Anthony Jeselnik at Turner Hall
- MONDO LUCHA! celebrates fifth anniversary in high-flying style at Turner Hall
- David Sedaris goes off book, shines at Pabst Theater
- Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck offer glimpses of greatness at Riverside Theater
- John Hodgman, Kristen Schaal, Eugene Mirman give Pabst Theater three shows for price of one
- Top 5 musical moments from Kenosha’s 2013 Ride of the Living Dead
The young and burgeoning career of Anthony Jeselnik hinges on one thing: his ability to hilariously tear into any person or topic without showing a morsel of remorse. Fortunately, the Pittsburgh-born comic is incredibly good at that one thing, as shown by his show-stealing sets on the Comedy Central roasts of Charlie Sheen and Donald Trump. Yet, with the hour-plus string of cruelty, wit, and hysterics he portioned out to a three-quarters full Wednesday night Turner Hall crowd, Jeselnik showed that his brand of vicious, no boundaries humor isn’t just reserved for short-form searing of the famous (and Steve-O).
Making his first Milwaukee appearance, a dressed-down Jeselnik began his opener-less show set by complimenting the city, its citizens (“regular old pieces of shit”), and the venue hosting him (“I like this place… even though it’s not even remotely finished”) before throwing down the gauntlet with his first—of what he warned would be four—rape jokes. “I think it’s very important to open my show with a rape joke,” he said, cracking a small smile.
Tone quickly set, Jeselnik spun smart and smarting yarns about hurting babies, his grandmother jumping in front of a bus to stop civil rights, and a series of jokes about his girlfriend’s various shortcomings. Adding to his rape joke tally, he claimed his last girlfriend was terrible in bed. “She would just lie there and yell ‘NOOOOOOO!’” he deadpanned, before suggesting, “You should be clapping for all of these.”
At times, Jeselnik’s act seemed well rehearsed and without much delineation from city to city, but he did partake in some crowd work. Upon discovering that a woman at a side table worked as a financial analyst, he quickly replied, “They have that here? I thought you were going to say sausage maker,” before alleging she advised clients to “put all [their] money in fucking cheese curd stocks.”
While occasionally shaken up with crowd work and an abbreviated regional roast of sorts (“That’s dumb, even for Milwaukee.”), the glut of Jeselnik’s content-heavy performance was simply well-crafted and inventive one-liners about taboo topics. Whether joking about suicide, miscarriages, the mentally disabled, molestation, incest, the Holocaust, the hijacked planes on 9/11, AIDS, and a murdered child (among, somehow, other things), Jeselnik made sure to leave no stone unturned—then subsequently thrown—en route to providing the largely expectant and easygoing crowd with a night of exceptionally brash belly laughs.
To account for the absence of an opener, Jeselnik stayed on stage for 10 additional minutes to answer questions (which turned into him reluctantly fielding requests to do jokes from his album Shakespeare and the Sheen roast). Though he successfully dodged repeating any aired roast material, he treated the audience to the only joke Sheen requested to be cut, and an amazing, untelevised bit about Mike Tyson’s upbringing before calling it a night.
Anthony Jeselnik will perform at Turner Hall again Thursday, May 31.