by Dan Nolan, photos by Troy Conrad

The room feels light again, as audience are held downstairs
during the pre-show until just before the battles commence. It’s the side
effect of a bitter wannabe comic/commercial actor chickening out on her Roast
Battle debut and calling the fire marshal out of spite a few weeks back. It was a seemingly inevitable occurrence; the show’s popularity along with word of
its success stories for up-and-coming comics has caused enough buzz that every
dickhead with an agent or a tight five wants to be a part of it. Suddenly at
the word of the door guys, the standing room audience is herded into the back,
and we’re all set to begin.

First up in our undercards we see the arrival of two
newcomers, Reza Asgari and Steven Torrez.

Steven and Reza both take to the stage prepped
with intro jokes and the sort of nervous joyful energy that can only exist on
this show when two people who actually like each other get ready to step into
the ring together. The intros are made: Reza is a terrorist, Steven is a
bisexual illegal immigrant, and we’re ready to go.

“So who called who out?” – Brian Moses

“Of the closet?” – Earl Skakel

Steven opts to lead the match, and Reza
follows.

“Reza looks like the one surviving suicide bomber.”

“They say you are what you eat, which is
why Steve is shaped like a smushed up box of Cinnabons. And also covered in
goo.” 

Reza pulls into an early lead coming in over
the top of Steven’s soft start. Steven stays focused, though, and
his next joke hits much harder.

"Reza looks like Vin Diesel if Vin Diesel
sucked dick for drugs.”

“Steve has the head of a drug cartel
leader, if caramel was a drug.”

At the end of this exchange, both battlers are
even in a dead heat, until Moses calls "last joke” and Steven busts
out his closer, having saved his strongest joke for last.

“My favorite part of Reza is that he
has a landing strip on his face so you know where the dick goes.”

“Steve looks like he’s about to star in
the Telemundo version of Harry Potter as El Hagrid at Los Hogwarts.”

In addition to Steven having the stronger of
the two last jokes, Reza has to deal with some interference as a rare slip of
the fingers from Coach Tea sets off a police siren in the middle of his
Harry Potter line. Reza gets a redo, but to no avail. The decision in this
battle seems to have come down to strategy more than anything. The need for a
balance between opening strong and closing strong always leads to tough
decisions on joke order, and more often then not, in evenly matched battles, the
rounds can be lost on structure.

Following that is a classic gender matchup
between lovable heel, Johnny Stewart, and the latest of the Inland Empire’s
comics to descend on the Belly Room, the lovely Kate Stark. Kate takes to the
stage with an awkward but adorable grace as Coach plays her up to the Friends
theme song, while our beloved Wave sings along. Moses makes them finish the
song as their confusion over the lyrics continues to grow. Johnny Stewart is
brought up for the second week in a row wearing the douchiest pair of glasses
someone on EBT can buy. The pre-bell back and forth is friendly, and once the bell is rung, both
competitors get right into their jokes.

“Kate’s the only girl in her sorority that nobody
wanted to date rape.”

The opening attempt falls flat, and the audience
remains silent, save for a few disgusted groans and a dynamite interjection from House Hater Earl Skakel. Kate follows up with a crushing bomb
rebuttal.

“Johnny, that joke really bombed. Maybe
you should stick to doing custody battles.”

"Kate looks like if that movie Brave was instead titled Depressed.”

 “Johnny looks like if WalMart became a
person.”

“Kate’s like a Christmas present, it’s mostly a box, but it comes with
double A’s.”

"Johnny grew up poor, he doesn’t like to
ask for a lot of things. Like consent.”

Johnny’s closing joke hits hard, but it’s
still not enough. Kate still manages to top it, and the decision is hers
handily at the crowd vote. Kate makes close to as good a debut as anyone can,
and both battlers make their exit.

After another round of standup to break things up we’re all
set for a painfully awkward debut from both BJ Courchaine and Michael Amico.
But especially BJ Courchaine. Jesus.

BJ Courchaine takes to the stage with a PBR
tallboy in hand. It’s a move that you might make if you’re trying to convey
chillness, but the actual vibe it gives off is that you can’t tell three jokes
in a five-minute period without a beer. It looks weird. His nervousness is
noticeable, and the Roastmaster reveals that BJ actually introduced himself
before the show. Michael Amico has a little less bluster and a bit more swagger
and confidence. Unlike BJ, Michael defers to the pros when they take their shots
at him. Still, by the bell, neither has brought much to the table.

"Michael Amico openly admits he’s attractive, and he does kind of looks like
John Stamos with Down’s syndrome.”

"BJ’s ex-girlfriend told him he gave
her herpes. And he’s like ‘are you sure it wasn’t AIDS?’”

“I don’t wanna call Michael a rapist, but his day jobs are driving for Uber
and PAing. If you take those letters and you rearrange them, you get ‘U B
RAPE.’”

"BJ looks like Kris Kringle if he
molested a bunch of children.

“The only thing more in the closet than Michael Amico’s sexuality is gonna
be his Craigslist casual encounter from last night. You forgot to let him out.”

“Usually in comedy – ”

Suddenly the Roasmaster General can take no
more and has to interject.

