Comedian Anthony Jeselnik’s second standup disc

by Ryan Meehan

On Wednesday I was sick as hell and stuck at home.  I had nothing to do – I couldn’t go to work because my eyes were almost swollen shut, and I thought the day was lost.  Then the FedEx guy came and changed all of that, but not in the way that you’re probably guessing.  I received the new Anthony Jeselnik album “Caligula” and knew that my day was about to get better.

Most comedy fans are aware of Anthony due to his work on a lot of recent roasts.  More than likely, as of late you’re more familiar with Jeselnik due to his work on “The Burn” with Jeff Ross, but that’s about to change.  This album hopefully will really get Anthony’s name into some real quality spots.  The only problem is going to be finding an outlet with that much exposure where he can tell these kinds of jokes.  This disc is simply not intended for anybody who can’t laugh with no boundaries.  Pretty much every uncomfortable topic that comes up at a comedy club is covered here. 


Jeselnik is from Pittsburgh, and he graduated from Tulane in New Orleans.  So it’s only fitting that he would do his special at the legendary Vic Theatre in Chicago.  A majority of Anthony Jeselnik’s work is based around a generally offensive format.  He starts off with a basic topic and then twists it until it’s in its most tasteless form.  These topics are but are not limited to a lot of things I would feel bad even typing.  I think that one of the reasons standup comedy is such a pure form of speech is that it’s NOT on paper, and I would assume the transcript of this record looks pretty horrifying.  Because of it, any comedian is going to lose a few people on the way.

I view standup as this extreme method of discussing the undiscussable, however I DO realize that there is a point where a guy can lose some listeners because the subject matter is just too heavy.  There’s a certain level of tastelessness that almost always offends someone to the point where it turns them off.  But tastelessness never didn’t taste so bad…There are lot of killer bits on this CD.

“I haven’t found my ex-girlfriend’s killer yet…Nobody wants to do it…” 

“My mother has pictures of Princess Diana up all over her house…and they’re all from right after the accident…”

“I think my friend Jeff is gay, but I don’t know…I’m so bad with names…”

Obviously I don’t want to give up too many of the choice cuts, but the CD’s best material is towards the end.  There’s a joke that’s very close towards the end (Track 13 to be exact) that’s probably an all time great when it comes to horrible things that have been said.  The disc wraps up (in true form) with a couple of Holocaust references, but the final joke is actually even worse than that.  It’s regarding a fan complaint – I’m not going to give away the joke, but you’ll remember Jeselnik cut his teeth on the club scene right around the time that they found that girl’s baby in the trunk of her car.

I feel a bit of “Aristocrats” in this disc in the sense that the idea is to take something and run with it until it’s as dirty as it can be.  The hardest part is of course worrying about what’s going to happen if you go too far off of the edge.  Jeselnink just doesn’t worry about it – He pushes the envelope until it gives you a paper cut inside of your ears.

Overall Score:  8.65/10.0

This is probably the strangest I’ve ever felt giving a real good record anything less than a 9, but really it just comes down to how much you can take.  The only points I really take off here are due to the fact that not everybody is going to be on board with how rough it is.  There’s a lot of people in this world that have been through certain things that he talks about on this album and don’t find their experiences funny at all.

Where I am puzzled by where his audience sits is also based on the severity of the material at hand.  It’s my hope that instead of the frat boys that are watching Jeselnik perform at these roasts, his fanbase in the future will be the people that are seriously into comedy and it isn’t just a phase of their lives.  In other words, those frat guys are going to be married tools within the next five years and to them a lot of this stuff is going to be over the line by then.  Hopefully that won’t be the case and he’ll still be working enough to see him put together more records like this and have them truly appreciated.

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