by Pat Barker
August is shaping up to be a hell of a month at Roast
Battle. I would normally be piecing together the next couple of Battler
Spotlights, but the next three main events all feature competitors who have
already had a been featured. So in an effort to earn every penny of the
eight-figure writing deal VerbalViolence.TV has me signed to, I will be
spending the better part of the month posting in-depth main event analysis
pieces to highlight these heavyweight fights. The first battle features two
people I’m very familiar with, as the Rookie of the Year Dan Nolan squares off
with Toby Muresianu!
In a lot of ways, Toby and Dan are very similar in the ring.
Both battlers count themselves among the elite writers in the Belly Room, while
both also generally have straightforward deliveries that they rarely deviate
from. Dan employs rebuttals about as frequently as anyone else in the league, a
necessary defense tactic when you have so many easily attackable angles. Toby
tends to shy away from comebacks, instead opting for a carefully crafted
assault across all three rounds. Dan swings for the fences a little bit more,
while Toby opts for a high percentage of punches landed. I’ve gone head-to-head
with both of these guys, and they were two of my toughest battles ever. Toby
jabbed me to death and took me to overtime with a remarkably consistent
performance, whereas Dan defeated me by connecting with a devastating haymaker
(and winning a Roastie for it in the process).
Toby’s a fantastic writer. His jokes are short, quick,
smart, and accessible. But his greatest strength may be in his blandness.
Writing for Toby is a challenge. Believe me, I know. Most of the ranked
battlers – and most comics in general – have very noticeable character traits.
We have angles to attack. Whether it’s our race, sex, physical fitness, family
tragedies…there’s SOMETHING there that gives our opponent at least one easy
joke. Not with Toby. He’s a white dude. Average height, average weight. He’s a
good comic. He’s accomplished. He’s a Romanian Jew, which is weird, I guess, but
he doesn’t exhibit any sort of glaring stereotypes that accompany either of
those things (to be fair, I don’t even know what Romanian stereotypes are).
He’s just a guy. A normal guy. And writing for normal guys is borderline
impossible. Add that to the fact that he’s legitimately great up there, and
he’s one of the toughest opponents you can encounter.
Dan’s also a great writer, and he uses double entendres and
homophones as well as anyone in the league. My favorite Dan Nolan jokes
generally employ one of those two strategies. Two that come to mind instantly
were his recent Leah Kayajanian joke about her being afraid to sleep on couches
because her ancestors were raped by Ottomans (double-entendre), and one where he
said Tom Goss’ parents were like his belt – supporting a huge waste
(homophone). He’s also a master of writing killer rebuttals and figuring out a
way to use them at exactly the right time, even if they don’t always directly
counter what was said. His use of rebuttals has helped sway the crowd in
several battles, and in the process he has turned his most attackable features
and personality traits into assets.
Toby’s monotonous delivery has been a subject of scorn for
several judges in the past, even when he’s crushing up there. His one-note
delivery features very repetitive cadences and inflections and while I often
think that delivery lends itself to his performance (it makes him look like a
calculated and cerebral serial killer), the judges don’t always agree. Don’t
look for Toby to change anything this time around. His style has led him to a
5-3 record and a #11 overall rank, so clearly the positives have been enough to
outweigh the negatives.
Dan’s been one of the most active battlers on the scene for
a while now, and many wonder if that sometimes catches up to him. Ten battles
in ten months is an insane pace to write at, and Dan’s been relatively
inconsistent as a result. After jumping out to a 4-0 record, Dan has gone 3-3
(loss to Connor McSpadden, loss to Tom Goss, win against Alex Duong, win
against me, loss to David Derry, win against Leah Kayajanian). His performances
have ranged from decent to great, but he hasn’t displayed the dominance that he
did early on. Is this because of his heavy workload? There’s no way to tell for
sure, but it seems reasonable to assume it’s a possibility.
Toby’s got a couple of choices here. His best overall battle
in terms of competitiveness was probably the war that we waged in July of 2015,
but his recent wins over Keith Carey and Doug Fager have been more complete
performances on his end. We’ll go with the Carey battle that earned him a
Roastie for Biggest Upset of the Year. Toby put together a very strong
gameplan, attacking more angles than the standard Keith opponent. Great jokes
about Keith’s teeth, disappearing father, and, yeah, his weight. The closing
Kool-Aid Man joke was a room rocker and one that Keith couldn’t recover from.
Dan has a handful of impressive wins under his belt. His victory
over me had the bigger highlight (his insane closer) and it was the first time
I’d ever known on stage that I was about to lose, but his entire performance
against Leah was more impressive. It was thorough, it was clever, and it also
featured one of the only times I can remember Dan stepping outside the box and
taking a delivery in terms of risk (with his “I actually find Leah very
attractive… does that make me gay?” overtime joke). His double-OT win over the
Comedy Central star qualifies currently as his standout battle.
I polled a random cross-section of ten battlers to get their
opinions on the battle. Some (Leah) had faced both, some (Connor and Tom) had
faced one or the other, and one (Frank) actually lived with Dan for a bit.
Their responses are below.
Connor McSpadden –
“Toby is an unsung hero in Roast Battle, and trying to roast him is like
stabbing a glass of milk.”
Leah Kayajanian –
“Toby because he just keeps getting better and better and sneaking up the
ranks, and Dan is great, but a battle a month eventually is going to wear on
Tom Goss – “I
think it will be Toby by a nose. Toby’s as bland as he looks and Dan will have
to dig deep to hit multiple points on Toby and be incredibly creative. I also
think Toby is an underrated writer.”
Frank Castillo –
“Dan Nolan because he slept on my floor and he sleep Roast Battles all the
time. Also because it’s either this or heroin.”
Anna Valenzuela –
“I think Toby will be very prepared and Dan is burnt out. I vote Toby.”
Mark Stevens – “Dan
because he’s been battling so much lately that his writing is going to be so on
point where Toby is going to have some ring rust.”
Brent Duncan – “I
believe Toby will beat Dan, because he’s a more experienced & excellent
writer, and he’ll keep cool under Dan’s pressure.”
April Lotshaw – “My
pick is Toby, his joke writing against Doug Fager was incredible, and he’s
always got one more haymaker than you think in his pocket.”
Tony Alfano – “I’m
gonna go with Dan Nolan on this one because he always has jokes that connect
with the audience so it’s rare to see a bad joke.”
Alfred Konuwa – “Dan
Nolan because Roast Battle doesn’t test for Heroin…or pedophilia.”
The community is split almost evenly for this one, with Toby
holding a 6-4 advantage.
My prediction is that the FANS are going to win.
Nah, psyche, I’ll pick a real winner. I actually think that the “too many
battles” argument could work out FOR Dan this time. Toby is in the midst of a
brutal stretch of battles right now, something like four in two months (with
two of the fights happening on the Roast Wars show down in Temecula). For once,
Dan won’t be the overworked one in a battle, and that freshness could propel
him to victory. I expect a very tight fight, and one that could very well go to
overtime. Once it gets down to the “last joke” territory with the game still in
the balance, I like Dan to throw a heavier punch and escape with a narrow