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Anthony Jeselnik is 'Offensive'

By Joe O'Leary
On February 19, 2013

  • Anthony Jeselnik, famous for his stand-up comedy and his work on Comedy Central’s celebrity roasts, gets his own shot at a show with ‘The Jeselnik Offensive,’ which launched last night. The premiere re-airs tomorrow at midnight and is on the station’s website. Photo courtesy of


Anthony Jeselnik's new show, "The Jeselnik Offensive," ran after "Tosh.0" when it premiered on Comedy Central last night at 10:30 p.m., but according to the comedian known for the channel's roasts, he's got a bigger show than Daniel Tosh.

"That's not an insult," Jeselnik added during a conference call with college journalists on Friday to promote "Offensive." While Tosh's show is a one-person affair, "one guy making all the jokes himself," "The Jeselnik Offensive" is more of a team effort, Jeselnik said, where everyone has a hand in the humor. 

"The Jeselnik Offensive" is a comedic panel show where Jeselnik and celebrity guests (last night's episode featured Aziz Ansari and Amy Schumer) discuss, debate and demolish bizarre news stories from around the world and the Internet (including material from Gawker and Reddit). Later episodes will feature stand-ups and actors including T.J. Miller, Kristen Schaal, Nick Kroll and Jason Matzoukas.

"We make fun of everything, and everything's going to be included," Jeselnik said when asked about controversial topics. The show will take jabs at essentially any and everyone, but Jeselnik doesn't think it's too offensive. "I just think that people are very sensitive and hearing a joke about their culture or religion may be horrible for them and they may not be my biggest fan, but I think everyone can laugh [at the show]."

Jeselnik formerly wrote for "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," but having to pitch jokes made having his own show appeal to him. Seeing Fallon pick the show's featured jokes and scrapping the ones he didn't like led to the creation "Offensive," Jeselnik said, because he would be the one in control of the product and the jokes, not anyone else. 

The format helps in another way: Jeselnik wants to talk to people he likes, not someone like a "weird actor with no personality" whom he has to pretend is interesting. He loves to talk to comedians who can joke and have fun, as their mood will remain light; the show won't have discussions quite like others'.

Jeselnik got his start in stand-up and will always do it, he said; the show won't change that. However, it limits his ability to get on the road nearly as much due to pre-production. To stay fresh, the comedian works constantly on his stand-up, even during writing jobs, to ensure his material is as fresh as possible.

What makes "The Jeselnik Offensive" different from other pop-culture-skewering shows such as "Chelsea Lately?", one journalist wanted to know. 

"She wants to make fun of celebrities and the stupidity of pop culture," Jeselnik said. "That doesn't really interest me. I'm interested in the darker stories," he continued, "like oddities in the news section like a piano killing someone. They're 'the kind of things you can make fun of without upsetting part of your audience.'"

Where does Comedy Central cross the line with these darker stories? Jeselnik said they take it on a case-by-case basis, but defended his comedy. He doesn't talk about offensive things to offend people, he argued, but they get offended in the process; he likes humor that may make others offended. 

When it comes to being interested in comedy, Jeselnik said it seemed like a fun, dangerous thing when he was a kid and would watch "SNL." As he got into high school, he found his taste in comedy was different; he enjoyed then-obscure shows like "Ben Stiller Show" and "Mr. Show," now considered classics. 

Jeselnik said he "always had a dark sense of humor because it always got the biggest laugh," adding that the biggest laugh for many people is the one they know they shouldn't enjoy. He's not saying offensive things to be offensive, he said; it's what's funniest to him.

The first episode of "The Jeselnik Offensive" will be aired over the next week. The best time to catch a rerun is tomorrow night at midnight. For new episodes, Jeselnik will hit the air Tuesday nights at 10:30 p.m. with his crew of comedians.

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