Anthony Jeselnik JFL42, Toronto ON, September 28
Published Sep 29, 2018Recently on Twitter, Anthony Jeselnik tweeted this: "I'm an amateur photographer. Never taken anything I'm not proud of. Just children having sex."
It was enough to draw the ire of Twitter users, but Jeselnik posted the company's response — "We have investigated the reported content and could not identify any violation of the Twitter rules" — along with his own comment, simply "I am indestructible."
It kinda feels like he is.
For his JFL42 headlining show at Toronto's Sony Centre, he gives it up for his opening act: "How about Mo Welch, huh?" Applause and beat. "That was nothing." And so it begins.
During his hour-long set, it's pure Jeselnik. No one is safe: his best friend; his dad; his mom; his mom's funeral; his dead grandfather; his nephew; a glass-eyed child; babies; and a close friend he accompanied to an abortion clinic.
His fans love it, and boy are there fans. Jeselnik is creeping into "Free Bird" territory, where the most loyal followers shout out their favourite bits (he hates this). Sometimes they'll even try to finish his thought in a shout from the audience. "Let me say that again, uninterrupted this time." Before he does: "If you thought of it," he says, "it's probably not where I'm going."
It's a pretty mild diss, but a common thread. His material can be considered insulting and polarizing, but how does he do it? First off, his beats are impeccable. The timing to his work is perfection. Also, his setups are formulaic, but always unpredictable. You think you know where's going with it but you almost never do. And finally, he oozes charisma. So dark, but so likeable.
Granted, tonight there are brief moments where he seems a little bit off. His delivery is slightly… Walken-esque? Maybe he's got a slight beer buzz, too — hard to tell. But the jokes are there, and he doesn't stumble at all, and never laughs at his own bits. That last point is essential to his brand.
So again — what is it? His teflon quality is Trumpian. It might be best summed up by a tweet he received following this show: "Really enjoyed @anthonyjeselnik thoroughly flexing his freedom of speech at #jfl42 tonight."
His response: "Freedom of speech is for pussies. I'm funny."