by: Pat Barker

Keith Carey seems like the kind of guy who would
lose a lot of Roast Battles. The dude redefines the term “big target” – and that’s
not a fat joke, although it certainly could be. In addition to poor physical
health, Keith is a cornucopia of battle material – from a sordid family history
(there are a lot of drugs and stepdads involved; even a gangbang or two) to his
bisexuality and poor dental hygiene… Keith’s roastability is off the charts.
Fortunately for him, none of that matters when he’s firing on all cylinders. Keith
has proven time and time again that his writing is among the best to ever be
displayed in the Roast Battle ring. He saunters to the stage with supreme
confidence, withstands the best shots of his opponents, and fires back with
vicious and clever material.

If you make a list of your top five favorite
moments in the history of the show, there’s a good chance Keith Carey is
involved. His battle with Connor McSpadden earned him a Roastie for the Best
Battle of 2015, and his fights with Jay Light and Alex Hooper are both strong
candidates to get him the award for a second consecutive year. His surprise
battle with Earl Skakel was the stuff of legend, and his performances at the
Haters Table and in The Wave make him one of the most versatile assets the show
has. Tomorrow night, Keith and I will go to war. I’m expecting the hardest battle
of my life. In an effort to distract him from writing and rehearsing, I asked
him to do the Battler Spotlight. His answers below are fantastic, and I suspect
that his performance tomorrow will be another classic in a battle career that’s
already full of them.

Why do you
battle?

I love performing and being
a comic, but my first love has always been writing. Words are the strongest
thing in the world to me, and they’re the only thing that’s ever really made
sense. For as much gets made of the theatricality of Roast Battle, it is a
celebration of writing. There is such an art to writing a great roast joke.
There are rules, and there are cracks in those rules you can exploit. This is a
room where all the swagger and stagecraft in the world cannot save you if your
shit’s not tight. It is the great equalizer, a rare meritocracy in a pretty
arbitrary business. And on top of that, I’ve done a lot of shows in a lot of
places and there is nothing on earth that comes close to the feeling of being
in the Belly Room when the crowd is hot and hearing the chant start. It feels
like being a rock star, and in a life that is primarily a bunch of sensitive
wieners in coffee shops and empty bars desperately trying to be heard, it’s
fucking nice to get to be Axl Rose every once in a while.

What is
your favorite battle that you’ve ever been a part of?

It’s a tie between Connor
McSpadden and Joe Dosch. Connor is an unbelievable writer and is also one of my
best friends, and it was surreal that after years of shitting on each other to
kill time at mics, we got to do it in front of a hundred screaming people at the
Comedy Store. The battle with Joe was special on a few levels. Obviously the
fact that it was taped for TV was huge, and Joe’s somebody I’ve developed a
great friendship with fairly recently. We also fought just a few days after the
shooting in Orlando, and there was something empowering about being able to, in
a time that was really painful for us and a ton of LGBT people, get up and feel
strong instead of sad and afraid.

What is
the greatest joke anyone has used against you?

There’s been so many good
ones, but my favorite was probably Jay Light saying I “put the ‘gut’ in
‘faggot’” because it’s so mean but also oddly adorable. Honorable mention
to Connor McSpadden for, “Keith is half Samoan. Not the country, the Girl
Scout cookie.” The cute ones always sting a little more than the really
harsh ones for some reason.

What is
the most underappreciated joke you’ve ever told? One that didn’t work nearly as
well as you expected.

“If Jews control the
media, Toby Muresianu is in charge of the part with all the My Little Pony
fan-fiction.” I lost my mind when I wrote that, but it ate a hot dick.
That fight was probably my most experimental in terms of trying new kinds of
jokes, and even though I lost, I learned a lot about my strengths and
weaknesses. Plus Toby’s a monster, so no regrets on taking the L.

Describe the process of preparing for battle.

I write a ton of jokes. I try to not censor myself, because failures a lot of the time end up getting tweaked and becoming my best jokes. The most I ever wrote was 130 for Olivia Grace. Almost all of them were terrible. I’ll run the jokes by a panel of people I trust who have different styles, see where their opinions overlap, and then build a set list from there. Other than that, it’s a lot of listening to DMX and Black Flag and reciting my jokes alone in my apartment like a serial killer.

Who are
your favorite people to watch on nights where you’re not battling?

Connor McSpadden is my
favorite battler to watch, hands down. He has this remarkably smug energy
onstage and I love watching people hate themselves for loving him. Earl Skakel
is a national hero, and embodies everything wonderful about this show. I don’t
know how Jeremiah Watkins has the energy to do what he does so reliably. It’s
fucking breathtaking. And any time Mike Lawrence judges, the show gets 80%
better. His brain is as fast as his face is disgusting.

What was
your favorite Wave moment?

Watkins shaving his pubes
was insanity. I also loved when Haiti started feeding me cookies during my
fight with Stuart Thompson because now he does it every time I fight. Honestly
it’s most of the reason I battle so much. Shit’s delicious.

You decide to retire, but not before doing
three more battles. Who are the opponents?

Mike
Lawrence-Mike’s a great guy and a brutal comedian. I love his style because
it’s super intricate and different than any other battler, and I’d love to see
if I could fuck him up.

Tony
Hinchcliffe-Tony has given me so much great advice and help with battle. Not
just in terms of writing, but strategy, stage presence, delivery, etc. He’s
taught me stuff I use in my regular standup, and it would be an honor to kick
the piss out of my cruelty sensei.

Robin
Tran-Robin’s somebody I’ve been friends with for years, and to be transgendered
and sensitive and still get up and crush on this show takes huge balls (sorry).
She knows me so well she could really cut deep, and vice versa.

If you
could witness a Roast Battle between any two comics ever, who would you pick?

It’s almost cliche at this
point, but Jeff Ross versus Dave Attell. That would be the greatest fight of
all time. I’d also pay hot money for Chris Rock versus Dave Chappelle, Doug
Stanhope versus Jerry Seinfeld, and Marc Maron versus Chris Hardwick.

Should anything be off-limits in the Roast Battle?

I’ve had people ask me to leave certain things alone, and while I kind of disagree with it as a general rule, I’ll do it because I’m not a piece of shit. I think anything should be fair game, and if you’re not strong enough to hang with that then maybe you’re not ready for Roast Battle. That said, I haaaaaaaaate jokes that are about other people in someone’s life that don’t come back to the person at hand. If you’re gonna bring up a battler’s wife/kids/whatever, it shouldn’t be a straight burn on them. They’re not there to fight back, and it’s frankly lazy.

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