As oxymoronic as it sounds, the best way to describe the FXX comedy Legit is heartwarming offensiveness. The show, which stars feather-ruffling Australian stand-up Jim Jefferies as a semi-fictionalized version of himself, focuses on the fuckery that he gets into in L.A. with his angry and pathetic roommate Steve (Dan Bakkedahl) and Steve's wheelchair-bound brother Billy (DJ Qualls), who has muscular dystrophy. Inspired, in part, by Jefferies' real-life friendship with a man who has MD, the series walks a tight rope, deftly balancing unapologetic, politically incorrect jokes with emotional heft and realism.
During a set visit to the trio's home base in Venice, Complex sat down with Jefferies, Qualls, Bakkedahl, and director/series co-creator Peter O'Fallon to discuss season two, which premieres tonight at 10 p.m. What came out of the exchange were some very compelling reasons to set your DVR.
Plots are still based on Jefferies’ life but fewer are based on old stand-up routines.
When Jim Jefferies’ longtime fans watched Legit last year, they recognized many of the plots, having heard the stories before in his comedy specials. For instance, “Anger” retold the story of an explosive argument that Jim had on an airplane about armrest etiquette with the passenger sitting next to him. “A lot of my fan base were getting into me for doing so many of my old stand-up routines as full episodes,” says Jefferies. “This year there’s only one episode that based directly from my stand up. And that’s a story that I did about me doing a USO show in Afghanistan.”
The jokes will be fresher but Jim's wild life continues to inspire plot lines. Look for Dr. Drew, who Jim knows from appearances on the celebrity doc's radio show, to make a cameo. "[He’s] dealing with my sexual addiction, which Dr. Drew in real life has diagnosed me with," says Jefferies, adding, "Then I raped him."
Carrie Fisher is playing a “sexually aggressive casting agent.”
That’s right, Star Wars fans. Horny Princess Leia. Dreams do come true.
James Bond is playing Jim’s dad.
Well, George Lazenby is. “Lazen-who?” you may ask. Hardcore 007 fans will recognize the 74-year-old Australian actor from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Lazenby's one and only movie portraying the British spy. But don’t expect a bunch of Bond references, though. “I’m gonna tell you something about a man who was employed to do seven Bond movies and only ended up doing one: He doesn’t like it being referenced that often,” says Jefferies. “You can’t bring it up to him constantly. It’s hard.”
That didn’t prevent Jefferies from probing, of course. “I asked George once if he’s ever had sex with a Bond girl and he said, ‘It would be easier to tell you which Bond girls I haven’t had sex with. They all come to the conventions.’ So I don’t think George had sex with them in their prime. I feel like George has maybe had sex with them in a Motel 6 with a whole lot of head shots that are already pre-signed on his bedside table.”
Fans finally get to see "Gunther," Jim’s notorious, large, angry mom.
Well, not the real Gunther, but a version of her nonetheless. Australian actress Magda Szubanski, who played the farmer’s wife Esme Cordelia Hoggett in Babe (1995) and starred in the hit Aussie sitcom Kath & Kim (which begat the dud 2008 U.S. remake), portrays Jim’s mom, who he frequently makes fun of often in stand-up routines. “[Szubanski] was the only actress I wanted really,” says Jefferies. “She’s done sketch comedy in Australia for years and she looks a lot like my mother and she does a couple characters that are so close to my mom. It was scary doing scenes with her.”
What did Gunther feel about the casting? “My mother rings me up and she goes, ‘So who’s playing your father?’ And I go, ‘James Bond.’ She goes, ‘And who’s playing me? I assume it’s some morbidly obese woman.’ I was like, ‘If you kept your figure we could have gotten Ursula Andrews but, you know, what are we gonna do? What do you want me to do, Mom? The woman’s 20 years younger than you. That’s a compliment.’”
Although Jefferies always wanted Szubanski for the role of Gunther, he did have a rather strange person audition for the role: Helen Reddy, the Australian singer and activist famous for her 1972 female empowerment song “I Am Woman,” which became an anthem for the women’s liberation movement. “After all the misogynistic things I’ve said over the years,” says Jefferies, “for her to just sell herself up the river and be my mom was outstanding.”
One character’s season arc has a lot to do with gaming.
There’s a serious dearth of gaming story lines on television shows, which is odd considering how young people’s lives are essentially run through consoles. On season two of Legit, gaming plays a big role for one of the characters. What game are they playing? “It’s a made up game,” says Qualls. “On this TV show, we don’t have a huuuge budget,” says Jefferies. “A lot of our things are fake. We made a video game that looks like sorta Call of Duty.”
Like The Wire-style novelization of TV? Now you have the Jim Jefferies version.
For season one of Legit, Jefferies and his creative team spit-balled to create a few one-off story ideas, like the gang’s visit to a minor league baseball game and the Disabled Olympics. There were episodes that didn’t contribute much to the overall arc of the show. Jefferies, who appears to be his own harshest critic, hates the holes in the season and has used that as motivation for the new season.
“Last year, arguably we had eight or nine episodes that sort of bookended each other, and then a couple that were funny,” Jefferies says. “A couple of them were shit. We’re trying not to have two or three episodes that are shit. I know that sounds silly but we’re trying to keep quality control. I think it’s just more of a meshed-together thing now. You have to see the whole season this time.” Although O’Fallon describes the new approach as “more of a novel, with 13 chapters,” don't worry. You needn't be literate to enjoy.
Legit balances heart and offensive humor like no show on TV.
It’s difficult to get upset by any of the potentially off-putting jokes on Legit (and there are plenty, from rape jokes to knee-slappers about handicapped masturbation) because the characters, assholes though they may be, mean well. For instance, in season one, when Jim races against disabled people, it’s not mean-spirited but inclusive of challenged people around whom others often get awkward and uncomfortable—an important distinction.
“That really happened,” says Jefferies of the race. “Look, it sounds offensive. You call it the Special Olympics, it’s good will. You say Racing Retards, it’s offensive. Everything in context, but it can still be heartwarming. Everything in context is completely different. The point is, the characters are dickheads, they’re not cunts, and that’s a vastly different thing to be. You can be friends with a dickhead, you can’t be friends with a cunt. Dickheads for the most part have good intentions. They’re not bad people, they’re just dicks.”
One of the trickiest things Legit pulls off mixing its comedy and tragedy so there's no evident divide between the two. “On most shows you can go, ‘OK, now here’s the funny moment, here’s the moment where things come to a halt,’” says Bakkedahl. “On a show like this, I’m not always completely sure how someone’s going to read a particular moment, but I think that we approach it with an honesty that earns us the laugh later. And if it’s a laugh moment, it’s honest enough that it earns us the right to do something heartfelt and touching at the end.”
Another reason the shocking humor works is that there are actual consequences. “The other shows where people are terrible, nothing ever happens to them,” says O’Fallon. “Here, these guys will be terrible and [one of them] ends up in jail or shot. Horrible things happen.” It's something to look for as Jim's offensive, radical comedy makes waves in his life this season. But despite its thumping heart, the show isn't trying to beat you over the head with a message. “It’s not like a special episode of The Facts of Life,” Qualls notes. “We get away with some shit.”
Written by Justin Monroe (@40yardsplash)