by Dan Nolan, photos by Troy Conrad

Tuesday night at Roast Battle was an evening full of mild
upsets with each of our four battles pitting a more well-received – or at least
more experienced – battler against either a new opponent or a scrappy
up-and-comer.

First up in the undercards, Las Vegas’ Byron Stout bounds to
the stage, plopping himself down on the stool. It’s an always-off-putting sight
for the audience when you’re there in a performance-based competition to tell a
total of three jokes you generally had about two months to prepare. The seated
roast battler is historically one of two things: either aggressively
overconfident, or paralyzed with fear. The latter seems to be the case in
this instance.

Stout stares blankly, the weight of the room crashing into
him. The Roast Battle arena is an odd one, and not for it’s volume. All told,
the theater it calls home is built for a meager 74 seats, but often houses
close to twice that with the standing room section, and VIP seating doubled up
on in the balcony. It’s that density that makes it unlike any other room in all
of comedy. The crammed together comics along the back wall clamor for blood,
and it’s more than enough to throw off even a seasoned professional, which – in
this moment – Byron Stout seems anything but.

As Stout sits, mouth agape, unable to make a sound, our
judges sense weakness and pounce almost immediately. 

“I feel like your FaceApp ‘old’ picture is just your regular
face.” – Mike Lawrence

“This guy seems like he should’ve stayed in Vegas.” -Tony Hinchcliffe

“You look like you belong in the first thirty minutes of an
‘Intervention’ episode.” – Mike Lawrence

“He look like that nigga from ‘Taken’ that became a
substitute teacher.” – Chris Redd

“It’s like if Billy Bob Thornton played a character that had
no personality.” – Tony Hinchcliffe

“It looks like you painted your comb-over, man.” – Chris Redd

After enough is enough, Moses steps into his role as referee
and ushers the show along, asking Byron why tonight he’s battling his friend
Mike Amico.

“I’ve known him a long time. I’ve known Mike before he was a
comic. Well, like, uhhh, even if I met him five minutes ago, I would’ve—“

Rick Glassman cuts him off before the line can reach it’s painfully obvious
conclusion.

“That’s what I’m talking about!” – Rick Glassman 

“This nigga bought that shirt with sleeves already rolled
up.” – Chris Redd

 “Yeah! Fuck you, you dork piece of shit!” – Rick Glassman 

With the panel of heavyweight judges already stealing the
show, Michael Amico is brought to the stage, equaling his opponent in awkward
self-consciousness.

“This nigga look like his girlfriend was like, ‘wear this
leather jacket.’” – Chris Redd

“Yeah! Fuck you!” – Rick Glassman

Amico takes a shot at besting Byron Stout’s underperforming
pre-bell line when asked by Moses why he issued the challenge.

“I wanted people to see what Joaquin Phoenix would look like
without the scar.” – Michael Amico

“What?” – The Entire Audience, in unison 

“I fumbled it. My bad. I’m nervous. It’s cool.” – Michael Amico

Amico slumps into the seat opposite Stout and both sit there
stunned as Moses asks who’ll be opening the round. Neither answers for what may
have been a full minute. Somehow it’s decided that Stout will take the first
swing, and both battlers shakily rise from their respective barstools, each still
visibly nerve-wracked from their initial misfires. 

“Mike looks like if, ummm, Artie Lange lost a hundred pounds…
and then, uhhh… forgot… how to do comedy.”

Autistic Thunder, Josh Meyrowitz injects a little levity as
the attempt is met with perplexed silence.

“You seem unsure.” – Josh Meyrowitz

Michael Amico steps in to throw what we’d all like to
believe should be a downward punch. 

“A lot of people don’t know this, but Byron was a Go-Go
dancer at a gay club. My question is did you get AIDS before or after, umm, you
started… oh, I fucked that up.”

The hundred or so audience members in attendance seem to all
scoff at once. Even for members of the general admission section – whose
untrained palates tend to offer the first fight a free pass for effort – this
failure is far too much. We’re one joke in apiece and already headed to the
brink of collapse.

“Are you sure English is your first language? What fucking
ESL class is this?” – Mike Lawrence

“You know it’s bad when you made his first joke look good.” – Tony Hinchcliffe 

For a moment, Stout attempts to belittle his opponent’s
slip-up, asking if he still has to tell a joke, but then seems to remember that
he’s doing equally as awful and presses on.

“Mike looks like Seth Rogen got fucked by Yertle the Turtle
and gave birth to a disappointment.”

The line seems to sit in mid air for a minute. Zero gravity.
Is there a punchline coming, or is this a sad case of the laziest Mad Lib-style
writing we’ve seen since back in the dark days of pre-TV Roast Battle,
connecting two basic looks-like assessments with the word “fucked?” This does
not a joke make. Someone from the balcony sums it up, breaking the room’s
silence.

