by Tony Bartolone, photos by Troy Conrad

One of the greatest things about Roast Battle is it’s the only show that offers the experience of watching somebody fail. That takes balls. This show grew organically out of an open mic and has maintained that anything-can-happen vibe. Through prestigious comedy festivals and lucrative TV deals, this one-of-a-kind comedy spectacle has maintained it’s strong, wild roots while blossoming fruitful blooms. Even on the Comedy Central version of the show, people failed. That is where the show absolutely transcends comedy and becomes art.

Groundbreaking screenwriter Charlie Kaufman once said, “I wanted to do something that I don’t know how to do, and offer you the experience of watching someone fumble, because I think maybe that’s what art should offer. An opportunity to recognize our common humanity and vulnerability.” That is what Roast Battle offers. It’s a great show with great comedians and great failures. The remarkable thing is that it makes failure palatable for the masses. Between the Haters, the judges, the Wave, Coach Tea, host Brian Moses, and the rabid crowd, the ball is never dropped. This unique show has found a way to make failure funny and entertaining. So, to kick things off, we have some fantastic failures.

Our first battle of the night pairs Notorious Brandon Brickz against Inglorious Eric Abbenante.

This first battle is a perfect example of the kind of chaotic fun failure can be. In fact, I’ll go as far to say that this first undercard isn’t a failure at all. Eric comes out first, donning a “SUPER-JEW” t-shirt. He takes a bit of a weird road when asked why he’s battling Brandon, but once he gets there he gets a decent pre-roast pop, albeit one with a familiar punchline attached. It’s always nice to see people at least try to make a joke when prompted by the host. Brian even got a good riff in off the awkward beginning of Eric’s reply.

“I invited Brandon to the Comedy Store today because the only way Brandon is gonna get on the Comedy Store wall is if his fat ass breaks through to give us all Kool-Aid.” – Eric Abbenante 

“I do love that you said that like he’s your client.” – Moses

Brian goes on mimicking Eric and Eric mimics his mimic by doubling down on the old Jewish voice. Prompting Earl to pipe in from the Judges panel.

“You better save it for the battle.” – Earl Skakel

It is enjoyable having Earl as a judge. His tenure as a Hater pays off tenfold on the judges bench.  And here comes Brandon Brickz, with the swagger and confidence of a much better comedian. He is pumped! He demands cheers from the crowd for our proud sponsor SpeedWeed. When you need your weed-y speedy, Speedweed.com! Brandon confidently bombs a line about Eric being a character on The Magic School Bus, and the battle begins with Abbenante stepping up to the plate.

“Brandon’s the Mandingo that ate your baby.”

“Eric’s so short he can hang glide from a Dorito.”

Eric’s Mandingo line gets a little bit of an ‘ohh’ and some titers. Brandon’s joke hits big, and The Wave comes out eating chicken wings. Then in a show of pure gusto, Brandon starts rapping to the beat Coach Tea dropped. Shit gets wild! Even Moses comes back onstage and eats hot wings. The stage is packed; everybody’s jumping, everybody’s eating. Wings are flying while Brickz straight blows up the spot, giving Earl the opening to employ his rare breed of loveable racism:

“Security! Security! Security, they’re making a move. They just bribed Moses with chicken.”

Eric has quite a hill to climb if he’s going to take this battle.

“Hey, he’s out of shape, but he sure is good at those monkey bars. Brandon eats by any means necessary, which is why we call him Malcom XL.”

That first joke about the monkey bars got a good rumble from the crowd, and even got some love from the Wave. Please take the advice from somebody who’s made the same mistake: if the crowd reacts to something and you have more to say, save it. Don’t say it. Unless you got surefire dynamite, don’t do it. The Malcom XL joke got some groans, but not as good of response as the first line.

“Eric Abbenante is a real traditional Jew. I went to this muthafucka house. I said, ‘Where’s your bed?’ He said, ‘I don’t sleep in a bed.’ I said, ‘Where you sleep?’ He said, ‘The oven.”

This oddly structured joke gets a big “Ohh!” from the audience and the rap party continues to set up Earl for another racial dig:

“Will the cast of Dangerous Minds please leave the stage?”

Eric continues, trying to get the battle back on track.

“A holocaust joke? Real rich coming from the guy who looks like he’s stuck in the back of the oven. Brandon’s a real Biggie. He puts two packs of Twinkies in his mouth and calls it a Suge Knight.”

