by Pat Barker
If there were a Roast Battle Hall of Fame, they’d be putting the finishing touches on Jay Light’s plaque as we speak. Jay is not just a murderer in the ring, but also a vital part of the Roast Battle team outside of it. Whether it’s running the Periscope feed weekly, contributing to VerbalViolence.TV, or helping host Brian Moses with booking and organizing cards, Jay’s contributions are many. With that being said, let’s get back to the murdering in the ring. Jay has made a lasting impression on his opponent, audience members, and comedy legends. Jay’s beaten Frank Castillo in front of Dave Chappelle and Doug Fager in front of Jim Carrey, which is an impressive enough resume in and of itself. But Jay isn’t one to rest on his laurels – since then he had what is widely considered the best battle in the show’s history with Keith Carey. This Tuesday he steps back onto the Belly Room stage to go to war with Tom Goss. Jay took a brief break from his prep to talk to VerbalViolence.TV about earning accolades from Chappelle, his reverence for the All-Terrorist Wave, and why George Carlin would be going to war in his dream Roast Battle.
Why do you battle?
I got into the Roast Battle because I wanted to see if I could even do it. Not that I doubted my joke writing abilities, but I never thought that being mean was in my wheelhouse. I’ve always had a reputation of being friendly and for some reason I was afraid it would be tarnished if I did the show – though that was just more of me allowing myself to be a pushover and not take risks. Actually doing it for the first time helped me get over that fear. I continue to do Roast Battle because it helps me remember that while being able to perform is an important skill to have as a comic, there’s nothing more crucial than being a strong writer.
What is your favorite battle that you’ve ever been a part of?
That’d be me versus Frank Castillo. At the time, we were roommates, and we decided that we were going to work on jokes together, which was basically unheard of at that point. We didn’t even tell people we were doing it until after things were all said and done. Frank is the reason I’m even involved in the show to begin with and our battle was crazy fun. Dave Chappelle showed up to judge that night and later had us reprise our battle to open for him at one of his shows, so battling Frank wound up giving me two awesome battles for the price of one.
What is the greatest joke anyone has used against you?
Close call between these two:
“I’m not saying Jay’s racist, but every time he sees his lips in the mirror, he calls the police.” – Keith Carey
“Jay, my grandparents love your comedy. But that’s because they think you’re Billy Big Mouth Bass.” – Doug Fager
What is the most underappreciated joke you’ve ever told? One that didn’t work nearly as well as you expected.
Against Kim Congdon: “Kim dropped out of the University of Florida. Now her waistline is Gainesville.”
The joke hit, but I had another joke with the same setup and a different punchline that I used in round 1. I should have swapped the two. The first joke wasn’t a fat joke and I got clobbered by the judges for not having enough variety. If I’d made the switch I doubt they would have said anything.
Describe the process of preparing for battle.
As soon as I have an opponent set, I start researching. I Google the fuck out of them, scour their social media, watch any video footage of them I can find, and listen to podcasts they’ve appeared on. If the timing works out, I try to meet up with them in person so we can give each other dirt. This show, like all great comedy, works best if you’re willing to give up your ego and get vulnerable. Then, I compile a list of facts about my opponent, because I was once told that every fact is a setup. I write as many potential punchlines as possible based on what I know. A week before, I’ll start running jokes at mics, whittling down until I get to the best material. I take the jokes that have hit the hardest and structure an order from there. The night of a battle, I always listen to “Time” by Pink Floyd before I go on stage. Something about that guitar solo puts me in the right mindset. Then I think “have fun” and head out there with a smile.
Who are your favorite people to watch on nights where you’re not battling?
Dan Nolan and Omid Singh are two of my favorite battlers, with some of the most creative joke writing in the game. Sina Amedson as the Saudi Prince was a revelation the first time he sat at the Hater’s table and continues to be one of my favorite recent additions to the show. And there are few things that can top the genius of Earl Skakel.
What was your favorite Wave moment?
I forget whose battle it was during, but when they ripped open a pillow and shook the feathers out all over the Belly Room. I always think the Wave is a non-stop geyser of gold (even though I always have to clean up the horrific mess they make) but the blizzard of goose down left me awestruck. A close second is when the All-Terrorist Wave debuted and made the first of many 9/11 jokes. That was when I knew this show was something special.
You decide to retire, but not before doing three more battles. Who are the opponents?
Joe Dosch, George Perez, and Sarah Tiana.
If you could witness a Roast Battle between any two comics ever, who would you pick?
I’d love to see a George Carlin/Mitch Hedberg battle, solely for the off-the-wall jokes that I know those two would come up with. I also think a battle between Greg Giraldo, who is easily one of the best roasters to ever live, and Patrice O’Neal, who had one of my favorite Comedy Central Roast sets of all time, would be phenomenal.
Should anything be off-limits in the Roast Battle?
No. I’ll write jokes about anything. If someone I’m battling doesn’t want me to make jokes on a topic, I’ll respect their wishes, but the whole point of the show is that it’s no-holds-barred. After my battle with Doug Fager, a girl I was seeing got mad at me because she thought that it was heinous that I would make jokes involving his dead brother – but Doug knew those were coming! He’d had jokes made about it during his earlier battles and even had comebacks ready for me on the subject. It’s not like I was pulling the rug out from under him. If you can’t handle the possibility of someone making a joke about a touchy subject, then Roast Battle simply isn’t for you.