Review: Anthony Jeselnik, “Fire in the Maternity Ward,” on Netflix

There are too many comedians who say horrible things, and then tell you later it was all a joke. Or don’t tell you, and just let you think it must be a joke because they’re comedians — even though the rest of the set involves them telling sincere stories about themselves. And then there’s Anthony Jeselnik, who carved out a niche all for himself, saying the most awful things onstage, but all in a character where you know he couldn’t possibly mean any of it.

In his second Netflix special…I wondered how his comedy would play in the age of Trump?

With America ruled by a man who consistently employs hyperbole and superlatives to describe himself, what would a comedian like Jeselnik, who uses the same techniques in his stand-up, have to say now? Although he’ll still follow up his first bit in Fire in the Maternity Ward by telling the audience “that’s pretty much the greatest opening joke of all-time,” Jeselnik operates on elite levels of comedy misdirection.

He’s beating Deep Blue at chess and AlphaGo at Go while others are amusing themselves with Pong.

Or, to get super topical on you: While politically correct audiences may think of Jeselnik as comedy’s archenemy, making light of heinous crimes and tragic diseases, he’s neither Thanos nor the Night King; rather, he’s more Loki or Arya Stark, more the evil genius and trained assassin of punchlines. Don’t worry. The metaphor works because it’s also a bit of a misdirect.

Read my full review on Decider.com.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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One thought on “Review: Anthony Jeselnik, “Fire in the Maternity Ward,” on Netflix

  1. I love Anthony Jeselnik, and his mode on stage is different from that of most comedians. Style wise, he reminds me a bit of Stephen Wright — just joke after joke after joke, and not really much storytelling (Wright and Jeselnik are miles apart in content, of course). Yes, Jeselnik says a lot of politically incorrect stuff that most comedians do not, but (as your review points out), his content is so outlandish that in a way it’s not very offensive at all. He’s not offensive (to others, not to me!) in the way that a true outsider like Doug Stanhope is, for example.

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