“Eric Abbenante is a broke Jew. He’s a broke Jew. He’s the only the Jewish person that has a yarmulke in layaway!”

Eric’s comeback gets a better reception than his main joke, but neither line gets much. Brandon is still hyped, and the crowd is hyped with him. All he has to do is nail his last joke to win this. He pretty much screams the punchline while punctuating it with a commanding hand gesture, and it gets nothing. Not a single laugh for all of his bravado.

“That was probably the most racist battle I’ve ever seen. I’ve gotta give to the big man. He was more consistent, but the small, white guy’s gonna win in life.” – Earl Skakel

The crowd gives equal cheers for both competitors and demands, “One more joke! One more joke! One more joke!” So Eric takes us into sudden death.

“Brian’s so lazy he pays off his child support by donating his daughter’s plasma.”

“Eric Abbenante’s a short Jew. Every time he goes to the bank, he walks through the doggie door.”

Eric’s joke is a little bit of a sleeper, but gets some appreciation while Brandon bombs again. The crowd proclaims Eric Abbenante the winner. Brandon was damn likeable and damn entertaining. He’s going to be a good comic once he learns how to write a joke or hires a Jew to write jokes for him.

Next up is Alex Kojfman versus Kevin Eric McCarthy.

This is the kind of open mic style failure I’m talking about, and it is magnificent. This is like watching Mike Lawrence with a head injury battle Sacha Barely Coherent. This match up is a prime example of one that puts the laugh load on the shoulders of the Wave, Haters, and judges. According to their intros, Alex and Kevin have twenty-two years combined comedy experience. If that is indeed the case, they should lie about it. I’ve been in LA my whole life. I don’t know where these two have been hiding, but I’ll happy when they go back there. Full disclosure, Alex has some punchlines at the end of his paragraphs, but the fact that he was reading jokes off his phone after a supposed fifteen years of stage experience is embarrassing for everybody who actually does comedy. He even said “What? Too soon?” at one point. It’s never too soon. It’s always too unfunny. Kevin, on the other hand, just does these artless anti-jokes. Labeling it as anti-humor is being generous, as it didn’t seem like he had much awareness of what he was doing. His second joke was so clumsy it prompted our resident member of the social disorder spectrum to yell out…  

“Are you autistic too?” – Josh Meyrowitz

There is no more low hanging fruit than when somebody with a social disorder that literally makes them disinterested in other people takes a shot at you. It’s like doing the dozens on the playground and the kid in a helmet gets a shot off on you. When Josh went to shake his hand, Kevin gave him the old handshake fake out. He was practically booed off stage. Brian decides to put them out of their misery and calls “Last joke!”

“Last joke? When was the first one?” – Earl Skakel

“These jokes are so bad, Earl’s gonna steal them.” – Gary Cannon

These are two Jews that bombed so hard you’d think they were Palestinian. I’d share their jokes, but as Inappropriate Earl proclaimed, there really weren’t any.  After the last “joke,” boos and groans fade into the room chanting, “No one wins! No one wins! No one wins!” Brian asks Steve Byrne if has anything to say.

“What? Huh? Sorry, I was- You just woke me up.” – Steve Byrne

Brian mercifully takes it to a vote because Alex got a mild laugh on his first joke, and he’s awarded the win by default.

Enter everybody’s favorite Islamic billionaire, The Saudi Prince.

“Just in time for the bombing, bitches. Listen, motherfuckers, it has been a rough 9/11 for me, man. I don’t know how you celebrate. But man, my family, we celebrate all month long.” – Saudi Prince

With the dais complete, the crowd is hungry for a great brawl. Unfortunately, they get Kayla Bernadette versus Victor Martinez, Jr.

Kayla comes out and gets the standard question. “Would you let the Wave smash?” She decides to capitalize by using it as a networking opportunity, saying she’d let Willie smash for a spot on The Carmichael Show. 

“I don’t know which tennis sister this is, but I’d like to buy her, if possible.”   – Saudi Prince

Kayla bombs her “Why are you battling?” prompt, and Victor comes out to Mariachi horns. Coach Tea is is on point, as always. Kayla volunteers to bomb first. Victor, on the other hand, connects with a solid jab, and the judges can’t help themselves.

“I don’t know if it’s Sasha or Malia.” – Steve Byrne

“That’s not fair, those two are funny.” – Gary Cannon

Kayla’s next joke is met with little to no response from the crowd. Meanwhile Victor hits another one, and gets The Wave to walk out for the first time since Brickz lit up the room with a rap party.

