Entertainment & Arts

Profile: Jimmy Carr

Jimmy Carr
Image caption Carr performed his first paid comedy gig in January 2000

Comedian Jimmy Carr has apologised for "a terrible error of judgement" over using a tax avoidance scheme based in Jersey.

The 39-year-old has now pulled out of the scheme, which, although it was legal, was branded "morally wrong" by Prime Minister David Cameron.

It is not the first time Carr - one of the UK's most successful comedians - has caused headline-making controversy, and it will probably not be the last.

The 8 out of 10 Cats host's previous forays onto the front pages have been as result of his edgy material, rather than his financial arrangements.

Image caption One of Carr's first TV appearances was at the 2002 Royal Variety Performance

A joke about soldiers who had lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan ("we're going to have a good Paralympic team in 2012") also prompted condemnation from No 10 - and led to the Sunday Express headline: "TV comic's slur on amputee soldiers."

After that media storm, Carr made an apology, which also served as a mission statement for the taboo-breaking comedian.

"I'm sorry if anyone was offended, but that's the kind of comedy I do," he said in October 2009.

"If a silly joke draws attention to the plight of these servicemen, then so much the better. My intention was only to make people laugh."

Carr later said that, after telling the joke to 9,000 people on tour, only two had complained.

"There are a hundred jokes in the show that are worse than that," he noted.

The quick-fire comedian told the Guardian he had found the media reaction on that occasion "generally stressing".

But he is used to the attention. Jokes about gypsies, car crashes and Variety Club coaches have also made the press.

"I'm quite an edgy comic - I like dark things so it's lovely that I've found that many people who share my sense of humour," he told the Independent in 2008.

He researches that audience reaction extensively, reading one-liners from a clipboard at his preview shows, and rating the response from his fans.

The greatest of those gags are then taken on tour - and the comedian drives himself to all his gigs.


Carr grew up in Slough, Berkshire, before graduating with a political sciences degree from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

Image caption Carr joked at the Diamond Jubilee concert that he "could end up in the Tower"

He worked in marketing until he left his job at Shell in January 2000, the same month he performed his first paid comedy gig, aged 27, earning "£80 for 20 minutes in Plymouth".

Carr, who also trained as a psychotherapist, said he had become unhappy with his life and decided comedy would be "a joyful thing to do".

His first solo show, Bare-faced Ambition, performed at his debut Edinburgh Festival in 2002, earned him a Perrier award nomination and was followed by TV appearances - including a spot with Des O'Connor in 2003.

He became a regular on shows like Have I Got News For You, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and QI and wrote and presented Channel 4's series of "100 greatest" countdown shows.

Like many working comedians, he is fascinated by the psychology of joke-telling, and wrote a book on the many theories of comedy in 2007.

The Naked Jape, co-authored by his university friend Lucy Greeves, looked into why stand-up comedy is dominated by men, how jokes are constructed, and what constitutes offensive humour (context is more important than content, they noted).

Carr has put his research to use in annual tours, including 2006's Gag Reflex, 2008's Joke Technician and 2009's Rapier Wit.

As well as fronting 13 series of comedy quiz show 8 out of 10 Cats, Carr has most recently appeared on shows including Deal or No Deal, and at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert.

"The temptation to say something inappropriate is almost too much," he told the audience. "I could end up in the Tower by the end of the evening."

Carr - who supports charities including Comic Relief and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation - counts fellow performers including Simon Pegg, Jonathan Ross and David Walliams as friends.

The Little Britain star once commented that Carr "dares you to dislike him".

In 2006, Carr told the Guardian: "When I meet people on the high street, they are surprised I'm friendly because they think I'm going to be very barbed. I'm not. I just happen to like that sort of joke."

Tax jokes

Earlier this year, Carr lampooned people who avoid tax during the second series of Channel 4's satirical news programme 10 O'Clock Live.

A sketch from the show, in which he donned a dress and blonde wig to poke fun at Barclays' 1% tax rate, has now come back to haunt him.

A number of papers have referenced the sketch, which referred to "aggressive" and "amoral, blood-hungry tax lawyers" while some websites have carried a clip from the programme.

Fans at the next date of his current Gagging Order tour - in Stockport, Greater Manchester, on Friday night - will be interested to see whether Carr makes reference to his current situation.

According to some reports , he was heckled about his tax affairs at a show in Tunbridge Wells on Tuesday, replying: "The Murdochs are after me..."

But it may be harder to make light of the story following his mea culpa on Thursday morning.

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