“Nope.” – Anonymous

And with that, the room pops, tossing the shrapnel of Byron
Stout’s bomb right back in his befuddled face.

“Can I vote for the ‘nope’ nigga?” – Chris Redd

Michael Amico digs in, somehow salvaging a shred of his battered
confidence. It’s apparently enough to swing again for the fences.

“The only thing receding more than his comedy career is his
hair line.”

The audience is actually angry now. They groan, together as
one. While seeming enough like a joke rhythmically, Amico’s line might’ve
worked earlier before the room grew too skeptical. “No,” they decided, instead.
“His comedy career is not receding. That’s not a word that people use to
describe careers, and fuck you for trying to convince us otherwise.” Tony
Hinchcliffe gives voice to their collective malaise.

“Somehow that was the worst one.” – Tony Hinchcliffe

“Mike’s about as charismatic as wilted lettuce, and as funny
as—“

The audience throws in the towel, aggressively booing Stout’s
words before he finishes even saying them. Whatever the last two words of that joke
were, it didn’t matter. Michael Amico takes a final, half-hearted shot at
getting just one mild laugh from the crowd that’s now so stacked against him.

“Byron is starring in a new movie by Bryan Singer called
‘The, uhhh, Molester, he ummm… fuck. I fucked it up.”

A chant of “no more rounds” erupts amid airhorns courtesy of
Coach Tea. Mike Lawrence suggests Josh Meyrowitz be brought to the stage so he
can take the opportunity to feel a little less autistic for once. With that,
it’s decided he also be given an opportunity to take the audience vote, which
he is then awarded handily.

There’s no shame in being bad at Roast Battle, and that’s
actually half the fun for the audience. As NASCAR fans are equally excited by
the crashes, so too are our spectators. To paraphrase season one champ Mike
Lawrence, the bad battles are sometimes the best, and the worst are the ones
that are just okay. Roast Battle is often two competing shows at once, between
the comics on stage and the ones in the balcony, and an opportunity to showcase
some of the best ball busters in the world often relies on the chaos and
unpredictability of failure from the stage. Byron and Michael, might’ve come up
short on jokes, but because of that the battle became tremendously entertaining
and set the pace for the remainder of the night.

Faith Choyce is brought up next to explain why she’s chosen
to compete with Baltimore’s Thomas Fraser.

“I just wanted to give him something nicer to have on his
résumé than ‘America’s Most Wanted.’”

“That nigga wanted!” – Haiti

Thomas Fraser walks casually to the stage, smiling, before
our VIP dais lays into his looks.

“That could be the real Montell Jordan.” – Mike Lawrence

“That nigga got a Montell Jordan jacket on.” – Chris Redd

“They both look like they’re at Fat Albert’s funeral.” – Mike Lawrence

“One looks like my gay cousin, and the other looks like the
nigga that hates my gay cousin.” – Chris Redd

“This looks like Thanksgiving at Steve Harvey’s house. Where
do you guys shop, Forever 21-Minutes Late?” – Tony Hinchcliffe

With that, Faith Choyce is selected to start the round.

“Yes. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Jordan. You guys, Thomas recently
had Invisalign. His teeth are still the straightest thing about him.”

As the joke gets a marginal pop, the Wave takes it upon
themselves to explain it to the majority not laughing.

“She said you gay!” – Jeremiah Watkins

“Homosexual!” – Haiti

Thomas Fraser lets the raucous laughter die down and takes his first
swing.

“If you’ve ever seen Faith’s act, I applaud you. Because I’m
trying to wake you up… With the sound of applause.”

Before the Wave could volunteer to help, Thomas decided to
explain the punchline of the joke himself, and the crowd has once more grown
skeptical. Faith Choyce continues.

“Thank you, Keenan Ivory Gayans. Thomas’ acting résumé lists
his special skills as being able to juggle clubs, rings, and casting directors’
balls.”

“She said you double-gay.” – Jeremiah Watkins

“Thank you, Queen LaQueefa. Faith Choyce is a woman. And a
woman’s choice is anything else.”

“I’d rather eat pussy than eat shit on stage”

“Isn’t that what you’re doing, though?”

“You guys. Thomas married a Middle Eastern woman. They
bonded really well over bombing in coffee shops.”

“Faith calls my hair a cul-de-sac, because there’s no hair
in the top or middle. Ironically, Faith lives in a cul-de-sac, and will never
make it to the top or middle.”

With the joke-writing quality landing squarely in the lower
middle range, Faith takes some ribbing from the judges. The audience vote is
close to even with a slight edge – along with the win the win – being awarded
to Thomas Fraser, who seems to want to make an acceptance speech before being
quickly ushered off the stage instead.

Darran Davis takes to the stage next to size up Andrew
Michael Fox. The introductions are brisk, there’s some quick shots fired from
the judges, and we’re off to the bell. Darran opens the round.

“Why your breath smell like dick from the concentration
camps?”

