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Anthony Jeselnik and Jim Jefferies are on the offensive in London

As two dark, shocking stand-ups – devilishly smart Pittsburgh comic Jeselnik and foul-mouthed Aussie Jefferies – hit London we look at some of their biggest controversies


Running amok

Just hours after two bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon, killing three people, Jeselnik landed in hot water for tweeting: ‘There are some lines that just shouldn’t be crossed today. Especially the finish line.’ The hashtag ‘#firejeselnik’ quickly started circulating, calling on Comedy Central to cancel the comic’s series. He was later forced by the TV network to delete the tweet.

Religious education

At the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe, Christian Voice – the organisation that spearheaded the campaign against ‘Jerry Springer the Opera’ – tried to ban Jefferies’s show. The group’s head, Stephen Green, called the comic ‘sick and repellent’. Jefferies now gleefully includes the quote on his posters.

Doing the nasty

Jeselnik told a joke at deliberately offensive gig ‘The Nasty Show’ about his mum being a Holocaust denier. ‘It was terrible for the family,’ goes the joke. ‘We had a rabbi walk her through the history of the Jewish people, then he made her watch “Schindler’s List”, and after that, my mom did a complete 180. Now she can’t believe it only happened once.’ He claims some audiences came to the show just to boo that gag. So, one night, he told it twice.

Family values

When Jefferies hosted the NME Awards, Kelly Osbourne, who was presenting a gong, pointed out that the host had a ‘male camel toe’. Jefferies responded by saying it was due to Agyness Deyn presenting a previous award, ‘but now that Kelly Osbourne’s up here, it’s pretty much all gone’. Osbourne took a swig of his beer and spat it in his face. Jefferies claims he later received a letter from Sharon Osbourne reading: ‘Dear Nobody. How dare you talk to my daughter that way. When you’re a celebrity maybe then you can tease the famous people, but until then why don’t you fuck off.’

Fins ain’t what they used to be

Two weeks after a swimmer was killed by a shark off the coast of New Zealand last year, Jeselnik’s Comedy Central series included a sketch titled ‘Shark Party’, celebrating the death as a victory for the fish, which are hunted by humans for their fins. ‘Was he killed? You bet your sweet ass he was killed!’ he says in the skit. ‘And he had a family and everything.’ It upset the NZ media and resulted in Jeselnik receiving death threats.

Stage fight

In Manchester, an offended audience member leapt on stage and punched Jefferies in the head. Once security had control of the situation, the comic returned to the stage and said, ‘What many of you don’t know is that I employ that bloke for when gigs are going badly. If anyone enjoyed my show, which some of you have, and you want to see more of me, I’ll be getting my head kicked in down the alleyway.’