The second smile

I really dug this interview with Anthony Jeselnik at Splitsider. It's got some smart questions about his onstage persona and evolution.

In the interview, he talks about the joke...

My girlfriend loves to eat chocolate. She's always eating chocolate, and she likes to joke she's got a chocolate addiction... So, I put her in a car and I drove her downtown, and I pointed out a crack addict, and I said, 'Do you see that, honey? Why can't you be that skinny?'

...that first turned him on to "the second smile":

One night I was at an open mic and I did this joke for the first time, one about my girlfriend being addicted to chocolate. And there’s such a mean twist to it. And the audience reaction was like “ohhhhhh!” It was more than a laugh. It was what [the original head writer for Saturday Night Live] Michael O’Donoghue talks about as the "second smile." Where the audience is laughing but then you cut their throats at the same time. It’s so sharp that they don’t know what the fuck to do. I thought, “That’s it. It’s got to have this mean twist to it.” And then my persona formed around that. I started thinking, “Who do I have to be to pull this off?”...

I think anyone can do it. I think it’s just about the surprise and the revelation. It can be personal or it could be a story. Anything that’s going to suck someone in and then cut their legs out. I don’t think it necessarily has to do with one-liners or non-personal jokes.

The groan/laugh combo is always an interesting one. I forget the bit, but there's one Todd Barry album (From Heaven?) where he tells a joke that receives a mixed reaction from the crowd. He then voices the audience's thought process: "You heard me laughing, didn't you?...You heard me groaning, didn't you?" Sometimes they want it both ways.

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3 Comment(s)

Blogger Kevin S. said...

I think the Barry bit might be the one about neck tattoos that ends up with someone eating pissed on Valentine's Day candy.

3/14/11, 10:25 PM  
Anonymous ECN said...

My favorite double reaction is the sympathy "aw" followed by the laugh. I used to be really good at getting those...

I think when I started out, I was a lot better at seeming vulnerable. But then again, I feel like what makes that tougher now (aside from my age) is my increased command of the stage.

Oh, well, everyone has to make trade-offs.

3/16/11, 12:11 PM  
Blogger Abbi Crutchfield said...

For the record, the "second smile" visual is guh-ROCE!

*Adding nothing of value to blogs since 2006.

3/16/11, 1:12 PM