“Every time I se you, you’re wearing a different ball cap from a different
team. When you asked your mom who your dad was could she only narrow it down to
‘I know he’s from one of these six different cities?’” 

“I’m black and I don’t know my dad. But Hitler burned your
grandparents and they look darker than me.” 

“Thank you, Kunta Kant-get-a-bank-loan. Darran loves talking
about banging married women. He’s stuck more overweight, middle-aged white
women than amniocentesis.” 

The line is met with audible confusion from the room and
Rick Glassman opts to interject.

“I don’t get it, but it sounds smart as fuck.” – Rick Glassman

Darran Davis moves to regain some momentum.

“Andrew’s an illegal Jew who has tattoos. So, that means
he’s not welcome in America or heaven.” 

“What’s your deal with married chicks anyway? Do you just
like the way it feels to ever-so-briefly be inside of a two parent household?” 

Despite a single dud from each, the final line from Fox
lights the room up, recapturing the energy of the room for the first time of
the night where the audience responded positively to an insult not directed at
the battlers by a judge. Darran, as he has in past battles, remained a quality
opponent, but Andrew Michael Fox earned his win solidly by the end.

In the evening’s final fight, Nat Baimel opts for a bit of
showmanship being brought up alongside his own All Hebrew Wave. In past
battles, despite always-solid joke writing, Nat has occasionally lost favor
with the crowd for one reason or another. Tonight, however, he seems determined
to find the sweet spot between outward confidence and inherent likability. The
Jews are a hit, and Ramsey Badawi follows to the stage with a wave of his own,
though not the middle-eastern wave you might expect, but rather a Young
Republican Wave complete with Black Donald Trump to boot. 

While hilarious in concept, the GOP Wave fails to connect
with the audience as their introduction becomes protracted and convoluted by Ramsey
taking time to explain who they are to the audience rather than letting the absurdity
of the idea speak for itself. It’s a simple and seemingly minor misstep, but a
clunky intro can come at a cost to the entire rest of one’s battle, and Ramsey
is forced to begin the fight facing uphill.

“Nat your standup is so boring. I tried to watch a clip of
it on Youtube. It was the first time in my life I ever tried to skip back to
the ad.” 

The opener gets a soft landing, with the crowd still very
much on Nat’s side.

“Even that joke was Muslim. It took off but never learned
how to land. Give it up for Buddy Halally, everyone. Ramsey’s girlfriend wants
him in therapy because even she’s not comfortable with him leaving his baggage
unattended.” 

“Nat lost his virginity at age 26. Hey, Nat, you should
start an internet series called ‘It Doesn’t Get Better, Everyone Still Thinks
I’m Gay.”

“Ramsey is a brown guy from Long Beach. I don’t know if he’s
a bigger fan of 311, 7-11, or 9/11.”

“Nat, you off-duty mime…”

“–Thank you, Al-Qaeda Madrigal.”

“You look like a female witch transitioning into a male
werewolf… I stand by it.”

“Ramsey works in data entry. It’s gonna be real sad in five
years when one robot takes his job and another one drone bombs his family’s
village.”

“Nat works with Alzheimer’s patients. Hey, Nat, I hate to
break it to you. They don’t have Alzheimer’s. Like the rest of us, they just
keep forgetting you exist.”

“Everybody, Ramsey’s not the kind of Muslim who would stone
a homo. Because if his parents saw the way he throws, they’d stone him for
being a homo.”

“Nat’s been doing standup for over a decade. I’d suggest we
throw your career a bar-mitzvah, I just don’t know anyone who can lift that
much failure over their heads.” 

“If I can be serious, everybody, there’s really nothing
funny about doing a bunch of lazy jokes about being an Arab. Which is why
Ramsey never gets booked anywhere.”

“I think I got booked more than you last month, but okay. I
am Palestinian as we mentioned earlier. Nat’s not Israeli, though. He’s just
Jewish. His girlfriend might be Israeli, though. She did settle on some
worthless property no one in America will ever give a fuck about.” 

“Speaking of settling, Ramsey calls his ex-girlfriend ‘Palestine.’
Because no matter how much he claims ownership over her, she’s now being
occupied by a bunch of Jews.”

Ramsey’s closer finally gets the audience’s attention and
almost evens the playing field as Nat ends on his least impactful line of the
evening. The gap is still wide enough in his favor though, and Nat takes a
clear decision in regulation, finally having maintained favor with the Roast
Battle audience for the entire duration of a battle. Ramsey fell a bit short of
the devastating performances he’s given in past battles, owed most likely to
the over-long introduction dooming him from the outset. Still, a quality match
all around with Nat Baimel earning his second quality win which he’s long
deserved.

The underdogs mostly overcame this week in a show that’s so
built for redemption and, while not an all-time classic overall, the evening had
it’s share of memorable moments.

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 PM 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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