by Dan Nolan, photos by Troy Conrad

It’s another packed night in the Belly Room. The door
guys remain on high alert, not letting attendance go too far beyond capacity
for sustained fears of a surprise appearance by the fire marshal. Dozens of comics,
including even top ten battlers, are turned away at the door once maximum
occupancy is reached. Some manage to talk their way in eventually, while others
watch the Periscope feed on their cell phones from the back patio, or even
their cars parked down the street.

The preshow lineup is light, and on top of that we lose our
first fight of the night to another new phenomenon: first-time battlers showing
up late in an attempt to get on the second, “better” part of the show. One
doubts a comic might risk missing check-in for their first appearance on any
other of L.A.’s hottest comedy shows, like The Meltdown or Comedy Juice, so
why should Roast Battle be any different? You don’t weigh in, you don’t
wrassle. Regardless, our judging panel of six veteran comedians would
alone be more than enough to keep us entertained past closing time.

Following the preshow we jump right into it, and the full
panel of judges is quickly assembled. Bryan Vokey is brought up first for our
premiere undercard of the evening. He’s schlubbily dressed in an all black
ensemble of baggy T-shirt and poorly-fitting jeans. He remains cool through
his intro, and Ken Garr follows with far greater confidence and flare.
Introductions are made and we launch right into the jokes.

“Ken looks like Elmer Fudd, which explains why when he’s on
stage, the audience is vewwy vewwy quiet.”

“Bryan got himself discharged from the Army so he could take
care of his sick mother, who then immediately discharged her soul from the
earth.”

“That joke was longer than her cancer battle, by the way.” 

Ken’s dead mom joke lands the coveted “oh shit” reaction it
deserves but Bryan strikes back hard, nailing it with the off-the-cuff comeback. Ken opts to follow suit with an improvised jab of his own.

“Sorry about giving her HPV.”

Ken’s attempt falls flat, and Bryan opts to simply deliver
his next joke.

“All of Ken’s brothers are firefighters, and even they
couldn’t save him from burning his marriage to the ground.”

“Bryan, you look like you ran out of heroin 12 hours ago.”

 Bryan puts a match to the room and Ken pours gas on top of
it. Both jokes explode back to back and suddenly Ken’s in good shape again.

“Ken’s ex-wife is just like his acting career. Always
getting fucked by younger talent.”

“They say a person’s tattoos tell their story. Bryan’s story
is called ‘dead moms can’t parent.’”

The matchup is felt as an all-around incredible start to the
evening. Ken’s last joke is met with silence, and the victory is clearly for Vokey,
but the evening is headed in the right direction.

Kayla Rosenberg has an unassuming stage presence. She stands
her ground, even once the impossible-not-to-love Sameer Suri is brought up and
the two withstand a barrage of pure fire from the dais, Mike Lawrence in particular
cementing his status not only as world champion but as the rightful winner of
this year’s “best judge” Roastie award.

 “They look like they masturbate to different Macklemore
songs”

 After a full five minutes of straight heat, it becomes time
to hear from the actual battlers.

“Kayla’s suicide attempt was like her last set. It failed,
but sweetie we’re all pulling for you next time.”

“Sameer’s voting for Donald trump. I hope they let you
decorate the wall before they shoot you up against it.”

“Kayla is the only girl whose offspring would look cuter if
they got Zika.”

“Sameer the only way you’ll ever headline is if you rape
someone in the country you fled to.”

The match is more or less a dead heat with maybe a slight
advantage to Kayla until Sameer makes a major misstep after Moses calls “last
joke.”

“Kayla is a Jew and a whore. The 6th pillar of
Islam is the pole they’ll hang you from.” 

The room is silent, and quickly quelling any fears that
maybe we’d all gone deaf a moment, Moshe Kasher interjects:

“Not a religious studies crowd?”

The room pops hard, and Kayla drives home the win with her
final quip.

“Sameer’s fucked so many foreign men, his asshole whistles,
‘It’s a Small World After All.’”

There’s an eruption, the wave breaks out, and Kayla’s hand
is raised in victory after a decisive vote, though there’s still plenty of love
in the room for Sameer. The two head off stage as friends, gushing together over
their hilarious cracks they each made about the other.

Opening our second set of undercards is Jordan Perry and
Josh Waldron in either a race war, or battle of the sexes, depending on who you
ask about Josh.

