Jay Spanbauer

The Jeselnik Offensive Hits Milwaukee

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik makes no apologies for his hard hitting humor, coming to the Pabst Saturday.

By - Mar 11th, 2014 10:10 am
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Anthony Jeselnik

Anthony Jeselnik

Anthony Jeselnik is polarizing. Perhaps you’ve seen him tear down his peers without sweat on the wildly-popular Comedy Central Roasts. Carefully-crafted jokes aside, his “no apologies” brand of humor may not be for some, but critics and crazed fans find reason to follow Jeselnik’s every maniacal word. On Saturday, March 15, audiences at the Pabst Theatre will be able to test their own boundaries.

“Any topic you think shouldn’t be made fun of, I’m there to make at least two jokes about it.” Jeslenik says. Jeselnik is touring after two seasons of his late-night show, “The Jeselnik Offensive,” on Comedy Central. His brand is rising. The new tour, which began March 6, will have him in theaters through April. Before hitting Milwaukee, Jeselnik will make stops at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison on Thursday, March 13 and the Meyer Theatre in Green Bay on Friday, March 14.

Jeselnik is coming off 2013’s Comedy Central special, “Caligula,” and will be presenting his new material to crowds across the country. “Things are similar, but I’m trying to change things up – go a little deeper, kind of switch up my style a bit to keep people surprised.”

Impressing himself is what Jeselnik has now found to be important when writing new material. “If I like something, I think people are going to like it, and I just have to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone.”

The thought of Jeselnik having a “comfort zone” may seem absurd, but in truth his intention isn’t to be labeled only for his shocking humor. “I’m not trying to offend anybody,” Jeselnik says. “I’m just trying to make them laugh at their own discomfort.”

Looking at his body of work, from television shows and appearances to stand-up specials, including his critically acclaimed 2011 debut, “Shakespeare,” Jeselnik has had a unique comedic voice. He has claimed inspiration from Jack Handey’s “Deep Thoughts,” and his jokes, often short and punchy, follow a similar narrative path that sets the audience up and them knocks them down somewhere they had never intended.

On stage he’s a warrior. He’s mean. Each joke is launched at the audience like a grenade without remorse, but with a devilish casual-nature. Jeselnik plays with topics like suicide or rape, but does so in such a delicate, victimless manner, that you can’t help but laugh. Even if you’re only laughing about how quickly you’re going to hell.

The tour will see Jeselnik hit larger venues than he has played in the past, including the Pabst Theatre, which can accommodate 1,345 people.  The rapid-fire style of joke telling that has him on the map is magnified in the environment of a large theater Jeselnik says.

“It’s bigger. It feels more like an event. Instead of doing five shows, I’m doing one,” Jeselenik says about headlining theaters rather than doing weekends at comedy clubs. In turn, he respects the increase in expectations. “The audience is giving me everything, and I’m giving them everything.”

But the pressures of larger venues doesn’t seem to faze the confident Jeselnik. “It feeds my ego,” he says. “In a theater things are just bigger and more grandiose. When I’m on stage, I’m the best entertainer in the world for that hour. And in a theater it all kind of makes more sense.”

The 2014 tour hits a diverse range of cities across the country. Jeselnik note the positive charge he gets performing to not-so-major markets. “I perform in big cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, but I like the audiences in a smaller city because they’re kind of happier that I’m there. They’re excited to see me and I have a good time.”

Jeselnik is familiar with the state, having performed in Milwaukee and Madison in recent years. “I like Wisconsin. I’m from Pittsburgh, so I feel like Wisconsin is kind of like my cousin.”

But that doesn’t mean the city and state won’t get a few slaps from the comedian. But likely not the same local references you’ll hear from other touring comedians. “I’m always very sensitive about not making fun of things that everyone makes fun of,” Jeselnik says. “Everyone’s like ‘Cheese Curds!’ I’m not going to come to your state and make fun of your cheese curds. I like your cheese curds.”

That leaves at least one subject safe from a Jeselnik jab. As for the rest, it’s fair game.

Anthony Jeselnik performs at the Pabst Theatre on Saturday, March 15 at 7 PM.


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