Fresh out of college, Anthony Jeselnik moved to LA where he found himself working at Border's books, in debt, and feeling pressured to find a course in life. He decided that he wanted to write jokes for late night TV and shortly thereafter met with Leno's head writer Jimmy Brogan, who advised the young Jeselnik to pursue stand up. It took a year for Anthony to jump into the LA comedy scene, but since then he's been fully embraced and even made TV appearances on Jimmy Kimmel, Premium Blend, and Last Call with Carson Daly. Now the young talent's in New York, soaking up the city's atmosphere, and doing tons of shows, like tonight's 8 PM spot at Drink at Workat Rififi and his 10 PM spot at Check Your Cool at the Parkside Lounge.
How would you compare and contrast the NY and LA comedy scenes?
I’d say they’re very similar. The biggest difference, I think, is that there are a lot more venues to perform at in New York
How would you compare and contrast NY's and LA's homeless?
New York’s homeless are a little more seasoned and cynical. The homeless in LA still have that glint of hope in their eyes.
As a former chef, what sort of inexpensive meals can you recommend to someone with low funds?
I used to work as a cold-line chef (salads, sandwiches, appetizers) on Martha’s Vineyard. My knowledge of cheap meals, though, comes from doing comedy: oatmeal, Ramen, black beans and tofu, peanut butter and jelly and lots of tuna. Hopefully, by the time you’re sick of that menu…you’re famous!
Before you got into comedy, you took a stand up comedy course. What was that experience like?
It was a good experience, I think. I’ve since thrown out almost everything they taught me, but if you want to break the rules, it helps to know what those rules are. It also helped me to take criticism well. In class, you’d go up in front of fifteen complete and utter losers who thought they were hilarious, you’d do seven minutes and then sit down while fifteen said losers tore you apart.
What are some lessons that you've learned since taking that course?
No comic likes to be criticized.
How did you develop your stage persona?
I’m fascinated by my stage persona and how far the audience lets me go with it. The character I play on stage is very deliberate and it stems, not only from the jokes I tell, but from what I love about my favorite performers and writers. It’s pretty much the swagger of Jack White (of the White Stripes), the strangeness of Christopher Walken, the absurd intelligence of Jack Handey and the dark abrasiveness of Michael O’Donoghue.
How does one become as confident as you are?
Tell me about your experience as a teacher. Where can you find a tougher audience: in a classroom or in a comedy club?
My experience as a teacher was a three-month walk through hell. I was a teacher’s assistant at a high school for emotionally troubled kids. No one ever laughed at anything I said and not for lack of trying on my part. I was fired eventually because (and I’ll never forget this quote) having me in the classroom “Was like having an extra emotionally troubled kid to deal with”. After dealing with those kids, I’ll take the comedy club, thank you very much.
Of all the students you taught, were there any that reminded you of a your younger self?
There was one guy who could not keep his mouth shut to save his life and he would just throw out unfunny joke after unfunny joke in class, but if he made me laugh once all day he felt vindicated. That kid reminded me a lot of myself and I hated him.
How'd you end up as a strip club doorman?
I was a strip club doorman my senior year in college. I went to school in New Orleans and found a job working the door at a high-class strip club on Bourbon St. I would stand at the front door in a suit and tie on weekends, collecting cover charges and checking IDs. It was an amazing job and I’ve never had as much fun since. It would get really crazy every weekend between the fights, drugs and sex, especially during Mardi Gras. The experience has completely ruined strip clubs for me since, though. I haven’t been to one since I left New Orleans. They’re selling sex, but all I see is sadness.