JFL Northwest 2018: Anthony Jeselnik is not afraid to joke about anything

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Anthony Jeselnik | JFL Northwest | Vogue Theatre | March 8, 2018

On International Women’s Day, Anthony Jeselnik told a joke about never seeing his dad hit his mom (he was too quick), and then said, “Happy International Women’s Day. Shout out to all those punching bags out there.” Yes, it was that kind of show. Jeselnik is not afraid to joke about anything, and that is a good thing. With build ups that tend to drive a knife into a tough subject, his punchlines are often an unexpected twist of the knife. This type of humour isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is for anyone who can laugh at horrible things and know that that doesn’t make them a horrible person.

Opening the show was Mo Welch who appeared on Conan and had her animated series, Blair, debut on TBS in January of this year. Her nonchalant attitude and off-colour humour was a good match for Jeselnik’s as she talked about her misconception that her clit was in her asshole, being such a feminist that she was free bleeding, and secretly wanting to marry her mom.

Brash, bold, and unafraid of any topic, Jeselnik covered throwing stones at his Jehovah’s Witness neighbours, hating all religions, dropping babies, murder, murder-suicide, stealing a child’s glass eye, and taking a friend to get an abortion (good friends just babysit). It doesn’t matter that some of these topics are unpleasant or sensitive. What matters is whether the jokes are intelligent, well-written, and delivered well — and they were all of the above.

The crowd was often laughing so much that Jeselnik paused to let us finish. While there may have been many cringes in between the laughter, this is what good comedy is about: pushing the boundaries and taking us out of our comfort zones.   

“Why is it a hate crime if I love to do it?” Jeselnik asked. He also wondered, “Why would you choose to hate a whole group of people because of how they all…behave?” And he told us a story about getting beat up by skinheads: “It was a brutal initiation.” As Jeselnik acknowledged, he has to be careful with his ironically racist material, as the context and intention must be considered alongside it.

At one point, he paused to look at the crowd, “If you’re not laughing right now, the problem is your imagination.” We should be able to laugh about anything, and Anthony Jeselnik allows audiences to do just that.      

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