Anthony Jelenik is a bad, bad man
But unlike Birbiglia, Jeselnik's bits are more quick hits, presenting a stream of thoughts, ideas and quick stories, covering a wide range of topics including drugs, death, sex and women. His style is to lull you into going along with what you're expecting next, only to have him pivot and go in a darker, unexpected direction. After a few such misdirects, it finally hit me why this act was so familiar. Jeselnik is like a masculine, less agreeable version of Wendy Liebman, a big-time '90s comedienne I cannot stand. For the longest time, I wondered if I didn't like her because of some chauvinist leaning inside of me that hates shoulder pads, but after watching Jeselnik's full set, I can thankfully say it's just because neither one is all that funny.
Right off the bat, Jeselnik is challenging the audience, telling them they can expect three rape jokes along the way, before reeling off gags about dead kids, alcoholic dads and suicide. Some of the jokes play off societal expectations, like his stories about performing at colleges and festivals, and sometimes they work well, like his joke about his gay friend, but too often it's just about being dark and disturbing, and this isn't exactly the time for jokes about dead children (if there is a time for them.) Jeselnik even includes a wrap-up segment featuring his most offensive material, ending the show with a cringey bang, including the harshest Casey Anthony joke ever.
It would be one thing if Jeselnik was slaying the audience while being excessively dark, but the laughter is more often of the nervous variety than belly laughs. While the crowd isnt booing him off the stage, the reaction isn't overwhelming, and I can't remember a joke that even made me chuckle. It may be a personal thing, but I enjoy Jim Norton's stand-up, so I'm not exactly a genteel prude unwilling to laugh at the darkness, and I liked Jeselnik's late-night five-minutes. I just think he's better in smaller sample sizes.
We're still doing Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks on stand-up DVDs? Really? While it sounds fine, and there are no issues with distortion, the result is an audio presentation that exists purely up front, blending the audience and Jeselnik.
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