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by Dan Nolan

Roast Battle is more than just a weekly show; it’s a spectacle of comedy subculture. It’s a celebration of free speech, a proving ground and showcase for up-and-coming comics, and a safe space for performers to take ownership over all their faults and insecurities and to overcome them with wit. Or, conversely, a chance for over-eager open-mikers to bite off more than they can chew, and completely eat shit in front of their entire community because they don’t know how to write a goddamn joke. That’s the rub, but it’s also where the magic of the show is. It’s open to anyone, and when you step into the ring, you risk public humiliation for the chance to feel like a rockstar for one night.

As we move toward summer, and toward the show’s television debut in July, our dance cards are becoming more and more filled with battles set to rock the Belly Room. Tonight’s five-fight program features some new battlers, some old, some elderly, and a Main Event debut for two undefeated veterans of the undercards.

Let’s take a look at tonight’s judges’ panel!

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Benji Aflalo is a favorite at the judges’ table, and an accomplished roaster, having written for the Comedy Central roasts of Justin Bieber and James Franco. We also have Shang Forbes returning to the panel! If you’re not familiar with Shang, here’s an interesting fact about him: he follows you on Twitter! Seriously. Go check. He does, right? Isn’t that fucking weird? Shang has also judged before, so he knows what he’s doing amidst the chaos of the Belly Room. Rounding things out is everybody’s favorite Roastmaster General, Jeff Ross! It’s always electrifying having Jeff in the room during Roast Battle, and with tonight’s Main Event debut, his insight will surely be appreciated.

In our first undercard of the evening, “Boston Strong” Brent Duncan (3-2, Unranked) makes his return to face off against Ray Garrett (0-0, Unranked)!

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Judging by these pictures, it’s time to break out the vape pens and the way-too-tight T-shirts. We’ve got ourselves a good ol’ fashioned douche fight! Brent Duncan’s record stretches back to the early days of Roast Battle, with long breaks between bouts. He’s a good dude and a comedy friend who recently made a return to the ring at the end of last year with a solid win over Raab, who we’ll also be seeing back in the undercards tonight. I don’t believe I’ve met Ray, but we have three mutual friends on Facebook, and one of them is Pat Barker, so we could be in for a real treat..

In our next undercard we have the return of both Madison Sinclair (1-1, Unranked) and Sarah Keller (0-0-1, Unranked) to see who will be crowned Miss Roast Battle USA!

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It looks like Donald Trump just started booking the undercards. These two gals have both put in top-notch undercard performances in the past: Madison with her recent huge win over my good friend Lindsey Jennings (2-2, Unranked), and Sarah with an equally impressive tie against my buddy and next opponent David Deery (0-1-2, #38). Whoever wins this one, I’m guessing Steve Harvey will incorrectly say it was the other one. That’s another beauty pageant joke. Because they’re pretty ladies!

Next up in the undercards it looks like Santa Claus is set to have it out with his least favorite elf. It’s Dave Neiker (0-1, Unranked) versus Scott Boxenbaum (1-1, Unranked)!

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I like both these guys. Dave is coming off a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and has only battled once before, fairly recently with what I recall was a pretty solid loss against my favorite open mic host, Ken Garr, a few moths back. Scott has battled before, including a loss to Harry Moroz in what is remembered as a really great undercard way back at the beginning of 2015.

Next up is Dana Snow (0-0, Unranked) vs Raab (1-3, Unranked)!

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I. Fucking. Love. These. Two. This battle, along with the Main Event, are the two I’ve been most looking forward to. Does that mean it’s going to be a great battle? Not necessarily, but Raab and Dana are two of my favorites to see around at open mics. Raab is a really funny, sweet, genuine dude, and Dana Snow is too goddamn delightful for words. Raab’s got a losing record, but among his losses is one against former roast battle champion and current guy-whose-couch-I-live-on, Frank Castillo back in the erliest days of Roast Battle. Dana snow has a very classic, golden-age style of standup, and some of his one-liners are among my favorite that I’ve ever heard. He’s also been doing standup for longer than almost all the other comics this evening. As long as the audience doesn’t write Dana off at the start by mistaking his presence for the return of Steven Allen Green, I think everyone’s in for a treat with these two.

And finally, closing out the evening we’ve got Quentin Moscaritolo (3-0, #22) vs. Tony Bartolone (3-0, #23)!

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Both undefeated, and with quality undercard performances. Tonight, one of these two – both undefeated, and with quality undercard performances – will have take their first loss, but both have earned their spots on the stage and in the rankings with great undercard battles. These motherfuckers can write jokes. Quentin is from Orange County, as are about a third of all our top battlers, and he has handily defeated each of his past opponents. Tony Bartolone is a friend of mine, and has had equally great showings in all his battles. Both are equally roastable, but have been able to overcome past opponents with great comebacks.

Follow @RoastBattle on Twitter for all the latest updates, check out our Instagram and Facebook pages for the latest pictures from the impeccable Troy Conrad, and watch live on Periscope at 11:30 PST if you can’t catch the verbal violence in person. Let’s roast!

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