Writing the Roast Report is a funny thing. Some weeks you look at the fight card, realize that you have to cover ten battles, and then crawl under your desk and just quietly weep for a couple hours as you emotionally prepare to fake enthusiasm over the innumerable ways a bunch of dumb-dumbs found to call each other faggots for three hours. It can be a lot. Other weeks, two battles drop off of an already light fight night due to illness/scheduling buttfuckery, and you get yourself a nice little half-day. This week was one of those weeks!
After a jam-packed night of stand-up, a very receptive audience is more than ready to get into some shit. Thankfully, both of the night’s fights turn out to be quite entertaining, if a bit one-sided.
First up to the plate is the evening’s sole undercard bout between Armando Torres and Lou Vahram!
Armando is commended for inexplicably wearing a puffy fisherman’s jacket onstage despite the temperature in the Belly Room hovering somewhere around that of Satan’s butthole. As a fat man, I cannot help but be impressed by his commitment to rocking layers, knowing full well that the inside of his clothes must smell like a broken sauna full of fart-ghosts and loose meat. Godspeed, you fat fuck fashionista.
Lou joins him, played to the stage to the tune of some rap song that uses the N-word an impossible amount of times. Lou says this song suits him, and I can’t disagree because Lou seems like the kind of guy who FOR SURE yells the N-word in traffic. Relentlessly. Not even at black people, just at whoever is bothering him at any given moment. Imagine a frail Korean woman in a Hyundai merging lanes without a blinker, then wondering why this scraggly man-child is telling her to “go back to Africa” and you’ve captured the essence of Lou’s boiling-yet-impotent rage.
The bell rings, and Lou takes the first swing:
“Armando’s overweight, overconfident, and over-matched. The only thing he’ll ever be under is the ground in, like, eight months.”
“I wanted to have a moment of silence for Lou’s dead mom, but you guys decided to have one after that last joke.”
“Armando’s ex told me he has a tiny dick, but I said that’s impossible. Baked potatoes don’t have penises.”
“Lou, you creepy nerd, you look like you kill hookers in ‘Grand Theft Auto’ AND real life.”
“Armando considers himself a rapper. He’s influenced by Kanye West but all of his Slow Jamz are in his arteries.”
“Lou is Armenian and Jewish. With this amount of cologne, any room becomes a gas chamber.”
Lou’s first swing is a haymaker that misses the mark and throws him off-balance, and Armando’s beautifully executed counter-attack pretty much seals the battle in one joke. Lou’s goofball charm fades and he gets self-conscious, which has always been his Achilles’ heel in these fights. While inconsistent, he’s shown potential as a writer, and in his best moments has pulled off a “lovable underdog” likability. Yet, when he gets shaken, his posture and delivery suffer, and against Armando’s natural “aw shucks” charisma, that’s a fatal flaw. The judges applaud Armando’s performance, particularly his closing joke, and encourage him to challenge a high-ranking battler. While a proposed duel between himself and Ari Shaffir is very quickly shut down, it remains to be seen who Armando takes on next.
After an impromptu crowd roasting session from the jam-packed judge’s section, we move into the evening’s main event, as Albert Escobedo gets into it with Pat Barker.
Albert takes the stage first, and at the risk of alienating any non-nerd readers of the Report, motherfucker looks like a Romulan janitor. He takes a swing at a joke about Pat’s wife’s miscarriage in his intro, which unfortunately sets the room against him a bit, and plays a part in the eventual result of this battle. While I think we can all agree that Pat’s dead baby is hilarious, he stumbles the wording and sours the room.
Before we continue, a quick word of advice to any aspiring Roast Battle contenders reading this. The intro joke is a thing people seem to stress out about. You can tell when a battler has planned a joke meticulously in response to “Why are you fighting each other”, because it almost always sounds stiff and robotic, and these jokes have, like, a 99% failure rate. In this writer’s opinion, you’re better served being honest, riffing in the moment, and just kind of presenting yourself as a person. You have very little time to make an impression between your introduction and the beginning of the battle, and being likable or interesting or charming is going to do way more for you than landing a B-side joke you already decided wasn’t good enough for the battle itself. Stay loose. Deviate from your plans. Let the show breathe.
