During his senior year at Tulane, his girlfriend accidentally burned down his apartment, which he would later use as early stand-up material.
First attempt at comedy
He attempted his first real joke at a Santa Monica comedy workshop, which was an impression of his father being stung by wasps. By the end of the skit—which lasted only one minute, but Jeselnik claimed "felt like 10"—no one had laughed, leading Jesel...
His original dream was to write the great American novel and be a serious writer, but an internship in Los Angeles between his junior and senior years of college convinced him that there were other paths for a writer. He moved to LA in his early twen...
I found it was tough to get people to laugh at the kind of absurd one-liners I was telling when I first started out. But once I’d written a joke where the twist at the end was mean, the reaction was so much bigger. It was just guttural. That was a lightbulb moment for me, and I thought everything should have a mean twist. I think the biggest laugh is when someone laughs at something they don’t think they should be laughing at. It’s just a different kind of laugh, and that’s the only laugh I want from an audience.
Everything I say is mean, so that makes everything less mean. If I’m up there talking about relationships and making fun of milkshakes and then all of a sudden I have a rape joke, it would make it seem that much more awful. If everything is rape and death, then it takes the pressure off of those things. People can feel a little better about laughing at something awful when it’s surrounded by other horrible things.
I have full control. Sure, there are limits to the format I've chosen, but I think brilliant stuff comes out of working with limitations. One liners are very limiting, but that's what drew me to them in the first place.
Question: How annoying is it to be compared to daniel tosh all the time?
Answer: Great question. It's a little annoying, but I understand it. We're both tall white dudes on comedy central who say edgy shit. But we're very different. I think people compare us because they just like comparing things. I used to get Mitch Hedberg a lot, even though I couldn't be more different. But we both told one liners, so there you go. I also think some people just don't know that much about comedy. It would be like a person who didn't know anything about football thinking all offensive linemen are the same.
Question: How long did it take you to figure out your persona? Is there a video out there of you early in your career making Gaffigan-esque jokes?
Answer: No Gaffigan-esque videos out there, but it took me years to put this persona together. Just endless nights of open mics and trying new things.
I try to retire jokes as soon as I can once I put them on an album. But I can't think of anything I just stopped doing for no reason. Although I used to have a great Chris Brown/Rhianna bit that I had to drop because it was too long after the incident.
Question: Is hosting your own show your ultimate goal, or do you still want to do more, like hosting SNL or getting involved in movies?
Answer: My ultimate goal is to do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it. And that keeps changing. I didn't want to host my own show until I wrote for someone else's. I don't know what I'll want to do after this show, but I hope The Jeselnik Offensive runs for a long time.
I've always been fascinated by dark subjects, especially people's reactions to them. Why are people so uncomfortable talking about death if everyone dies? And why do people sometimes laugh at these horrible things? And why do they seem to laugh harder when it's about a dark subject? Plus, no one else seemed to be doing it.
Lots of different stuff. I listen to a lot of Alt Nation on XM radio. Loved the new Portugal, The Man album. The new Kanye is great. I've had Grimes "Oblivion" stuck in my head for a week. I'm all over the place.
I just noticed that audiences didn't want to laugh at me because of the way I looked, so I just went with that. It seemed fun to play a villain on stage and I wanted my jokes to be so good that I could just calmly tell them on stage. I didn't want to show any neediness. It was important to me to be cool up there.
[This link contains all the recommended books - there are more than 100]
The list contains City of Thieves by David Benioff, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, and Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang.