by Pat Barker
Alex Hooper’s second ascension to the #1 overall ranking was quicker than his first, but every bit as satisfying. He stepped into the ring with an undefeated record and the top spot last May and lost a split decision to Joe Dosch, but Hooper wouldn’t stay down long. He rebounded with a dominant victory over George Perez at the Dirty Dozen and followed it up with a hard-fought win over current #2 Keith Carey, running his record to 7-1. Last month’s main event triumph over current #3 Leah Kayajanian finished his run and catapulted him back to the top spot in the May rankings. Perhaps the most accomplished Roast Battle star of all time, Hooper took some time to field a few questions from VerbalViolence.TV.
Why do you battle?
Because everyone sucks and they deserve to know why. But really, I’m a nice person. I thrive on kindness, however, I still have negative thoughts that need to come out somewhere. Roast Battle is an amazing safe space where anything can be said and as long as it’s funny, it’s ok. I love showcasing my writing and my performance style. Also, I’ve come to enjoy hearing what other comics say about me. They have to get creative because at this point I’ve heard all the easy ones.
What is your favorite battle that you’ve ever been a part of?
My battle against Keith Carey was my favorite. It was so back and forth – there was no clear winner until the very end. He hit me so hard there were times I wasn’t sure I could recover. I’ve had a lot of great matches, but that one was really intense.
What is the greatest joke anyone has used against you?
Brendan Lynch said “Alex got his degree in theatre. I didn’t know Monsters University had a theatre department.” I love that because it’s silly and not mean. It’s a solid joke that’s creative and clever. Honorable mention to George Perez saying I look like a bouncer at a recycling center. That’s so bizarre and hilarious.
What is the most underappreciated joke you’ve ever told? One that didn’t work nearly as well as you expected.
Sometimes you love a joke and you know it’s not going to get the best reaction. But you do it anyway because you love it. Against Omid Singh, I said, “The people that find you funny are the same people that think Caitlyn Jenner is a beautiful woman.” Sometimes I go too deep into wordplay and even though I love the joke, it whimpers. But if you love something, set it free. If it comes back with dead stares and silence, kill yourself.
Describe your process of preparing for battle.
About three weeks prior I start writing jokes. The first four are usually great, then the next ten will suck. So I write 50-75 jokes for a main event. That way I’ll have at least 12 that I love. A week before I stop writing and accept what I have is good enough. Then I’ll take them to three or four mics, figure out which are the best, and arrange them in a general order with a few alternates thrown in. Then the day of, I repeat them. All day, in order. I’ve almost never stumbled on a joke because I say it 100 times that day. It’s a very high-pressure show. Professionals are watching, bookers are watching, your peers are watching, 1000 people on Periscope. I wanna look like I know what I’m doing and present the best version of myself. Last but not least, I try to have fun. I smile and react to everything. I let the room and the characters dictate how the show goes. I’m only a small part of a much bigger machine and I just want to be as funny as possible while I’m up there. I take this seriously, but in the end, it’s a game. And as long as you do well, you can’t lose.
Who are your favorite people to watch on nights where you’re not battling?
Omid Singh, Olivia Grace, and Keith Carey are my favorite battlers. Their jokes are intelligent, weird, and straight killers. Earl at the haters table yelling “Let’s see you do better you fucking open mikers” always cracks me up. Overall, Jeremiah and Jamar. The two of them have a chemistry and lack of humility when it comes to doing act outs. I write jokes knowing they will make the Wave go crazy. What makes Roast Battle so good is the cast of characters. If jokes aren’t good, other pieces will save it. Whether it’s the Haters table, judges, Moses – something will bring it all together and make you happy to be in the audience. Everyone has a part of making this crazy circus.
You decide to retire, but not before doing three more battles. Who are the opponents?
Go big or go home. I have a rule in battling. I won’t do it unless I’m absolutely positive the opponent can beat me. If you aim high, your writing will improve, you’ll take it more seriously. You should want to go back and forth. You want people that will challenge you. Think of sports. Do you want to see a slaughter or a back and forth match where you are never sure who is going to win? Those are the best. That being said, I would want Dave Attell, Bill Burr, and Britney Spears (when she was bald.)
If you could witness a Roast Battle between any two comics ever, who would you pick?
Imagine if we could do this any time. Like Bernie Mac vs. Bill Hicks. Jim Carrey vs. Sam Kinison. Brilliant minds that work completely different from each other going head to head with their style and antics. Demetri Martin vs. Steven Wright. I could do this all day.
Should anything be off-limits in the Roast Battle?
I’ve said some things I wish I hadn’t said. Blogs were written, people were angry. In the moment, I felt it was right. Roast Battle is safe and I’ve said things there I would have never said otherwise. That being said, the only thing that should be off limits are jokes about family members and significant others. You’re roasting the comedian, not their family. I personally think battlers should discuss boundaries and respect each other.