When it comes to his stand-up shows, Anthony Jeselnik is not willing to make compromises — even if he’s performing in front of thousands at a Funny or Die festival.
“I would never accept a job where there are things I couldn’t do,” he says. “They might recommend things, they might say, 'Try to keep it a little nicer, try to keep it a little less edgy.' But I of course will not do that.”
Jeselnik, who you’ve seen hosting Comedy Central roasts (including one of Donald Trump) and NBC’s “Last Comic Standing," is about to embark on tour with Funny or Die’s Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival, alongside Aziz Ansari, Amy Schumer, Nick Kroll, and a long list of other notable comics. We chatted with him about watching his friends perform — and not having a plan B.
So when you’re told to tone it down a bit, does that make you want to go even edgier?
I only have one speed. That’s to be as edgy as possible. If you told me to be more edgy, it would be impossible. I don’t have a plan B — I just have this one thing that I do.
Who do you usually test things out on to see if you’re going too far?
Stand-up is so different than asking a friend, “What do you think about this joke?” If you do it’s usually a disaster. They just look at you like you’re crazy. You have find out in front of a real crowd.
Being part of a tour like Oddball versus hosting a show like “Last Comic Standing” — which do you prefer?
A mix of both is necessary because one feeds the other. I’m on TV, so people come and see me when I perform live. And the thing I like about performing live is no one can tell me what to do. I’m my own boss; I have no censors. I can do whatever I want — and you can’t do that on television. And Oddball is great because with stand-up, with comedy, you’re always on your own. With Oddball, it’s a chance for all of us to hang out.
Whose performances at Oddball are you most excited about seeing?
Oh I won’t watch a single performance. I will do my set and then I’ll go in the back and read a book.
You really won’t watch anyone’s?
I just don’t watch that much comedy. For me to really enjoy comedy anymore, [the comedian] has to be a genius, or be my friend. So maybe I’ll catch a couple acts here or there. I might watch Amy, Aziz or Nick Kroll, since they’re my friends. But for the most part — I’m doing 18 of these things. You have to pace yourself. You have to go in the back and read a book.
The 2015 Oddball Festival kicks off tomorrow, Aug. 28, in Kansas City, Missouri.
The tour comes to New York (Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, Wantagh) on Sept. 4; the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey, on Sept. 5; the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts, on Sept. 11; and the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia, on Sept. 13.
Tickets are here.