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by Pat Barker

Roast Battle is a
sport, at least in my mind. It’s competitive. There’s strategy. You play
defense. You study game film of your opponent so you know what to expect when
you get in the ring. So if we’re operating under this premise, it would follow
that the elite battlers are like athletes. Alex Hooper is Marshawn Lynch, a
freight train just trying to barrel his way through his opponents. Joe Dosch is
Steph Curry, someone who takes complex shots and makes them look easy. Keith
Carey is Giancarlo Stanton, swinging for the fences every single time and
connecting for home runs quite often. And Olivia Grace? Olivia Grace is like
Tiger Woods, hopefully minus the part where she bangs a bunch of Perkins
waitresses and her career spirals out of control. 

See, Woods was the one making
putts on national TV when he was two years old and winning PGA events when he
was 12. And then when he was 18, he just started kicking the shit out of
everyone on the tour. Sounds a lot like Olivia. She stepped in the battle ring
for the first time as a teenager, and easily started mowing down the competition.
Her debut battle against Matt Cole was fire; her next one against Tom Goss was
even better than that. Her win over Sina Amedson couldn’t be topped, at least
until a few months later when she decimated Ashley Barnhill en route to being
the star of the Roast Battle documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. Add in
classics with Keith Carey, Leah Kayajanian, and Earl Skakel, and you have as
complete a resume as possible after only seven battles. This Tuesday
Olivia/Leah Part II goes down at The Comedy Store, and Comedy Central will be
on hand to record the carnage. Before then, Olivia took some time to tell
VerbalViolence.TV how her battling style has been shaped by Jeff Ross, Joan
Rivers, and her mom.

Why do you battle?

I initially got into roasting after I
roasted a friend for his birthday and had a really good time doing it. After
that, I heard about the Roast Battle at the Store and wanted to try it. After
my first battle against Matt Cole, I became hooked. There’s something addicting
about the energy in the Belly Room – it affects people in a deep way. I also
enjoy the challenge of the show – it’s a joke writing showcase. When you do
stand-up, you can talk about literally anything and everything in any way you
choose at any time you want, but I like the idea of being given one topic – like
another human being – and having to pick it completely apart. 

Which brings me to
my final answer: I think I truly just enjoy the ebb and flow of sadism and
masochism that goes into a good battle. You have to be self-aware, know your
flaws and own them, and find joy in being verbally assaulted, but you also have
to be just sadistic enough to find glee in throwing crucifying jabs at someone
else. Truthfully speaking, at least for me for me, there’s a release from
analyzing someone else’s flaws instead of my own for a change.

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

The battle with Leah
Kayajanian where we tied was my favorite battle. I respect her so much as a
comic and a person. I think together we put on a really good show. Neither of
us had a joke that fell flat and I don’t think it could’ve gone better.

What is the greatest joke anyone has used against you?

Earl Skakel said, “Olivia’s breath is so bad it smells like she
brushes her teeth with her pussy.” It’s my favorite joke for several reasons.
It’s as silly as it is mean, it’s multi-layered, and it’s fucking totally true.
I have terrible breath because I smoke like a million cigarettes a day and my
gums are always bleeding oh god I’m going to die help me.

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

One joke that really stands out is “Leah’s pussy is more battered than
her pancake tits.” It was one of those jokes that I really had my heart set on
and I was so stubborn about it. I thought it was gonna be a haymaker but it got
the least reaction of all my jokes.

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Describe the process of preparing for battle.

It’s usually just full-blown panic up until I’m on stage and my first joke lands. I try to write as much as possible, send my jokes to my friends and fellow roasters, and then run them at open mics. I love that all we all help each other so much. I’ve made so many friends through this show. Also, believe it or not, but my mom is HUGE help. I tell her all my jokes and if she doesn’t laugh, I won’t use it. She’s a harsh critic of roast jokes since she and I would watch roasts together when I was growing up. She’s a huge fan of all the Dean Martin Roasts, and she LOVES Jeff Ross and Joan Rivers, who are both known for their ability to tear people apart. I wouldn’t be as involved in roasting as I am if it weren’t for her exposing me to such good comedy so early. 

I LOVE YOU MOM ARE YOU PROUD OF ME YET?! 

My dad is dead to me but he just paid for my car insurance so don’t tell him I said that.

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

This goes
without saying but I just love it when Jeff Ross is judging. He is funny and
cutting when he needs to be, but also very sincere. It’s clear that he cares
deeply for the show and everyone involved and always seems like he’s having
such a great time.

What was your favorite Wave moment?

Sina made a joke about me getting sexually assaulted by a black dude,
then Haiti jumped onstage and proposed to me with a ring pop. Then Sina said,
“Oh that must be causing some PTSD for you…” It was just one of those moments
where a bunch of stuff came together at once and everyone was so quick. It’s
hard to be “in-the-moment” as a battler for me, so it was cool how that shit
just kinda came together.

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

I would really like
to take on Doug Fager, because his jokes have so many layers and he thinks in
such unique ways and I just love his writing style. I would also go up against
Pete C because he always says the most real shit about people, and is so
unfiltered. I think it’s because he doesn’t necessarily care if he hurts your
feelings or his career since he doesn’t really wanna be a comedian. I’d be
curious to hear what he would say. 

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Lastly, I’d love to rematch with Earl Skakel
in the Belly Room. The last time we battled was at Riot Festival LA in a big
theater, and it would be neat to try it again in the Roast Battle home base
where we could sling more inside jokes. Also, he and I were a couple when we
battled. Now that we’re not together (don’t worry, we’re friends, I’m not a
monster) I think we would come up with all kinds of new stuff to dislike about
each other, and hold back way less.

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

I would love to see
Joan Rivers battle literally anybody. Enough said.

Should anything be off-limits in the Roast Battle?

Not necessarily, but if you’re battling someone and they ask you not to talk about this thing or that thing, then don’t. It’s a joke writing contest, not a crush-someone’s-soul-like-an-empty-box-of-Raisinettes contest. No need to throw someone’s private life under the bus to show how much of a soulless badass motherfucker you are – that defeats the purpose. If someone tells me not to write a joke about something in their life they haven’t dealt with yet, or they need to keep private for family reasons or whatever, I try to respect that. I always remind myself, if I really am a halfway decent joke writer, then I can come up with a joke about something else. 

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