I digress. Pat takes the stage next. I’ve been watching Pat fight for years now, and it took me until tonight to realize that he has the stage presence of a very stern penguin. Seriously, watch clips of him battling, and you’ll see it. The pigeon-toed shuffle, the beady-but-determined eyes, the fact that he has the body of a fucking penguin. It’s all there. This might not make sense to anybody but me, but I can’t stop thinking about it and it makes me laugh every time I do. Pat seizes on the opening blow like so much raw fish, and we’re off and running in the first round:
“Albert represents Indiana, the Hoosier state. Especially when people ask, ‘Hoosier least favorite comedian?’”
“Pat has a new baby at home, and it’s really excited at feeding time because it has four titties to choose from.”
“That was really mean, but you know what they say, ‘Spics and stones…’ Albert is a veterinarian, and his girlfriend manages a peanut butter factory. That’s not glamorous, but it is the most cost effective way to get a dog to lick your balls.”
“Pat loves baseball, but all of his Grand Slams have been at Denny’s.”
“Figures, the battle’s getting dragged down by an anchor baby.”
“I might be Mexican, but your babies don’t make it in life either.”
“Albert’s a veterinarian who once fucked a post-op Thai lady-boy. True story. So whether it’s business or pleasure, he’s always handling damaged pussies.”
“Yeah, I hooked up with a tranny. That’s something we have in common. We both fuck chicks that can’t make babies.”
Albert opens and closes strong, but his middle jokes fall flat. The judges point out that, had Albert not spoiled the “dead baby” angle in the introduction, the final comeback would have probably been enough to seal the victory in the first round. Pat takes the round for consistency, and Albert is cautioned to avoid beating the miscarriage drum too hard in the rest of the battle. Then Albert got the mic and this happened:
“Pat, you should have known your wife would miscarry. As a teacher, she’s always getting kids expelled.”
“Pat, you look like a little league coach that didn’t play in the majors so you could prey on the minors.”
“Pat lost his job at a warehouse because just like his wife, he’s terrible at labor.”
“Albert’s got the body of an AIDS patient, the hair of a cancer patient, and jokes that die of natural causes.”
“You’ve heard of Elf on the Shelf, now get ready for Cholo in a Polo.”
“Donald Trump has said that all Mexicans are rapists and murderers, but that’s not fair to Albert. He has never succeeded at two things.”
Albert teaches a masterclass in bad joke selection. The jokes themselves weren’t even terrible – in fact, I think the labor one, in particular, was great and had it been deployed in a better slot, could have been a hit – but he failed to read the room and adjust accordingly, and it led him dick-first into a brick wall. It’s tempting to overplay an easy angle, especially one as juicy as a miscarriage (which, again, is objectively hilarious). But if you don’t stay present and keep your options open, you can really get yourself in trouble.
Pat, for his part, executes a pretty flawless round, with the clinical precision and multi-angle coverage we’ve come to expect from him after an unassailable string of great fights. I find the “Cholo in a Polo” joke infuriatingly cute, but begrudgingly accept that it was a perfect choice. Despite taking the win in two rounds, Pat agrees to a third round since Albert came all the way from Indiana, which is a very classy move. The bell rings and the victory lap ensues:
“Albert has a great relationship with the animals he works with. It’s like, did you ever see ‘Doctor Doolittle?’ Well, he’s a lot like Eddie Murphy because they both fucked a transvestite.”
“Roast Battle’s made Pat very popular in LA, New York, and Boston Markets.”
“Albert has worked with Key and Peele. That’s what they call it when you’ve sold cocaine and oranges.”
“If you think Pat’s good at this, you should see how well his father roasts. In hell.”
“Speaking of dead relatives, Albert’s aunt died when he was 25. And that house must have felt so empty once it was just you and your mom and dad and brother and sister and six half-siblings and four uncles and three aunts and seven nephews and twenty-six nieces and several other entire Mexican families.”
“Pat does long-form comedy. And his wife does short-form pregnancy!”
And with expertly executed racism, a shockingly effective reference to fucking Boston Market, and one more trip to the Pat Barker Dead Baby Memorial Well, Pat takes the win, the room empties, and I begin preparing to crucify John-Michael Bond next week. Let’s party, you husky bitch.
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