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by Jay Light

2016 has been a weird, wild year. Yet, even amidst a never-ending stream of celebrity deaths, an apparent paradigm shift in how the Internet can be used for evil, and more political turmoil than you can shake a box set of The West Wing at, there remains no place weirder and wilder than the Belly Room on a Tuesday night. Roast Battle is, without question, the most unpredictable show in the LA comedy scene, with the only known factor being that it’s all gonna work out to be a consistently rip-roarin’ good time. As we prepare for the second season of Jeff Ross Presents Roast Battle to air on Comedy Central this Sunday (at 11 PM Eastern/Pacific, 10 PM Central), the final live show of 2016 looks ready to take us out in style. Let’s just hope Ryan Seacrest will be the only person preparing to drop the ball.

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Our panel of judges tonight features three Belly Room favorites. Al Jackson is one of the city’s hardest working comics, with multiple TV appearances under his belt and a smack-talking show of his very own – think Mystery Science Theatre for old rap music videos – taking place monthly at the NerdMelt Showroom. Andy Haynes has battled in the Belly Room and was a part of the upcoming second season of Roast Battle, where he took his snarky talents to Denver, Colorado for a match against Nicole Aimee Schreiber. Rounding out the bunch tonight is the Prince of Periscope himself, Steven Brody Stevens. Brody is always a welcome presence at Roast Battle, with his outpouring of positive energy doing some heavy lifting to keep the show’s insults above the belt.

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Our first undercard of the night features two Roast Battle virgins: Billy Batz versus Perry Kurtz. Billy has come close to stepping into the ring once before, picking a fight with Mark “The Shark” Stevens that ultimately fizzled out long before their scheduled Tuesday night. The reasons escape me, but ask Mark about it if you’ve got an hour to kill. Perry is a Paid Regular in the Steven Alan Green mold – an older gent who has put out his fair share of respectable comedy, but can’t be seen around the Store much these days. Will his triumphant return pan out well, or can Batz win by swinging for the fences?

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After that, it’s a battle between two BFFs: Long You and Isaac Hirsch. They’re seen here showing us all how it feels to prioritize high SAT scores over losing your virginity. These two whippersnappers are some of the most wave-making young comics on the open mic scene, and I fully expect their matchup to be one of the night’s best.

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Keeping things moving, we have one-battle wonder Wade Wammer taking on gingerbread man James Hurlbut. Wade’s last match was memorable – even though it ended in him losing – thanks to his likability and delivery. James, seen here deciding last-minute not to shoot up his community college graduation, is a newcomer to the ring, but is friends with the deadly Orange County crew, which as Roast Battle fans know is home to some of the fiercest fighters in the circuit. Can James hand Wade his second loss, or will fat Pitbull get shipped on a slow boat to Cuba?

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But wait – there’s more Orange County battlers afoot! Our next undercard features Andy Pupa against Neal Lockwood. Andy, seen here on his way to referee a youth soccer game, has been in the ring a couple of times with some halfway decent outcomes. Neal, seen here ready to offer kids van rides after their youth soccer game, is a newcomer to the ring, but his current job working at a holistic healing center may give him an edge in reading the energy of the room. Will Neal and his aura overpower Andy, or can Andy muster up some of his hometown’s Boston strength?

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After them, Detroit’s Zach Stein returns to the ring to take on newcomer Vikram Bhoyrul. Vikram has a solid background in improvising, which has been proven to come in handy lately with the success of those like Robbie Goodwin. However, Zach’s style – eccentric jokes presented in a decent-looking suit – earned him a win in his only other match thus far.  Will Zach take win number two or will Vikram trip him up on the fly?

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In the night’s final undercard, Alfred B. Konuwa and Jacob Trimmer try to prove who has more street cred. Both of these guys made this month’s ranks, turning in winning streaks and surprising everyone who judged these books by their covers. Alfred, of course, is a book about dancing to Tom Jones songs, and Jacob is a book about how to not get shanked by a tweaker in a motel parking lot. Honestly, this one is a toss-up to preview, but I predict that quality-wise, it’ll be the undercard to beat.

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Closing out the night is our five-joke main event, pitting Josh Waldron against Galina Rivina. Josh and Galina are both coming off of close matches; Josh with a nail-biter against Jordan Perry, Galina with a duel of wits against Richie Gaines. Galina is the less experienced of the two, though her battles to date have all been stellar matches. Josh has more bouts to his name, but as fans have seen in previous battles, he has trouble getting the room on his side despite strong writing. However, the guy is bound to catch a break in the Belly Room one of these nights, and tonight might just be when the stars align. After all, in 2016, stranger things have certainly happened.

Follow @RoastBattle on Twitter for all the latest updates, check out our Instagram and Facebook pages for the latest pictures from the impeccable Troy Conrad, and watch live on Periscope at 11 PM PST every Tuesday if you can’t catch the verbal violence in person. If you live in Los Angeles, stay tuned for info on how to book tickets to see the upcoming tapings of Jeff Ross Presents Roast Battle II, which will take place at the old House of Blues – right across the street from the Comedy Store – on January 20th, 22nd, 24th, and 29th. Thank you for reading, and thanks as always to our sponsor SpeedWeed.

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