Kayla’s third joke finally gets the crowd vocal by dropping a slur as the punchline. She then tagged her joke with a little commentary of her own.

“At least I write my own jokes.” – Kayla Bernadette

“That’s the problem.” – Saudi Prince

Victor Martinez Jr. fulfills the minimal requirement to be a comedian. To be fair, he’s likeable and did deliver some actual jokes, and the hungry crowd appreciated it. Hopefully, next battle he challenges somebody who is an actual challenge.

Our next round of undercards start things off right with Danielle Perez rolling up on Heather Marulli.

Moses brings out Danielle announcing that a trolley sliced off her lower appendages, and the crowd applauds because they know this will be good. Brian asks her why they’re battling and she endears herself to the crowd.

“She’s the exact weight and size of the train that ran me over.” – Danielle Perez

Heather comes out looking as self-assured as her stature implies, and fires right back at Danielle.

“I know it’s hard to defeat someone who’s already been de-feeted.”              – Heather Marulli

She lays a line equal parts clever and mean, and it’s anybody’s game. However, the rest of this battle proves how true Heather’s opening statement is. Marulli continues with her confident demeanor and calls first joke.

“Danielle calls herself a party girl. Everyone else just calls her part of a girl.”

“Heather likes to think she’s a comic’s comic, but really she’s a cum dumpster’s cum dumpster.”

Both those first jokes get a big burst from the crowd. But Heather looks to have the edge.

“I feel bad Danielle can’t wear shoes. The closest she’s got to a pair of Red Bottoms is when she got her feet got ripped off.”

“Yeah Heather, I don’t have feet, but I still have more legs than your comedy career.”

Heather’s joke hits, but Danielle’s comeback makes the room fucking explode. Though of all the vagina, slut and cum chugging jokes, that Red Bottoms joke might be the most catty joke in Roast Battle history. Always feels good to pump some estrogen into a packed night of Battles.

“Danielle’s comedy group is called Thigh Gap. It should be called mind the gap, since that’s what she should’ve done before that trolley sliced her up.”

“Heather has the body of a woman who goes to Hometown Buffet, and the face a man that would take her there.”

The crowd genuinely appreciates what was the Battle of the night and cheers turn to chants of “Battle! Battle! Battle!”

Heather put up a great fight, but the Belly Room fell head over no heels for Danielle Perez. It is incredible to watch her wheelchair turn to a wheelthrone as the crowd crowns her Queen of Mean.

“I remember you from the Price is Right. Not you, the wheel.” – Saudi Prince

Next up, Mark “The Shark” Stevens attacks Albert Escobedo. Albert chooses to go first.

“Mark is Armenian and undefeated against all female comics. Leave it to a Middle Eastern man to find a way to beat women in public.”

“You can never play a game of Uno with Albert, because he will always steal all the green cards.”

“Mark’s an Armenian Christian who celebrates Christmas and Thanksgiving, which is weird because all of his ancestors were killed by Turkey.”

“Albert really did once sleep with a tranny, but don’t get it twisted, he fucks normal dudes too.”

“Speaking of faggots, Mark gets his eyebrows done at a full spa because that’s the only place that’ll wax a pussy.”

“Albert is one of six kids and his fiancé cheated on him. I don’t where more people have come, out of your mother or down the back of your fiancé’s throat.”

Neither battler bombs nor crushes. This is an even fight with nothing to write home about. If there’s one thing that set these two apart it was that Albert looked like he was having fun. The same could be said for Danielle Perez. And that’s the whole point of the show. Mark’s jokes were personal and mean, which is great, but Albert had a bit more charm and he takes the W. In the end, Mark the Shark tanks.

Our final undercard of the night brings together child actor Jake Adams and child Ali Macofsky.

This battle looks like an Abercrombie and Fitch ad if they let ugly people in it. Brian poses the prerequisite philosophical query, “Would you let the Wave smash?” Ali answers like she’s been thinking about late at night in her pink room with pictures cut out of magazines lining the walls.

“100%. Except for Haiti.” – Ali Macofsky

“This battle looks like the first ten minutes of Taken. Remember? From the airport. Except nobody would pay money for and there’s no way you can overpower her.” – Saudi Prince

Jake takes the opening joke.

“Ali looks like if Eugene Levy was transitioning.”

