Anthony Jeselnik On ‘Thoughts And Prayers,’ Audience Reactions, And If He’s Still Hosting ‘Last Comic Standing’

Despite jokes about cancer, pedophilia, and a one-time “shark party,” comedian Anthony Jeselnik’s Comedy Central show The Jeselnik Offesnive was axed before a full year had passed. Sure, the show wasn’t doing all that great in the ratings, but it was Jeselnik’s material (and off-screen antics, like tweeting a Boston Marathon bombing joke the day it happened) that rubbed Comedy Central brass the wrong way. Yet the comic didn’t let any of this slow him down.

Having just finished his debut as the host of NBC’s Last Comic Standing (which he may or may not do again), Jeselnik is currently touring with the Oddball Festival and promoting Thoughts and Prayers, a new stand-up special that premieres today on Netflix. During our conversation, Jeselnik said work on Thoughts and Prayers began as soon as he’d finished his previous special, Caligula. Following The Jeselnik Offensive‘s cancellation, however, Jeselnik found himself wanting to break from his shocking one-liners and his onstage persona to discuss what happened — with jokes, of course.

I miss The Jeselnik Offensive.

Thank you. That’s always nice to hear. I think that show probably survived a little longer than anyone thought it would.

Do you miss running your own show, or are you over it?

I wouldn’t say that I’m over it, but it’s nice to take a break. It’s nice to be in control, but not be worried about every single thing that comes out of peoples’ mouths. I just kind of wander in and out. So I like doing both. A lot of actors will say, “I do one for them and one for me.” That’s kind of how I see things. I’m always working on my own projects, which is blood and sweat and tears. And then someone will say, “Hey, do you want to come and hang out?” Right now, I’m on this Oddball tour, where I’m doing 20 minutes a night as opposed to an hour, but I’m with a bunch of my friends. Would I rather be doing an hour? Yes. But I like that, for six to eight weeks, I’m only doing 20 minutes and I get to hang out with people. So, it’s a little of both.

T.J. Miller said the same thing about Oddball.

It’s great. You never feel like you’re letting anybody down, and the biggest part is getting to be with your friends. As you become friends with people in comedy, and you start to get more and more successful, you just stop seeing people. Everyone is on the road at the same time. They’re making movies at the same time. It’s only at comedy festivals where we really get to get together and hang out.

How long have you been working on the material for Thoughts and Prayers?

Pretty much since the day I finished Caligula, the last one. That’s when I started writing new jokes and switching things out. Then after The Jeselnik Offensive ended, I had these two longer bits that were about the show. About getting in trouble for the Boston Marathon tweet and the shark attack thing. I needed to get those out. For myself, I needed to put those down in the special. So for the next two years after that show ended, I just toured constantly. It was a sheer force of will finishing up this hour and getting it out in a relatively short amount of time.