SAN FRANCISCO—A few hours after Samantha Bee issued an “sincere apology” to Ivanka Trump for calling her a “feckless cunt” on her show this past week, The Jim Jefferies Show posted a video on Twitter with the message, “We'd like to sincerely apologize to all the people we've called c*nts on our show.”
In the montage, host Jim Jefferies can be seen using the “c-word” to describe Richard Nixon, James Comey and the entire country of France. He notably does not use it in reference to any women, let alone the daughter of the president. Perhaps that’s why he never drummed up the level of controversy Bee did this week when she used the word on TBS’ Full Frontal. Either that, or it’s because he’s Australian.
“The accent definitely does help,” Jefferies says backstage before his stand-up set at Comedy Central’s Clusterfest on Saturday. “It does roll off the tongue a little bit easier when I do it. Maybe it doesn’t have the connotations that it does in America.” He admits that in the U.S. it “seems to be a misogynistic term that’s meant to hurt” whereas in Britain, Australia and Ireland, it’s actually often used in a “nice way.” For instance, he might say of a friend, “This cunt’s alright.” But, he adds, “It’s not just Brits and Aussies, I think it’s OK for anyone to say that word.”
“I don’t say the word in anger very often where it’s got a lot of venom behind it,” Jefferies explains. Samantha Bee, on the other hand, definitely had some “venom” behind her most recent use of the word.
The morning after the comment in question aired, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders put out a statement demanding that TBS cancel her show. Instead, both Bee and the network apologized for using the “c-word” but made no indication that she would be punished in any way. Full Frontal is scheduled to be back with a new episode this Wednesday.
“I think she should have stuck to her guns,” Jefferies tells me, sounding disappointed in his fellow late-night host. “TBS told her to apologize and then she got right on that bandwagon.”
“You apologize if you mean it,” he said earlier in the day during a panel discussion with comedians Nikki Glaser, Rachel Feinstein and Sam Morril. “Samantha Bee didn’t fucking mean it. TBS called her up and said, ‘We’re getting a lot of heat.’ She’s not sitting at home feeling bad about calling her a ‘feckless cunt.’”
During the panel event, Jefferies employed Bee’s turn of phrase a number of times, seemingly in an attempt to lessen its impact. “Say it, you feckless cunt,” he jokes when the moderator hesitates to bring up the controversy. “I would say that this festival is the most feckless cunt-free festival I’ve ever seen,” he jokes later.
“I don’t think she should have had to apologize,” Jefferies adds later. “And I’m not one of those comics who will tell you that comedians should never apologize for things either. I think sometimes in life you have to apologize, when you mean it. That went through a script, it went through censorship, it went through editing and it still got on the air, so to say, ‘Oh, I made a huge mistake...’”
It is easy to argue that a male comedian would be in even bigger trouble had he called the president’s daughter a “cunt,” but as the Twitter video montage demonstrated, Jefferies has been using it on his show on practically on a weekly basis. Barely anyone blinks an eye.
“Shouldn’t I be held to the same standards as everybody else?” he asks, half-sincerely. “Shouldn’t I have been reprimanded a long time ago for my use of ‘cunt?’”
Commentators on the right have tried hard to draw a line between Samantha Bee’s words and Roseanne Barr’s racist tweets, but Jefferies sees a clear difference.
“I don’t think what Roseanne Barr did by saying a racist comment is on the same par as calling someone a ‘cunt,’” he says. “A cunt isn’t a slur on you or your skin color. And here’s the fact. Some people out there are just fucking cunts, man. Whether I agree with what Samantha Bee said about Ivanka Trump or not, that was her opinion.”
Jefferies says he does feel bad for the writers and everyone else who worked on Barr’s show who are now out of a job after ABC decided to cancel Roseanne. “I think what Roseanne said was racist and wrong and she deserved to lose her job,” he says before suggesting that ABC just re-cast her and rename the show “Suzanne” — a plan that’s not too far off from the rumors that actress Sara Gilbert will headline a Roseanne-less spin-off in the near future.
As many — including Chelsea Clinton — have pointed out over the past week, Ted Nugent called Hillary Clinton a “cunt” and Donald Trump still invited him to the White House. That in itself, Jefferies says, blows up the idea of a “double standard” between Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee. Whereas Barr’s comments “hurt an entire race of people,” he says Bee was “expressing her feelings about one particular person.”
“Would I call Ivanka Trump a ‘feckless cunt?’” he asks himself at one point. “Probably not this week. But if she does something down the road that bothers me and I feel the need to say it, it’s fine.”
Despite the fact that a handful of advertisers have pulled out of Full Frontal due to the remarks, Jefferies predicts the show won’t be cancelled. “Because if she get cancelled then none of us can say fucking shit anymore,” he says.