• Anthony Jeselnik: Comedy with a side of evil

    Anthony Jeselnik

    Having found himself on best up and coming comedian lists as well as in a staff writing position for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Anthony Jeselnik is quickly becoming the comic to watch in 2009.

    “How soon after Patrick Swayze dies do you think Whoopi Goldberg will wait before she calls up Demi Moore just to fuck with her,” may be seen as a shocking question and ultimately taboo by some comedians’ standards, not to mention pedestrian visitors, but to Anthony Jeselnik, it makes for fresh, but incredibly perishable material.

    Onstage during a recent set, Jeselnik — ranked first among emerging comedians on AskMen.com — says, “I’m just glad Natasha Richardson isn’t around to see this. If you ever want to turn someone against you, say what I just said.”

    At 6-foot-2, with his no-limits style, Cheshire Cat grin and unmistakable swagger, Jeselnik, has made quite a few enemies, though the greater majority of the crowd are fans, as the typical response is uproarious laughter.

    He detests the term “too soon,” a contemporary comedy club cliché and commentary on any typically distasteful joke about some well-known tragedy soon after its occurrence.

    But according to Jeselnik, for those type of jokes, if they’re not told immediately, the joke’s impact and meaning deflates. “I’ve got a too-soon in my back pocket for you guys,” he says onstage. “Don’t you worry.”

    The Pittsburgh native stands seemingly unassuming before his set, trusty PBR in hand as though a casual observer while his darkly sharp mind analyzes his surroundings to create outrageous and, sometimes even to regulars, unexpected commentary – with enough inherent macabre to turn a Disney musical into a Victor Hugo-esque masterpiece.

    Anthony Jeselnik – Intelligence

    Jeselnik, 30, has been a monologue writer on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon since its debut on March 2, even providing its first stand-up act. He earned his comedic stripes by writing for such comedians as Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman; he’s even at least partly responsible for the latter’s 1997 quip about Britney Spears at the MTV Video Music Awards. Remember this? “Wow. She is amazing,”Silverman said about Spears. “She is 25-years-old and she’s already accomplished everything she’s going to accomplish in her life. It’s mind blowing! Have you seen Britney’s kids? Oh my god, they are the most adorable mistakes you will ever see! They are as cute as the hairless vagina they came out of.”

    Not one to disappoint by regurgitating washed-up standards, Jeselnik tries to keep his routine original. Instead of belittling himself like many of his comic brethren, he instead opts to augment his perceived persona. “I was nervous when I started and it was easy to hide the nervousness behind being kind of deadpan,” says the Jack Handy fan. “I feel like when I walked on stage, people thought, ‘look at this tall, young kid.’ I didn’t want to be self-deprecating and talk about problems with women. I wanted to act like the person they thought I was – only multiply it times ten.”

    Delivered in a remarkably smooth, baritone voice – with a tinge of depravity – the audience hungrily eats it up, though some are more bashful than others; at once, he’s a decadent secret and guilty pleasure.

    But Jeselnik did not always aim to work in professional jocularity, contrary to what many would believe. His initial intent, upon graduating from Tulane with a degree in literature, was to be a novelist, but he moved to Los Angeles to pursue screen writing. “But I hated that so much. It was even worse than being a novelist,” says Jeselnik. “As soon as I got into comedy, I knew that that was it.”

    Anthony Jeselnik – Christmas

    A large portion of Jeselnik’s sets focus on crowd work, during which he effectively fences with hecklers while maintaining comedic integrity. “I’m not a crowd-pleaser by any means, but there’s always someone in the crowd who’ll say that I’m his favorite,” he says. With credits including Comedy Central Presents, Premium Blend and HBO’s Down and Dirty with Jim Norton, that particular theory has been effectively realized; he is among the favorite of quite a few.

    For more info, check out anthonyjeselnik.com.

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