Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Anthony Jeselnik's "Caligula"

Anthony Jeselnik’s “Caligula” is the first album Comedy Reviews is taking a look at in 2013 and it’s a great project to get things rolling. As someone who spends most of his time listening to comedy albums I often lose sight of who is a household name and who isn’t. It’s easy for me to forget that everyone else isn’t doing the same and I still find it a bit surprising (and, to be honest, disappointing) when I mention someone like Jeselnik to my friends only to be met with blank stares. 

You may know him from his many TV appearances, most notably in the most recent roasts on Comedy Central, but I know him as The Guy Who Says Things That Shouldn’t Be Said And Gets Huge Laughs While Doing It. With his laid back, confident approach, Jeselnik takes his time getting to the punchline. His setups aren’t rushed or tossed aside in a mad dash to get to the funny and the laughs are always proportional to the time it took to get there. If Steven Wright and Christopher Walken had a funny baby, it would be Anthony Jeselnik.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Anthony Jeselnik project without a lot of “I can’t believe he said that” moments. He starts things off with a rape joke. It’s surprisingly gentle and there is no actual rape involved, but still...it’s a rape joke. And a very funny one at that. Don’t worry, though, Jeselnik promises it’ll be fifteen minutes before the next one. In the meantime, he has a lot of other sacred cows to cook. 

His ex and her pet bird, dating a “monkey face,” and his grandmother’s attempt to stop civil rights being taken for a suicide attempt all make an appearance and as funny as Jeselnik is when he takes them on, you never know how the funny is going to hit. He has mastered the art of misdirection, making you think you know where he’s going (or coming from) and then gleefully proving you wrong. His conversation with a former priest at an airport is an excellent example. It comes about a half hour into the project and by then one would think they have Jeselnik and his approach to comedy figured out, yet he still manages to surprise.

No one is safe from Jeselnik’s act, especially those who are closest to him. His girlfriend, his mom, and his dad all have tracks devoted solely to them and one can’t help but think the flattery of being mentioned on an album was short-lived. I’d love to see the look on people’s faces when, after asking what her son does for a living, his mom confesses he goes on stage and accuses her of being a racist Holocaust denier with a list of porno films on her resume.

There are countless killer one-liners to be found on this project and I am hesitant to repeat any here lest I take the fun out of hearing them for the first time. Rest assured that, regardless of how sensitive the topic (the mentally handicapped, death, Casey Anthony), Jeselnik will defuse them with impressive ease. Sure, he may not be a household name yet, but the truth is he could care less. He just wants you to know he’s a good guy, he would never hit a woman (even if she had a stutter), and he’s really really good at birthday wishes. Anyone who has a problem with that is invited to listen to track 14.

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