Editor’s Note: Welcome to The Last Show, a new Vanyaland series where we talk to performers about their last traditional live appearance before the pandemic hit. As we slowly make our way out of this mess, and a return to stages appears to be coming (eventually), here are the stories of bands, artists, comedians and others who performed their last live gig in front of an audience around this time last year. These are their shows, their stories, their memories.
Vanyaland: When and where was your last show before the pandemic?
Anthony Jeselnik: Wednesday, March 11. “Jeselnik and Enemies” at Largo in Los Angeles. The last night before the pandemic shut it all down.
Who else was on the bill?
Joe Mande, Nick Kroll, Zach Galifianakis, and Tom Segura.
What was notable about the show?
I’ll never forget that night. I’m getting ready for the show that night and I hear the NBA is shutting down and Tom Hanks has COVID. Every single comic on the lineup got in touch to see if we were even still doing the show. I kept waiting for Largo to tell me it was cancelled but they never did. So I showed up half an hour before the show feeling like it was going to be a very weird night.
What do you remember the most about the show?
I remember that it was surprisingly not a very weird night. When I walked backstage I asked the owner if we should cancel because people wouldn’t come and he said “We’ve got a full house already. Every seat is filled.” So I’m sitting backstage talking with the other comics about how crazy this is and half-joking about how this is the last show we’re all going to be doing for a while.
And then I walked on stage and the audience could not have been less interested in hearing about COVID. They were surprised I thought they wouldn’t show up because of the news that day. They just wanted to hear jokes. And it was a great show. Great lineup. Everyone killed. Even Joe Mande!
After the show everyone left and I’m sitting backstage with my manager and the owner, chatting about what was going to happen next. And then the next day Largo posts on their Instagram that they’re cancelling all future shows over a picture of me, as if this is all my fault.
If someone told you live comedy would be going away for at least the next year, what would you have thought?
Oh, thank God.
If someone told you live comedy would be going away for at least the next year, what would you have done differently?
Honestly, nothing. I had just put out a special the year before and so I was just working on new material in Los Angeles. I didn’t have to cancel tour dates because I didn’t have any tour dates. Obviously, I didn’t see this coming. But I never would have taken a break without it. I’m still writing, but it’s not the same if I can’t get up at Largo or the Comedy Store every night. Hopefully, I’ll get to do Largo’s first show back when they reopen.
What do you have coming up or coming out?
Right now I have my weekly podcast where I can channel all my creative energy. It’s called JRVP (Jeselnik Rosenthal Vanity Project). My best friend, Gregg Rosenthal, and I talk about the strangest news stories of the week. It’s insane. Everyone loves it.