“How fucking long is this battle!?
They’re DONE!” – Jeff Ross

“No, these are just the warmup jokes!” – Earl Skakel

Michael Amico does his best to stay in the
pocket, firing off one last dud to close the round.

“Alright, so usually in comedy you’re
supposed to sleep your way to the top, but his fiancée slept her way to
mediocrity.”

A chant of “you both suck” spreads across the room. Jeff takes shots at both,
but follows up warmly, congratulating the two for their effort in consolation.
Michael takes his pounding and stays smiling like a pro, but this isn’t enough
for BJ Courchaine as he scrambles to defend himself despite lacking the
equipment necessary for the job.

Ego kills comedy. There is a pro-wrestling-style
element of spectacle that can occur in the Roast Battle ring, which flies in
the face of that notion, but there’s a risk to leaning too hard into it. Time
spent cutting promo videos for your Facebook page would more often than not be better
spent actually preparing jokes. And, while writing is crucial, the other equally
important half of the show is about being able to take a fucking joke. That yin
and yang are exactly what keeps the show balanced, and more often than not it’s
someone taking themself too seriously which throws off that delicate
equilibrium and leads us into the sort of cringe-worthy shit show we ended up
seeing here. Moses hands the boys a double loss and they shuffle back off to the green room to think long and hard about what they’ve done.

Finally, after our weekly palate cleansing via
music from Jeff Richards, we’re onto the Main Event, where Anna Valenzuela
committed some spoken-word war crimes in her senseless bombing of Indochinaman
Alex Duong.

Anna steps to the stage with all the swagger
she’s earned over a five battle career that’s included a number of Main Events
and some of the finest jokes ever uttered in the Roast Battle arena. But if
there’s anyone who’s hot streak and swagger can match hers, it’s Alex Duong. He
hasn’t lost a round in months, with back to back main event blowouts, and a
weekly spot at the Temecula Roast Battle spinoff show where he’s quickly become
a favorite. 

Jeff wants Alex to start, and he obliges.

“Anna battles a lot. She’s heard it all.
Except the words ‘I do.’”

“Alex, you look like someone ironed the
wrinkles out of a pug.”

“Anna, you look you apply all your makeup
with the broomstick you ride around on.”

“Alex’s eyes are like North and South
Korea: separated by 5 miles of dead space.”

“You can look at Anna and tell her mom
wasn’t pregnant. Her pussy just had a rat problem.”

“Alex asked his girlfriend for an open
relationship, but what he doesn’t know is that he’s already in one. Just ask
the Wave.”

The room is rocked from the start and both
battlers get serious props from the judges. The general consensus, though, as
John Mayer sums up, is that Alex takes the round with his rat pussy joke by just
the slimmest of margins. Anna defers to Alex to start round 2.

“Anna works with drug addicts. It’s the only
way she can get a man to give her the pipe.”

Suddenly, there’s a long delay and Alex has to
defer to his notes. He takes a second too long, and the crowd turns on him
audibly. By his second joke he’s in too deep a hole to make it out. 

“Anna carries pepper spray. Good. For that
moment she knows she’s better off scrambling her frozen eggs.”

“All my jokes aside, Anna’s beautiful, so it
angers me that men say they can only cum when they hit it from her wet back.”

Anna launches in, seeing weakness, and closes
out the round with a bang.

“You know what’s bullshit, Alex? When I fuck a
lot I’m a slut, but when you do it, you’re employee of the month at the rub-n-tug.”

“Alex’s hero is Bruce Lee, which is why he
calls his dick “the one inch punch.”

“You look like you’re transitioning. I just
don’t know from what to what.”

Anna takes the judge’s vote handily, but
there’s still a lot of love for Alex, and plenty of hope held out for a
comeback as

“Anna wasn’t born, she was put together
at Build-a-Beaner.”

“Most Asians are lactose intolerant,
which is why Alex only drinks cum.”

“Anna looks like her favorite hobby is
getting fingered by guys in fedora’s.”

“You pretend to be white. You pretend to
be in love. And you pretend to be a comic. Of course you’re fake. All your
parts are made in China.”

“All my people died making the iPhone
6.  Anna’s parents died making an
LA 6.”

“Yeah, Alex. My parents are dead. And
yours are wondering why they kept a girl.”

It’s a rare instance in Roast Battle when you
get to close on a killer comeback, and the full force of Anna’s rebuttal is
felt across the room. Alex rallied in the third round and more than saved face,
but Anna Valenzuela seems to have involved into an utterly unstoppable killing
machine. She’s beautiful, confident, and comes over-prepared with killer jokes
that have ripped the room in half for all of her relatively short Roast Battle
career. The votes all go to Anna, with the exception of John Mayer, who loved
Alex’s “LA 6” joke enough to hand him a vote.

By the end the evening has had as many lessons
across all rounds as it did have killer jokes. The show is growing and changing
week by week, but it’s core values remain the same. This is a show that brings
people together, and that forces us to have a sense of humor about ourselves.
It’s a show that takes all the hatred in the world and laughs at it’s
absurdity. The future of competitive roasting is unknown, but for now we can
still at least enjoy the idea that we’re a part of something special and
different here. And there’s really no need to make your own promo videos or
fliers for it.

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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