Nick Kroll, Anthony Jeselnik, Other Comics Talk Flops, Fury and Disagreeing with Fallon

Rob Delaney, Kristen Schaal and Saturday Night Live's Cecily Strong joined THR's comics roundtable to discuss Louis CK and the (many) things network execs get wrong.

KROLL: Do you think you're as good at comedy as LeBron James is at basketball?

JESELNIK: Better. (Laughs.) People keep asking for an apology or to explain your joke, which, why? Why ever defend or explain anything?

KROLL: The hardest thing about comedy is finding your voice. What's amazing about Anthony is that he has an incredibly clear voice, and it's the equation of putting together a beautifully structured joke that is both surprising and shocking. That's not the goal of every comedian.

DELANEY: Also, if you apologize to somebody, then they're not going to be able to masturbate to their anger anymore. So you're kind of doing them a disservice because people who get offended about a joke and blog about it or whatever, they're so happy that they're getting to do that. I wouldn't want to rob them of it by apologizing.

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JESELNIK: I got into stand-up because I wanted to be a writer. I said, "Let me try to write the smartest jokes I can, get comedians' attention, then they'll hire me to write for them." I thought comedians always had a darker sense of humor, so I'll try for that. I basically didn't get hired on so many things that I was able to get good at stand-up by the time I finally got the Fallon job years later. One of the first days, we're sitting around a table, and I thought, "Oh, the fun job is to be the guy writing the funny jokes and throwing them out to their friends." Then I realized that we would pitch a joke and be like, "Jimmy [Fallon], what do you think about this joke?" And he would go, "No." Maybe the whole room would laugh, and he'd be like, "Not for me." Then they'd be like, "Jimmy, what do you think about this joke?" That joke that he would like that no one really laughs at [he'd say yes]. As soon as I saw that he could say yes or no, I was like, "I want his job."

KROLL: The guy who gets to say no.

JESELNIK: Absolutely.


KROLL: I'd been doing stand-up for about six months, and I was at an open-mic night in New York. The waitress came downstairs and was like, "Bill Murray's upstairs." So I went upstairs and completely bothered him while he was having a drink with his son. I was like, "If you'd come down and watch me, I would be so appreciative." As I'm getting onstage, I see these charcoal pants coming down the stairs. I freeze up. I can't get a joke out. And then I started speaking, and all I was trying to do was apologize to him onstage.

SCHAAL: I did a show at a college in upstate New York with my friend Kurt Braunohler, and we were going over the set. So we're like, "OK, so at this point we're gonna say, 'Now for our live sex act onstage,' and then just hit this Prince song." And the guy was like, "Whoa, whoa, what do you mean, live sex act?" I'm like, "Don't worry, we're not gonna bone each other." And he's like, "You know this is family weekend, right?" And I was like, "No, I did not know that." And I look outside, and there are just like families lined up waiting to get in. And I have basically five minutes to go backstage and just look over my set and just hack out all the sex jokes.

DELANEY: I got asked six or seven years ago to do a benefit in Salem, Mass.

SCHAAL: Oh, where they burn witches.

DELANEY: They burn them all. And I definitely added topical witch jokes, so I bombed locally and nationally.

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