King of Zing

This summer, Anthony Jeselnik returns to his hometown as comedy’s hottest young talent.


Photo courtesy of 92YTRIBECA.

In March, Comedy Central held a roast of Donald J. Trump, megalomaniacal mogul and birth certificate Inspector General. The roasters were a bizarre coterie of Trump’s famous friends (Larry King, Snoop Dogg and Marlee Matlin) and a stable of veteran insult comics (Jeff Ross and Lisa Lampanelli).

However, the new guy stole the show. In his first turn in the spotlight, Anthony Jeselnik, a young comic and Pittsburgh native, drew raucous laughter from the crowd and left the rest of the dais in stitches. Jeselnik was so raw that emcee Seth MacFarlane introduced him with the quip, “Tonight, Anthony Jeselnik is going to leave his stamp on the roast, and tomorrow, he’s going to use that stamp to buy food.”

Jeselnik grabbed the mic and immediately returned MacFarlane’s serve: “Wow, Seth MacFarlane, everybody! You know, at first I thought Seth was just famous for ‘Family Guy,’ but then I did some research … and he’s actually not famous at all.”

You can catch Jeselnik at the Pittsburgh Improv from June 30 to July 3 as he makes his first headlining appearance in his hometown.

Q+A

PM: What part of Pittsburgh are you from?

AJ: Upper St. Clair was my home for most of my time in Pittsburgh. Class of ’97.

Were you involved in the local comedy scene?

It didn’t occur to me to be a comedian when I was here. I didn’t know about the local scene.

So, what kind of influence did Pittsburgh have on your comedy, if at all?

There are a lot of Pittsburghers who now live in LA and are in the business, so being from Pittsburgh certainly helps. And I feel like I applied that blue-collar Pittsburgh work ethic to stand-up—you know, just put your head down and work, work, work.

Throughout the course of two years, you had three big achievements with Comedy Central: being named a breakout comedian, recording a 30-minute special and making your first album. What had the biggest impact on your career?

Definitely the album—because the album is my thing. Comedy Central has done hundreds [of specials] over the years; they kind of get lost in the shuffle a little bit. But the album really helped me. It was named comedy album of the year by Punchline Magazine, and getting a lot of critical raves about the album really helped me.

At the roast, you were a new comic in the lineup. Did that add any pressure?

I felt so much pressure that I couldn’t imagine anything being added to it. I wasn’t really worried about it being my first time—just about it being my time. I really prepared mentally to stand up and look calm while all this was going on.

How do you approach the idea of roasting someone, especially someone as prominent as Donald Trump?

It was pretty easy, and I’ve written for roasts before. But Donald Trump is synonymous with success—no matter how you feel about him as a person. So, he was the best possible roast target: someone who no one would feel bad for no matter what you said about him.

Pittsburgh can be a conservative place, and a lot of your comedy pushes boundaries. Do you ever worry about your family hearing it?

I was worried about what my parents would think when I first started doing comedy, but now, I feel that what I do is such an obvious character. If anyone actually thinks that I think these things, then it’s not even worth the time to try and explain it. And people I knew growing up know that it’s a joke more than people anywhere else. I worry less about Pittsburgh than most places.

 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh

Our exclusive list of the region's 584 leading physicians across 76 specialities.
Endless Challenges: 48 Remarkable Hours with 8 Pittsburgh Doctors

Endless Challenges: 48 Remarkable Hours with 8 Pittsburgh Doctors

Follow eight physicians over two days as they perform surgeries, consult on end-of-life care, treat accident victims, discuss hospital programs –– and then reset and do it all over again.
The Commoner — Too Much of a Good Thing?

The Commoner — Too Much of a Good Thing?

Chef Dennis Marron designs a menu of modern-American fare at The Commoner in the downstairs space of Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh.
What Inspires Ray Gastil's Careful Plan for Pittsburgh's Future

What Inspires Ray Gastil's Careful Plan for Pittsburgh's Future

How will the city’s new planning director stoke Pittsburgh’s next generation of developments?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Latest Weight-Loss Breakthrough: Swallow a Balloon

Latest Weight-Loss Breakthrough: Swallow a Balloon

Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Health Network is testing an alternative to traditional gastric bypass surgery.
Two Pittsburgh Restaurants Closing; Kings Leaving the Family

Two Pittsburgh Restaurants Closing; Kings Leaving the Family

One of the eateries has been a staple in Bloomfield for more than a half-century.
Who's Carson? Why Does He Have His Own Street?

Who's Carson? Why Does He Have His Own Street?

Some of the names synonymous with Pittsburgh have surprising histories behind them.
Aviary Determined to Have Dwindling Condors Leave the Nest

Aviary Determined to Have Dwindling Condors Leave the Nest

The National aAviary is working to send ’Burgh-born birds back to their natural habitats to boost endangered populations.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh

Our exclusive list of the region's 584 leading physicians across 76 specialities.
Endless Challenges: 48 Remarkable Hours with 8 Pittsburgh Doctors

Endless Challenges: 48 Remarkable Hours with 8 Pittsburgh Doctors

Follow eight physicians over two days as they perform surgeries, consult on end-of-life care, treat accident victims, discuss hospital programs –– and then reset and do it all over again.
The Commoner — Too Much of a Good Thing?

The Commoner — Too Much of a Good Thing?

Chef Dennis Marron designs a menu of modern-American fare at The Commoner in the downstairs space of Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh.
What Inspires Ray Gastil's Careful Plan for Pittsburgh's Future

What Inspires Ray Gastil's Careful Plan for Pittsburgh's Future

How will the city’s new planning director stoke Pittsburgh’s next generation of developments?
Dare to be Different — PittGirl's Better Ways to Use Social Media

Dare to be Different — PittGirl's Better Ways to Use Social Media

You can use social media to change your life and the lives of those around you in a positive way.
Pittsburgh's Top 10 in April

Pittsburgh's Top 10 in April

The 10 best things to do in April in Pittsburgh.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module