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Anthony Jeselnik zings them with his one-liners

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By William Loeffler
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
 

For an arrogant, cocksure creep, Anthony Jeselnik is pretty funny.

One of his recent tweets: "I spent two years looking for my ex-girlfriend's killer. But no one will do it."

Upper St. Clair High School has one more notable graduate, thanks to Jeselnik's ascendance in the comedy firmament.

"I don't have to pronounce my name for people now," says Jeselnik, who opens a four-night stand Thursday at the Pittsburgh Improv.

His brazenly tasteless one-liners, delivered with despicable, deadpan glee, made him a natural to perform at the recent Comedy Central roast of Donald Trump.

"That was a dream come true to even get to do that roast," he says. "They even asked me to do it last year. They told me, 'You're going to be able to make fun of Marlee Matlin.' "

He recently appeared on "Conan." His debut CD, "Shakespeare," was released last year.

"It's so over the top that people kind of get it," says Jeselnik of his smarmy onstage persona, which he says often has been compared to a mean Steven Wright. But he says he decided to try stand-up after watching a recurring segment on "Saturday Night Live."

"My biggest influence was Jack Handy," he says. "I remember when I was a kid watching 'Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy' and being blown away. I thought if I could do those, I would be really onto something."

He says he was acting like a stand-up comic in school before he knew that's what he wanted to do.

"I was an obnoxious kid. I talked a lot in class. I made all my teachers suffer. The teachers fighting me was kind of what helped me with stand-up. There's no worse crowd than a teacher."

After graduation, he attended Tulane University as an English literature major and business minor. He moved to Los Angeles, where he immersed himself in the world of menial, low-paying employment.

"When I got out of college, I had a couple terrible jobs," he says. "I worked at Borders and Abercrombie & Fitch and a movie theater, which is an awful place to work."

He finally broke into television — as an accounting clerk. He would moonlight as a stand-up comic at open mics and any other place that would have him.

His parents, he says, are breathing a lot easier about his choice of career.

"People will stop them when they hear their last name and say, 'Is your son a comedian?' " he says. "They love that."

Additional Information:

Anthony Jeselnik

When: 8 p.m. Thursay; 8 and 10 p.m. Friday; 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $17-$20

Where: Pittsburgh Improv, Waterfront, Homestead

Details: 412-462-5233, www.improv.com

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