Writing what has to be the world’s only weekly blog about a
free comedy show is sort of a thankless job. It can take hours to transcribe
jokes, narrate them with a play-by-play, and offer opinion and criticism when
and where necessary. The part that takes up the most time, though – speaking
from my own experience – is wording things carefully to try not to come off as
an asshole. This was never exactly a major concern for Josh Waldron, though, and
we all more or less loved to hate him for it.

Before there was a podcast or a TV show, The Report was
Roast Battle’s first sideshow. Every week, Josh would write the preview and the
recap. It’s kept a record of some of the show’s biggest moments and best jokes
for the annals of comedy history, served as a sort of program guide for our
celebrity judges to peruse before the show to see what’s in store, for the wave
and haters to get a glimpse at what’s coming in preparation, was a platform to
display the incredible photography of Troy Conrad. Best of all, the blog just made it
easier to be a fan of this incredible show. That being said, it’d be hard to
characterize Josh’s tone in writing it as anything less than “bitchy.”

When the new Verbal Violence content team was formed, a
number of Josh’s signature features for the blog went to the wayside without
even a single discussion. No one asked if we should keep picking winners and
losers of fights before they happened, or ranking battles on a scale of one to
five flame emojis. The narrative viewpoint of recaps shifted from first person
closer to third, and the critiques of failed battles became more diagnostic
than outright vicious and seemingly personal as a lot of Josh’s posts read. It’s
that cattiness that likely cost Josh a great deal of love in the Roast Battle
arena, and the feeling is palpable when he steps on stage.

Jordan Perry is brought up first declaring his pleasure in
battling “one of the top women in comedy,” and even with Josh offstage, the
joke lands strong enough to give a feel for the back of the room’s temperature
toward him. Mike Lawrence opens the kimono, laying into Josh before he can even
open his mouth.

“Josh is proof why confidence can be a terrible thing
sometimes.”

After a round of solid slams from the VIP section, we move
right into the jokes with Josh taking the first swing. 

“Jordan Perry is a real N-word in the comedy scene. By that
I mean ‘nobody.’”

“Josh just got his first television credit at 29, which is
great because it’s real hard for women over 30 to make it in comedy.”

“My comedy did get me on AGT, Jordan’s comedy can’t even get
him on EBT.”

“Josh is Mexican, so he has a wet back, but only when it’s
raining men.”

“Jordan’s so bad at Twitter, the only way he’ll ever be
trending is if he puts his hands up during a traffic stop.”

“Some people say Josh is gay, but everyone says he’s a
faggot.” 

Neither battler has a bomb, though nor do they bust the room
open with any line. Both deliver their jokes confidently and get solid
reactions. This is still not enough for Mike Lawrence, though, as he lays into
Josh one more time, almost completely disregarding Jordan Perry’s presence:

“Josh, you put the ‘hacky’ in ‘khakis.’ You had to
abbreviate ‘America’s Got Talent’ to get your only laugh. You got fired from an
unpaid comedy blog.” 

The laughter and applause is deafening from the back of the
room. After an awkward pause to wonder why shit got so real, the audience vote
is tight, with plenty of decibels reached for both competitors, though not
definitive in any direction, and the match is declared a tie. Not quite the
wonderful “everyone wins” sort of tie, but not the “booed off stage to a ‘we
all lose’ chant” tie, either. Just a “you guys were both okay,” kind of tie.

After another break, we peak for the night with our final
special event undercard of Keith Carey versus Robin Tran.

Mike Lawrence accuses Robin of transitioning from an Asian
man into a Jewish librarian, while Moshe Kasher asks Keith if he got is pants
from Hot Dog Topic, and with some more back in forth we’re onto what’s already
a solid contender for next year’s “Best Undercard” Roastie award.

“Look, I know every Asian comic does an impression of their
mother on stage, but I feel like Robin is taking it a little too far.”

“Keith is really in terrible shape. The only time he’s ever been cut was from
Comedy Central’s ‘Road to Roast Battle.’”

“I am very fat, but look at Robin’s cheeks. At least when
she chops her nuts off she’ll have somewhere to store them for the winter.”

“Keith’s ex girlfriend went on a date with Quincy Jones,
because she wanted to date someone who would outlive you.”

“First of all, that being said I wasn’t aware the
Make-A-Wish foundation extended to my sloppy seconds, and secondly, speaking of
my ex-girlfriend, when you first came out as a woman, you got most of your
clothes from her, meaning the funniest material you’ve ever had was
dry-cleaning my cum off that dress you’re wearing.”

