It's fitting that the cover for comedian Anthony Jeselnik's second stand-up album, Caligula, shows a giant shark. That's what Jeselnik is -- a comedy shark, stealth, cool, lethal and 100% confident in his ability to destroy anything in his path.
One of the best verbal assassins working in comedy today, Caligula finds Jeselnik once again destroying the line of good taste and finding humor in the darkest of subjects. He's too good a comic to rest on pure shock value, though, and makes sure that the joke is funny first and shocking second; it's rare that the laugh comes just from the shock, but rather from a surprising twist of wordplay or a clever subversion of where we assume he's going to go. Though his act is still mostly just rapid-fire beats and one-liners, there are several on Caligula that are grouped together almost as though hes doing long-form "bits." A number of ex-girlfriend jokes, for example, come one after another, making it seem like he's developed a whole routine on his ex-girlfriend. They're still just individual jokes in succession, though, and don't rely on what comes before or what comes after for laughs.
There are so many comics who try to do what Jeselnik is doing, and Caligula serves as a fantastic reminder of what this kind of comedy sounds like when it's actually done right for a change. It's also a testament to just how difficult it is to do this kind of comedy as well as he does. For all his put-on confidence, Jeselnik approaches stand-up with the mind of an academic, and there's a kind of science to his act that's as fascinating to study as it is funny to hear.
(Read the full Anthony Jeselnik: Caligula review)
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