A hesitant, ringing endorsement of The Rosenthal and Jeselnik Vanity Project
Since the early days of The B.S. Report, Bill Simmons has regularly had his high school and college buddies on his podcast as guests. Over the years, lifelong friends who he still calls by nicknames like Jacko and House have become beloved contributors, and while none of them are technically sports experts — Jacko famously answers his phone “Complex Litigation, this is John” whenever he’s called up at his office — any lack of traditional proficiency is always overshadowed by the friends’ intoxicating camaraderie. As Simmons figured out a long time ago, there’s just something special that happens when two best friends are simply allowed to hang out and shoot the shit on-air.
Only what if you’re NFL.com writer/podcast host Gregg Rosenthal and your best friend since college isn’t just some jovial lawyer named John with an unhealthy Yankees obsession, but Anthony Jeselnik, world-renowned standup comedian and professional terrible person…
If you’re smart, you keep him as far away from your place of work (and children) as possible.
If you’re Gregg Rosenthal, however, you decide to not only make him the godfather of your kids, but somehow convince your bosses at the NFL to let you two have your very own podcast – which after only seven episodes has already cemented itself as one the greatest sports shows to have ever been made:
That being said, I recommend this podcast with a little bit of “First Rule of Fight Club” hesitancy, as The Rosenthal and Jeselnik Vanity Project lives within a tragic paradox:
The more popular this subversive show becomes, the greater the chance that someone higher up at the NFL will actually listen to what these guys have been getting away with and inevitably crush the whole thing under the immeasurable weight of The Shield.
Like, for example, the segment where Anthony wonders how many plays Air Bud would survive in an actual NFL game before being killed on the field…
Yet in a twisted bit of irony, that constant awareness of the Sword of
Damocles Goodell# is simultaneously part of what makes this show so great.
Each week, one of the best recurring segments is when the guys do a PG-13 recap of what had to be edited out of the previous week’s show (e.g. jokes about breast cancer, Rex Ryan’s tattoo, how the worst job in America is being you know who’s girlfriend), and a staple of the show has been its abrupt cuts mid-sentence followed by explanations like:
- “edited to keep Gregg’s job”
- “edited for a severe lack of respect”
- “edited because we balled too hard”
- “edited to keep your interest”
- “edited because Gregg wasn’t funny”
- “edited because it was too informative about today’s NFL”
Plus, the listeners are in on it too. If you read the comments section for the podcast on iTunes, each example of 5-star prose comes woven with the understanding that RJVP isn’t meant to be long for this world…
There’s also the obvious and continually restated point that all this matters very little in the grand scheme of Jeselnik’s career. His new special Thoughts and Prayers on Netflix is receiving absolutely glowing reviews, and there was even a recent New York Times thinkpiece lauding his particular blend of political incorrectness as a necessary savior of comedy. That kind of job security will give you a certain inalienable freedom to truly not give a shit about what others think, even (and maybe especially) if they work for the NFL.
To put it more bluntly, in Anthony’s own words:
I am a celebrity. I’m too big for podcasting, which I think is part of the charm. I’m doing everyone a favor.
And that’s why you’ll hear him do things like casually bring up “Greg Hardy’s Bed Full O’ Guns” on multiple occasions throughout the show’s 7-episode run without ever batting an eye…
Well, I should say 6-episode run, as what would have been the sixth episode was actually censored in its entirety by the NFL#. But that’s besides the point, as this show is about way more than the inappropriate things that spontaneously pop into Anthony’s head and out of his mouth without warning. The two do in-depth football analysis (see: the difference between “crunk” and “funky, funky fresh”), they give book and theater recommendations (which is how I found out about John Mulaney and Nick Kroll’s off-Broadway show), and they keep you abreast of all the hottest hip-hop jams, from 00’s-era Young Money Cash Money B-sides to tracks from possible Nas-reincarnate Your Old Droog.
Deep down though, and what makes this podcast so uniquely endearing, is that it’s really just about two best friends who are having a blast simply hanging out and shooting the shit on-air.
As Anthony and Gregg tell it, they’ve been best friends since their freshman year at Tulane when the two were forced into driving 12 hours to Houston in Gregg’s beat up Nissan Sentra in order to evacuate a hurricane approaching New Orleans. With no A/C and only Pavement CDs as their soundtrack, the two wayward youths ended up forging a lifelong friendship that ends up getting denuded in sporadic anecdotes peppered throughout The Rosenthal and Jeselnik Vanity Project episodes – like the time Gregg hooked up with a girl in college and played nothing but “The Rain” by Missy Elliott on repeat while he did it, or how Anthony once gave everyone in their house scabies because of an old mattress he got from someone’s garage. There are even rumors of matching hurricane-themed yin yang tattoos, though that’s yet to be confirmed or explored in detail.
Plus, it’s also been really fun to see what “Anthony Jeselnik, the best friend” is like. He’s still his typical caustic self around and to Gregg, but you can also immediately tell that Gregg is a bit of fraternal kryptonite for the Man of Steel Emotions. At the very least, he seems to be one of the few people that Anthony doesn’t mind being alone in a room with for an hour, which is downright sweet all things considered.
Sure Anthony may him cut off with golden-era Lil Wayne whenever Gregg starts bringing up what his kids are up to, but at the end of the day, you know that those same kids are Anthony’s godchildren too, even if he never hosts another episode of The Rosenthal and Jeselnik Vanity Project again.
It’s just like that story Gregg told about his daughter and Anthony going to the…
That was Lil Wayne.
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