Anthony Jeselnik | Interview

Anthony Jeselnik hits below the belt and makes no apologies.

Which comedian got a Comedy Central TV deal after roasting Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen?
Anthony Jeselnik, the hilarious teller of smart, no-holds-barred jokes who comes to the Schaumburg Improv November 17–20. That’s right, Schaumburg. Trust me, he’s worth the trip.

After hearing you roast Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen, I was afraid to interview you. What are you really like?
I’m a totally nice guy. I just think as far as comedy goes, it’s hilarious to be mean, and on these roasts I am not screwing around. I always thought the best way to do a roast was to come in like you’re Darth Vader and just destroy everything. Have you gotten a lot of mileage out of those gigs?

I was headlining before the roast, but it was in front of people who would just randomly see me. It was as if someone who was going to see a movie didn’t even know what the movie was about and just said, “One ticket, please,” and walked in.

Are you a good enough sport that you’d enjoy getting roasted?
The hard thing about the roast is that sometimes it’s a terrible joke about you. It’s hard to laugh when you don’t even like the joke.

How did you craft your cocky onstage persona?
I just thought that inappropriate humor was very funny and who do you have to be to sell that? I couldn’t be a nice guy and all of sudden have one mean joke. All the jokes had to be that way to hold it all together, and I have to be the devil to get away with it.

Do you offend a lot of crowds?
Some people are totally put off and they’re looking at me like I’m the biggest piece of garbage in the world, but the person next to them is laughing their face off. I don’t want to spoon-feed anything to anybody, because that ruins it from my point of view.

Do people come to you after shows and complain about your act?
Oh, yeah. It happened a lot in the beginning because I was more inexperienced and people felt like they could give me advice. There’s a downside to doing that because it’s going to end up in my act.

Is it a great thrill to push audiences?
Absolutely. At the end of the day, I make my living making people laugh, which is a great thing to do. People think I’m this horrible person for the way I do it, but I’m really making people laugh at the worst things in the world, and I think that’s a noble cause.

Where did you discover comedy growing up?
Saturday Night Live had a big impact and just the fact that you had to stay up late to see it. I always related comedy to that outlaw mentality. It was this bad thing you had to find out.

You have a birthday coming up. What will you do?
This is my Jesus birthday. I’m turning 33 so that will be fun, but I’m too old now to rock out too hard on my birthday.

Anthony Jeselnik plays the Improv November 17–20.


Three jeselnik Jokes

Sacrilege “Who do you think was smarter, Jesus or Buddha? I mean, just in terms of not letting themselves get crucified.”

Taseteless “The other day my girlfriend complained to me that chivalry is dead. I said, ‘No baby, chivalry is alive and well, you’re thinking of your mother.’ ”

Our favorite “I had to break up with my last girlfriend because she lied to me and told me she’d been molested by her neighbor. But I know her neighbor, he’s a really cool guy. Not like her creepy ass other neighbor.”

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