Anthony Jeselnik is a comedian who likes dark comedy. “Good Talk with Anthony Jeselnik,” a new Comedy Central series starring Jeselnik, appears to be his first mainstream foray into television, aside from a Netflix stand-up special called “Thoughts and Prayers,” which happens to be what one might call very dark. As is the case with comedy, it seems as though there’s something out there for everyone, and in order for something to be enjoyable, it really has to appeal to one’s sense of humor.
“Good Talk” is very much like a visual podcast. It isn’t necessarily an interview, per se, but it does have an interview-like quality mixed in with comedic games. Anthony Jeselnik sits in an unusually ornate room, adorned with low lighting, red drapes and bookshelves stocked with leather-bound copies. Across the wooden table sits another comedian. In the series premiere, it’s Nick Kroll, known most notably for voicing Nick Birch, among other characters, on Netflix’s “Big Mouth.” The format is very straightforward. Jeselnik asks Kroll questions on topics ranging from Kroll’s career to the theme of his bar mitzvah. Kroll proceeds to answer the questions, and Jeselnik makes snide jokes — all in good humor — throughout Kroll’s interview. Peppered throughout are small stand-ups clips, mainly used as jokes for what I believe is their ineffectiveness.
To be clear, I am not one for dark humor. I go to great lengths to seek out more wholesome humor that isn’t really at the expense of others. So Anthony Jeselnik and I probably would not be acquaintances. But he isn’t so bad here. “Thoughts and Prayers” is a genuinely terrifying special that neither begins nor ends well. Most of that is absent in “Good Talk,” even if he does poke a good amount of fun at Kroll. The dynamic can be very awkward at times because Kroll does his best to give very genuine answers to the questions Jeselnik asks, so — at least to me — Jeselnik’s jokes tend to feel misplaced.
The show also features quick interview games, like “Agree or Disagree” or everyone’s favorite, “Does This Describe an Actual Turtle or Ya Boy, Turtle, From ‘Entourage?’” The questions are more fun than anything, of course. Much like the rest of the show, if you respond well to Jeselnik’s style, you’ll probably get a kick out of it. Jeselnik delivers most of his jokes with the same even-paced, slightly-mocking voice. Often, the punchline is his knack for making genuine questions sound completely disingenuous.
“Good Talk” is ultimately bound to be compared to other successful comedian-centric interview shows, such as “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” or the very idiosyncratic “Between Two Ferns”; however, I think all these shows appeal to different tastes. Perhaps “Good Talk” offers something different from what these other shows can offer. Jeselnik’s style of humor is certainly different. If you’re looking for interviews that are more playful and less serious, you might get a kick out of “Good Talk.” Ultimately, I can’t say whether or not this show is good or bad, because I’m not a fan of Jeselnik’s humor. But if you’re a fan of Jeselnik, or enjoy the comedians who come on the show, you may find something worthwhile in “Good Talk.”