Keith, opting for the longer New York style of roast joke, gets only a lukewarm response. Moshe sums it up best before Robin continues:

 “You should’ve transitioned into a better joke.”

“Keith you’re always patting yourself on the back. And while
you’re back there, can you wash it?”

“Robin transitioned and became a feminist blogger. Cuz if
anyone understands the plight of the modern woman it’s someone who’s been one
for, like, 6 months.”

“Keith once broke the doorframe of his closet when he tried to hang himself.
Keith, you are literally a fat failure from a broken home who should have
stayed in the closet.”

“Some people say transgender rights are a slippery slope.
But with Robin’s greasy Asian face, she is literally a slippery slope.”

“On 9/11, Keith missed a flight that crashed into the World
Trade Center. Which means he is personally responsible for killing the two
people who took his seat.”

Despite the one whiff earlier, Keith has fully recovered by
the end of the match. Robin’s closing joke, though, is hot enough to melt steal
beams, and the judges unanimously vote for her.

With another brief recess, we’re back in action. Wub Savell
returns to the main event stage after a string of undercard successes. Omid is
back after a tough and utterly shocking one-round flameout with his good buddy
Robbie Kirkhuff. Omid’s battle persona is always deeply relaxed,
as his jokes lend themselves to a sort of carefree, goofy style. Tonight,
though, what he seems to be lacking is presence. He just doesn’t seem to be
enjoying himself up there as he has in the past. Wub is just as laid back but
in a way that reads more as confidence. Both battlers fire off their first
round jokes. 

“Wub thinks he’s cool because he hangs out with black people
and knows Kung Fu.” They just think he Jew, doe.”

“Omid is the only one in his family in show business, but
his cousin is famous for shooting a pilot.”

“You look like Harry Potter if he never went to Hogwarts.”

“I’m a Jew, and I have less hair on my entire body than Omid
has on the tip of his penis.”

“Wub is white like yogurt. The only difference is he lacks
culture.”

“Omid loves drugs, maybe a little too much. He’s done drugs
so much, he doesn’t even remember the last time he dropped acid…on a woman’s
face.”

The jokes are fine, and nothing is really met without any
reaction, though Wub’s hair joke gets a delayed response, and Omid visibly
groans at the acid joke, like he’s already heard it used against himself and
Ramsey Badawi enough times before. The judges refuse to even vote, with Mike
Lawrence commenting that there’s nothing worse than a Roast Battle that’s just
okay. For the most fun, the jokes are either really good or really bad, but
when they land right down the middle, no one on the sidelines is left with much
to work with. A push is declared and we’re forced into a guaranteed third round.

“Wub was dating a stripper, but they broke up because she
was getting more stage time. They dated for two whole songs.”

“Wub dates a lot of black girls because they think he can lower their rent.”

“Wub has a lot of game for someone who looks like he lives
at a community college.”

“It’s not that I have a thing for black girls, Omid. It’s
just that I’m a jew and those are the kind you had on sale.”

“Omid has a bunch of tattoos, but if he took his shirt of
it’d look like they’re all censored for television.”

“Omid smells so bad that chicks gag on his cock before it’s
in their mouth.”

This time the judges are definitive in Omid’s favor. Wub’s
closing joke is a room-rocker, but his first two still
felt stale, while Omid hits consistently throughout his entire barrage of shots
at Wub’s love life. Our third and final round comes quickly, as Omid seems
somewhat rejuvenated by the win.

“The only way Omid is gonna get on the wall at The Comedy
Store is if his vest explodes when he’s sitting on the patio.”

“Wub looks like if he bagged groceries, he would talk to you
too much.”

“The last time Omid saw a woman’s clit, he was removing it.”

“Wub is jobless, he’s the only Jew who’s not good at an
occupation. Any occupation; comedy, lawyer, Palestine…”

“Omid is so ugly when chicks fuck him, they put a bag over
their own head. A plastic one.”

“Wub wants to be black so bad, he asked a cop to shoot him.”

The third round, as is the norm for Roast Battle, has all
the strongest jokes. The decision remains definitive, though, that this was Omid’s
fight, and the night closes with one of our finest assembled judges panels
engaging in a Roast Royal Rumble against each other. It’s a fitting close to a
night that felt like it brought Roast Battle back to all the better aspects of
its Belly Room roots, with more of our favorite and familiar faces back
squaring off against each other. We’ll be back next week.

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 every Tuesday if you can’t catch the verbal violence in person. Thank you for reading, and thanks as always to our sponsor SpeedWeed.

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