Anthony Jeselnik, on paper, should live in mortal fear of Cancel Culture.
The comic traffics in material so extreme, so morally warped, that it’s shocking someone hasn’t raised a ruckus over it yet. He likely stays ahead of the mob by embracing his over-the-top brand. No one actually believes he believes what he says on stage.
Here’s a Jeselnik joke to set the stage:
I let a friend set me up on a blind date. It was a disaster. She ended up being a burn victim. By the end of the night.
— Anthony Jeselnik (@anthonyjeselnik) April 15, 2010
A Florida newspaper summed up his approach.
Jeselnik jokes about all the topics you’re not supposed to joke about. He made it a point to open his last special, Caligula, with a rape joke. In the first episode of his Comedy Central show, The Jeselnik Offensive, he did cancer jokes in front of a cancer support group
Yet the Pennsylvania native insists Cancel Culture is both over-hyped and merely a marketing tic for his fellow comics.
Jeselnik shared that view, plus behind-the-scenes stories of working on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” via Uproxx’s “People’s Party with Talib Kweli.”
The comedian recalls the battles with “Standards and Practices” to determine which jokes were allowed on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” He described a surreal set of quasi-rules that were interpreted differently on any given day.
Cancel Culture is similar, in a way, but there’s a method to the woke madness.
A comic who supports President Donald Trump, for example, won’t get the leeway of another who uses They/Them pronouns.
Yet Jeselnik downplayed the woke revolution. And he did so by denying reality.
Jeselnik first shared his admiration for comics who try to find the “line” in humor and occasionally push past it. These innovators want to gauge how a crowd reacts and what kind of laughter can be milked from those moments.
He name-checked Dave Chappelle’s “black-white supremacist” skit from “Chappelle’s Show,” a classic moment from the series.
Jeselnik then reversed course.
“I think Cancel Culture is the cost of doing business. I think the term is over-used at this point, and no one’s actually being canceled,” he said, before muttering the Left’s favorite spin on the topic, “Consequence Culture.”
Tell that to Roseanne Barr. The comedy icon lost her career for sending one racially-charged joke.
Her upcoming Fox Nation comedy special is her first major gig in six years.
“I don’t understand why people get so upset or are so sensitive to it,” he continued before returning to Chappelle. “If you’re as big as he is, people are gonna get upset at the things you say. That’s part of what you do, and it’s part of why you do it, so I don’t understand the complaint.”
He recalled Chappelle bemoaning the new comedy rules during a recent “Saturday Night Live” appearance. The comedy icon said woke culture makes his job harder.
“He makes so much money. Your job should be a little hard. I don’t have sympathy for you in that. He says whatever he wants to, great, but when there’s pushback I don’t know why it bothers him,” Jeselnik said.
The Barr example remains the most extreme, but other cases abound. Sarah Silverman lost a plum movie gig because she once wore blackface during her Comedy Central series “The Sarah Silverman Program.”
And then there’s the self-censorship that happens across the comedy landscape. Even “Desus & Mero” admitted they do just that lest they run afoul of the woke mob. Others do the same, of course, especially comedians who lack the name recognition of a Chappelle or Jeselnik.
How many hilarious, insightful jokes got squelched because the comedian feared for his or her career?
The digital form of Cancel Culture is just as pernicious. Free-thinking comedians have their work censored, from apolitical jokers like Ryan Long to right-leaning, but still politically balanced souls like Tyler Fischer.
Let’s circle back to Chappelle, a comedian for whom Jeselnik lacks sympathy.
The comedy icon endured months of attacks from both trans activists and members of the mainstream media. His Minneapolis show got canceled near the last minute because someone objected to his material. His fans endured physical attacks after the show changed to a new, free speech friendlier venue.
Chappelle’s untitled 2021 documentary got canceled from the film festival circuit, and it appears it still hasn’t found a distributor willing to share it.
The biggest Cancel Culture fallout? An armed man jumped on stage next to Chappelle last year during his Hollywood Bowl appearance.
No sympathy, eh?
Or is it just cowardice in the face of a mob that could turn on Jeselnik if he doesn’t give the “proper” answer?
Maybe Jeselnik was talking in character, saying something so outrageous it must be a joke. Except the comedian wasn’t smiling, nor was he attempting to make us laugh.