Fans of the Comedy Central Roasts may know comedian Anthony Jeselnik’s brand of searing, borderless and dark humor. A former writer for the Jimmy Fallon show, Jeselnik has been a successful standup comedian for years and now his work is receiving increased recognition.
On Sunday at 9 p.m. CT, he has a one-hour standup special on Comedy Central called “Caligula”. If you can, watch it – it’s solid standup work loaded with countless jokes most comics simply will not touch.
Beginning on Feb. 19 at 9:30 CT Comedy Central will air every Thursday “The Jeselnik Offensive”.
I am a huge fan of his work, and he was nice enough to spare a few minutes to talk to The Big Mac Blog about his job.
The Big Mac Blog: What is easier – scripting for a roast or
scripting for a show?
Anthony Jeselnik: It’s very different that’s for sure. For a roast you are only going to say the joke once. You are trying to hit it out of the park for every one. Standup you can go for pace. It’s different but I wouldn’t say it’s harder.
The Big Mac Blog: Have you ever considered, or even told, a
joke that the audience rejected because it was too “over the line”?
Anthony Jeselnik: The reason I go after those subjects because I think comedy can take those on. I think it’s my duty to upset people and to push the boundary.
The Big Mac Blog: Have you written a joke and scrapped
because you thought it was too much?
Anthony Jeselnik: The only time I did it was a joke that had the n-word in it. I had it in there twice. I know Louis C.K. Artie Lang has a bit. They could go there. Personally, I didn’t want the word to come out of my mouth. That’s the only time.
The Big Mac Blog: Who were your inspirations that led you to
develop your deliberate delivery, and even your over-the-line humor?
Anthony Jeselnik: I had some, sure. Anyone is saying they don’t have influences is lying. Steven Wright was it for me. I loved him. My biggest influence was Jack Handy. That to me was pure brilliance. I couldn’t comprehend those jokes. I bought all of his books and read them right away.
The Big Mac Blog: Do you ever worry that your brand of humor
is ‘too smart’ to generate a wide audience?
Anthony Jeselnik: I don’t care. I’m happy to be as famous and comedically accepted as I can be. When a comic stands off the edges to make it more appealing it drives me crazy.
The Big Mac Blog: Chris Rock has said he thinks comedy is
become niche oriented – Southern comics for southern audiences; black comics
for black audiences, etc. Do you agree?
Anthony Jeselnik: Well, it’s a little of both. You start specific and evolve in the masses. Rock is a black comedian and Louis C.K. has evolved and became more bigger with a wider audience.
The Big Mac Blog: Another Chris Rock question – his advice
to young comics is not to use foul language because it will limit your
potential audiences. Agree?
Anthony Jeselnik: I think you do what you want. Being edgy for the sake of being edgy doesn’t work. It’s hard to tell a comic not to be offensive or dark. I was told that and I ignored that. I like to swear in my personal life. If you are forcing themselves and you saying ‘f---“ to get the laugh you aren’t going to get the laugh.
The Big Mac Blog: What is it like to bomb?
Anthony Jeselnik: It shakes you to your core, especially in the beginning when you aren’t as confident. Now with TV credits, a career, that changes. If people that come to see me they don’t know what they are going to get. It is a learning experience that forced me to find a way to get better and to be more palatable to a crowd.
The Big Mac Blog: Any professional experience where you
thought about quitting?
Anthony Jeselnik: No, not really. The whole thing can be unpleasant but it’s not the end of the world.
The Big Mac Blog: What are your long-term career goals?
Anthony Jeselnik: Well, when I first started I just wanted to have some success as a standup and producing an album of my own would be great. Getting on those Comedy Central Roasts were huge. I have accomplished the dreams I set out for. Writing for Jimmy Fallon for a year was big. But when I did that I realized I wanted to be Jimmy Fallon – not just write.
So I would like to do one more album and maybe write some books. My jokes are so specific and it gets harder and harder to write those jokes.
The Big Mac Blog: When people recognize you do they expect
you to be your act?
Anthony Jeselnik: A little bit. There is some nervousness there. If someone comes up to me and talks to me they must know me and they are usually surprised I’m nice and normal.
The Big Mac Blog: I’m a big fan of your work and I wish you
the best – thanks a lot for your time.
Anthony Jeselnik: Thanks a lot, this was a lot of fun.
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