.

The Tesla guy was just staring at me — jaw on the floor. You know that stare people give you when you’ve just broken the door of a brand-new Tesla on a test drive? You know, that look.

So I wind down the window, lean out, and say, ‘I’ll take it.’

I now own a Tesla. Not that one obviously, that one was wrecked.

The lesson is: sometimes you mess up and when you mess up you have to make good. Also, if you happen to be test-driving a Tesla, remember to shut the doors.

I’m aware that I’m exactly the right age for buying a ridiculous car. I’m overdue for a good midlife crisis. I could be quitting my job and marrying a 20-year-old with daddy issues. What am I waiting for?

The French call a midlife crisis an ‘existential crisis’. They’ve rebranded an embarrassing milestone as a glamorous, intellectual-sounding event: I feel better already.

The father of a friend had a lovely turn of phrase. He would say ‘Be lucky’. He was a chauffeur and he was a happy man. At the time, I remember thinking that it was kind of a ridiculous thing to say. It didn’t make any sense to me — because how could you ‘be lucky’ on purpose, when the very nature of luck is arbitrary. But I liked the phrase and I liked how he delivered it.

I like the idea of owning your mistakes, correcting them and moving on to fulfil your purpose — and I now own an electric car

I get it now. If you’re happy, you’re lucky. Being happy makes you lucky. Not the other way round.

Now I say it to people: ‘Be lucky.’ And what I’m really saying is: ‘Be happy. Follow your heart, spend your time on the things you care about and with the people you love.’ But if I said all that every time I’d get nothing done.

The phrase implies you really can make your own luck. You are your own luck.

The realisation that ‘it doesn’t have to be this way’ is powerful. Most rules are self-imposed; it’s you holding on to an old idea. Your preconceptions about how things ‘should’ be are what stop you from becoming a different person.

You can change anything — your career, your circumstances, your partner, yourself — you just have to give yourself permission. (I feel like this paragraph could go nicely on an inspirational poster with a picture of a dolphin climbing a mountain at sunset.)

Incidentally, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I met my partner as my mother was dying. When your heart is breaking, it cracks open. The great gift of grief is that it makes you receptive to someone else. Even in grief you can get lucky.

I do not look like a love-at-first-sight/kismet kinda guy — but I guess I am.

My manager, Hannah, rang to tell me, ‘They want to see you for an audition.’ It was at Thames TV, just off Tottenham Court Road. They were devising a new panel show and wanted comics to come and audition, to do a little run-through to see who was right for the pilot.

I was just starting out, a jobbing stand-up doing the circuit. I showed up and there, in front of me, I saw Karoline.

Back then she was a producer at Thames, which meant on that day she had to herd us comics. The woman I was going to be with for the next 20 years, minimum (let’s see if she likes what I write), sat in the room where I auditioned. Straight away I knew I really liked her.

Right out the gate I was as funny and charming as I could be. I found out later that one of Karoline’s tasks that day was writing notes on us, the comics and presenters who had been asked to audition.

Uniquely, I’ve got an actual written record of the first impression I made on my long-term partner. She wrote, ‘A one-note comedian with the eyes of a rapist.’

It was like she’d known me her whole life.

…And don’t blame your parents 

At what age do you stop blaming your parents? St Peter is not going to meet you at the Pearly Gates and say, ‘You were terrible, but your mum was kind of a bitch, you get a pass.’

That’s not to say I lack sympathy or empathy for people who have had difficult relationships with their parents, but we need some tough love here too.

It seems entirely legitimate for a 16-year-old to say they blame their parents for their problems — but it looks ridiculous for a 40-year-old to say the same thing.

Where do you draw the line? The answer is . . . somewhere. Somewhere along the way you have to take responsibility for your life.

Here’s my advice for dealing with family trauma: accept the apology you’re never going to get and move on. There — I just saved you £25,000 in therapy. You’re welcome.

If you take the blame for your life, it means you’re your own worst enemy.

It’s empowering to know that you are the person who’s holding the gun pointed at your own foot and you get to decide whether or not you pull the trigger.

Take all the blame, but also, take the win. If you do anything, it is all you. Teachers won’t make you smart. Doctors can’t make you healthy. Gurus won’t make you calm. Mentors won’t make you rich. Trainers won’t make you fit. Your partner won’t complete you. Ultimately, it all boils down to you. So save yourself.

Take the blame for your life, it’s more empowering than any quote.

And you can quote me on that.

I also found out later that when I called her at her office to ask her for ‘maybe, dinner sometime’, she had put me on speakerphone. Apparently, she wasn’t so sure she wanted to accept, but her boss encouraged her, saying, ‘It’s a free meal, go.’

She agreed. Gotta love a girl with an appetite. She told me she’d heard of this fancy place called The Ivy, and wanted to go there. I can’t remember why we didn’t, but we went to another fancy place called The Hempel. Remember, I was a poor comic, but I also really wanted to impress her. We agreed upon a time for me to pick her up at her flat in Bassett Road, the wrong end of Notting Hill.

I was ten minutes early. I knocked on the door, she opened it and said, ‘You’re too early, I’m not ready, come back in ten minutes.’ Back to the car I went.

While waiting, I listened to the soundtrack to Magnolia. All the pieces are by Aimee Mann. I really love it. It’s a fantastic soundtrack, beautiful music. I’m quite finickity about music, I take it very seriously.

When Karoline got in the car (ten minutes later), she went, ‘Oh, what’s this noise? I hate it.’

I said, ‘Fine’, turned it off and put on Magic FM. Compromise, I love it.

The Hempel was a beautiful minimalist hotel and restaurant in West London. We were given a glass of champagne each. I was fully teetotal, straight-edge at the time, so she drank mine. She had two glasses of champagne on the bounce before we had a single thing to eat.

She ate very little and drank another two glasses of champagne. She also kissed a guy she wasn’t quite sold on yet.

And that was it. That was the night. I took her back to her place, she invited me in to chat and kiss a little. It was a nice evening.

You know how people like to play it cool, you don’t want to call too soon, you like to keep people guessing. You want to keep things a little mysterious, tease them a little.

I left her house a little after midnight. When I’d got to Shepherd’s Bush roundabout, which is about seven minutes away, she called me.

She had waited all of seven minutes.

I asked her, ‘Did you leave something in the car?’

She went, ‘No, I was just checking in, wanted to see if you’re OK.’

And as I drove home, we chatted for like an hour. I thought, ‘This is great. This is it.’

She was a little bit slower to catch on. I would say I’m an ‘acquired’ taste.

There is a level of understanding a person has to have to be in a relationship with someone who’s trying to be a stand-up comedian. You have to be pretty self-sufficient because comics are on the road a lot. It helped that Karoline was in television and had a job with long, crazy hours.

For me, it sort of felt like I was cheating on stand-up comedy when I was with her. But, somehow, I managed to maintain both of the great loves of my life.

I’m a night person, she’s a morning person. I’m a big picture person, she’s all about detail. When you fall in love with someone, you’re not thinking about how your skill sets will work together. But we’re a really good little team.

Adapted from Before & Laughter by Jimmy Carr, published on September 30 by Quercus at £20. © Jimmy Carr 2021. To order a copy for £18 (offer valid to October 2, 2021; UK P&P free on orders over £20), go to mailshop. co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.

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