by Pat Barker
Go to an open mic in Los Angeles. Or New York. Or pretty much anywhere. You’ll see people at all different stages of their comedic development, but the majority will be still be working to find their “voice”. It can take a long time and a lot of mics to figure out exactly what makes you unique on stage. Unless you’re Tom Goss. Then, the psych wards, suicide attempts, and heavy medications did it for you. You just grab a microphone and tell your story. In a world with a lot of manufactured personas, Goss is the real deal. He’s figured out a way to channel his crazy past (which he detailed remarkably on David Taylor’s “Until I Lose Interest” podcast, an episode I highly recommend) into hilarious standup that he’s taken all over America, a recurring guest role on the critically acclaimed “Mean Boys” podcast, and, yes, a phenomenal string on Roast Battles. The latest chapter in his Roast Battle story takes place tonight as he battles former Roast Battle champion Frank Castillo. In this interview, he details his prep process, talks about a couple of his classic fights, and names his favorite Wave moment as one that caused physical pain to a friend of his.
Why do you battle?
I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately but I think it’s mainly that I enjoy competition and maybe the abuse too.
What’s your favorite battle that you’ve ever been a part of?
My battle with Sina Amedson. It was my third battle and I still haven’t hit the same level of explosion off the jokes and I wasn’t expecting it. It went to two overtimes, and maybe that’s why I battle is to chase that fight.
What is the greatest joke anyone has used against you?
In reference to the psych meds I’ve been on Alex Duong said “Why does it look like every side effect that CAN happen HAS happened.” And I thought it was so simple, hilarious, and accurate.
What is the most underappreciated joke you’ve ever told? One that didn’t work nearly as well as you expected.
In hindsight of all my battles all the jokes that didn’t go over well or were under appreciated were under appreciated because of my delivery or timing. I think when jokes you like bomb its usually because you’re fucking something up that isn’t on the writing end. When people hear your jokes on stage they don’t just remember your writing they remember the energy, timing, and intent you’re delivering with. So no under appreciated jokes in my opinion but a lot of jokes I’ve fucked up from my own presence, and would love to go back in time to see if they worked if I said them differently.
Should any topic be off limits?
I think that comes down to the battlers. No topic should be off limit as a general rule, but there are plenty of people who have gone through things that they don’t want to talk about it. I think its up to the two battlers to talk about boundaries before too much writing prep starts for the battle. And if the two battlers disagree on whether something’s off limits they shouldn’t battle. The battles should always come from a place of respect.
Who are your favorite people to watch on nights where you’re not battling?
There are so many that I want to talk about but Earl Skakel at the haters table can be tough to top. I’ve done the haters table multiple times and almost every time I was greeted with mind blowing failure. People don’t understand how difficult it is to find the timing at that table. When Earl gets in the zone he performs with this mixture of both seamless ease and punk rock “I don’t give a fuck” attitude, and it’s so much fun to watch you don’t really notice how much he pushes the show and keeps it going when energy is getting weird
What was your favorite Wave moment?
There are a lot but I loved it when the All Terrorist Wave got to go up, and in the middle of the battle threw a shoe that hit my friend Ramsey Badawi in the throat. I also loved it when Haiti started giving Keith Carey cookies in a round 2, but I changed my mind when he pulled the same bit on me.
You decide to retire, but not before doing three more battles. Who are the opponents?
Keith Carey, Joe Dosch, and Earl Skakel. I’m battling Keith December but all three I consider good friends, good comics, and the best battlers. Even if I lost to all three I’d be very excited to be in the fight. (Keith I will be battling in December.)
If you could witness a Roast Battle between any two comics ever, who would you pick?
Dave Chappelle and Neal Brennan. If you don’t know why you’re a fucking moron.
Describe the process of preparing for battle.
Constantly write, and just see the jokes consistently get better. I’m not good at this; any success I have battling is because I worked hard on the jokes, not because I think naturally in Roast Jokes. I wrote 158 jokes for Jay Light and if I used any of the first 60 jokes i used I wouldn’t have gotten a single laugh. Waking up in the morning having a coffee and writing garbage is vital for me. I write so much garbage, but if I don’t write the garbage I can’t get to the nuggets I want for the battle. I also go on walks and hikes and try to write, something about movement helps me come up with stuff. I have specific mics Ill run them at and try to never over run roast jokes. I have specific playlists of music I listen to before every battle throughout the day, but most of my preparation is me having little anxiety attacks in the weeks leading up to the battle.