Jake’s joke bombs and Jake gets jumped.

“You look like Paul Rudd transitioning.” – Saudi Prince

“Into Eugene Levy.” – Steve Byrne

“Jake tried to fuck me once, but I told him nose means nose.”

“Yeah, I do indeed have a very large nose, which sucks because you smell so bad. Ali, you can smell the cigarettes on your body that your parents smoked during pregnancy.”

“Jake’s nose could make me come before his dick could. Anyway…Jake’s mom’s a lesbian. She just doesn’t eat pussy, she raises one.”

“Ali got fired from working at a movie theater. She got caught rubbing the popcorn butter on her face.”

“We don’t even need the last joke.” – Gary Cannon

“I would love to though. Jake looks like his bar mitzvah theme was campus rape.”

Ali capably slaughters Jake in this no contest. We all expected more from Jake, but he turned out to be an Adams bomb.

“Ali, I know the booker at Conan. If you wanna get on it, e-mail me and uh, we’ll bang, and I’ll see if your tape’s good.” – Gary Cannon 

On to the main event: David Deery versus Toby Muresianu!

“This looks like the president of the Young Republicans club going up against Freddie Mercury poisoning.” – Saudi Prince

Both these dudes get pretty good reactions for their pre-roast banter, so it looks to be a fun fight. Toby kicks it off.

“David’s a hipster and pedophile, so he fucks girls five years before it’s cool.”

“Toby’s style can be described as dry and white, just like the cum on his chin.”

“David was a mediocre graffiti artist, skateboarder and DJ. You’re like the son you’re old enough to be the disappointed father of.”

“Toby’s got the personality of the sock his father should’ve shot him into.”

“David’s wife writes science fiction about a alternate universe where he pays rent.”

“Toby’s not Catholic, but he sure acts like he’s been touched by his father.”

Deery shot out two jizz jokes and a priest molestation joke for somebody who isn’t even Catholic – maybe not the best way to begin. By unanimous decision, Toby takes round one. David throws up his arm and defers to Toby to start round two.

“David, you’re like the hipster Luigi because you’re Italian, you eat mushrooms and you’re the least successful member of your family.”

“David’s so old, his next battle is against colon cancer.”

“Toby, you’re so fucking boring. You look like you teach improv classes at the Uptight Citizens Brigade.”

“By the way, your stand up makes women feel like getting fingered behind a dumpster wouldn’t be all that bad.”

Steve Byrne and Gary Cannon give their vote to David and high hopes for the third round. Earl picks Deery to go first.

“Toby likes to sit on his hand before he masturbates because it gives him the authentic feeling of having sex with something unconscious.”

“David’s face is last thing a black person sees before they’re gentrified out of their neighborhood.”

“Toby’s face is like a saltine cracker. It’s white, it’s boring and one time a circle of dudes jerked off onto it.”

“Dave’s forty-three, but when he goes to auditions he says, “Where do you want the pizzas?”

Leery Deery closes out with a rape joke and a circle jerk joke to cement his place as loser of this Battle. I’d call it a rape, but it seemed pretty consensual. In a way, David was consistent. He did nine jokes total, four were about semen and five were about rape. Toby is one of the most consistent joke writers and also one of the hardest people to write jokes about. We’re all just going to have to wait and see who can kill the Terminator.

Later on in the night, a bunch of battlers are shooting the shit at our favorite late night diner, and Mark Stevens is taking the loss hard. Keith Carey, in a moment of complete sincerity, attempts to console Mark. “Listen, man. You can’t keep winning. Nobody keeps winning forever.” To that I added a quick burn, “Unless your Albert Escobedo.” We all had a good laugh, and Mark smiled for the first time since his battle. A few more people took a few shots at him, and he started giggling and the giggling turned to full-on laughter. Then the waiter appeared with some hearty scoops of ice cream on top of a brownie. We were confused, as nobody had ordered that. It was sent over from across the restaurant from that night’s judge, Gary Cannon. This is the Roast Battle community. It is all about love and joy and having fun. The critics of this kind of competitive, seemingly negative, environment just don’t see how much we take care of each other.

It was a packed night of fights, full of highs and lows and everything in between. Shout out to the Roastmaster General, Jeff Ross, whose special is airing currently on Comedy Central. Call the TV station, write your congressman, scream on street corners… Let them know you love “Jeff Ross Roasts Cops.” We’ll see you next Tuesday!

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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