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by Jay Light

The boys are back in town. After a week off to run shows in Atlanta, New York City, and Denver, the Road to Roast Battle winds its way back home to the Belly Room for the final taping of the prelims for Comedy Central’s upcoming second season of the now-infamous joke writer’s showcase. While each city had its fair share of high points – which we’ll be able to see when the show begins to air this January – there’s nothing quite like the constant highlight reel we get to witness every week in Los Angeles. It is immensely fitting that the road trip ends back where it all began, especially since the Roast Battle has spawned a subset of the comedy scene that is anything but ignorable. The sixteen battlers chosen to represent the City of Angels in tonight’s show are some of the best to ever set foot in the ring, bar none. We’ll get to know them in a minute, but first, let’s take a look at tonight’s firing squad.

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Sebastian Maniscalco went from a waiter at the Four Seasons to one of the most respected comics working today, with numerous specials and TV appearances under his belt. Chris D’Elia is the Comedy Store’s resident heartthrob – and David Blaine’s favorite comic, to boot. He makes a rare appearance in the VIP balcony tonight, bringing his infectious laugh and dynamic energy to the proceedings. The panel’s wildcard tonight is Metta World Peace, an NBA mainstay and part-time stand-up comic. His athlete’s insight should serve the show’s competitive atmosphere very well. Capping off this lineup is the Roastmaster General himself, Jeff Ross, who was instrumental in bringing the show out of the Belly Room and into your living room. Tonight, these judges have an embarrassment of riches on hand in the form of the city’s best roasters. Let’s get to know who’s competing for televised glory.

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First up, the first Roast Battle title-holder Jesus Trejo takes on one of the scariest men to throw blows with, George Perez. Jesus is coming off a loss in his warm-up battle with Nate Craig two weeks ago, but he has also bested some of the most feared battlers in the game, including the takedown of Tony Hinchcliffe that earned him the title in the first place. George is a perennial competitor, with a semi-improvised style that put him on the map and an intimidating demeanor that keeps him there. Will the prison jock take the W or will it be revenge of the nerds?

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Next, emotionless android assassin Toby Muresianu takes on absurdist wunderkind Omid Singh. These two battlers are uncannily good at crafting slow-burn roast jokes, and have taken down some of the most fearsome fighters LA has to offer. Which of these lovable weirdos will come out on top tonight?

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Then, portly powerhouse Guy Branum tussles with the All-Negro Wave’s own Jamar Neighbors. Guy is a veteran of the battles and the judges’ panel, and always has jokes that wallop like sledgehammers wherever he’s at. Jamar has had a spotty battle career, favoring being a part of the Wave instead of stepping into the ring, but his fights are among some of the show’s most entertaining, especially his two recent bouts against Corey Charron and Joe Dosch. Who will win – the side of beef or the beefcake?

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After that, the hilarious, handi-capable Greg Roque takes on one of Roast Battle’s only OGs, Frank Castillo. Greg is one of the newest competitors on the taping tonight, but his powerful jokes and undefeated record have catapulted him to relevancy and a well-earned spot on this show. Frank has held the Roast Battle title belt, competed in front of Dave Chappelle, and has worked with the show since it was little more than an open mic with some kind of roast-off midway through. Who will triumph – the ornery old-timer or the incapacitated ingenue?

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In the first of the evening’s rematches, Alex Hooper and Joe Dosch show why they both have the chops of a Roast Battle champion. The last time these two fought, it was in a title match, when the poised Joe snatched the title away from the frantic Alex. This time, they each have some more battles under their belt, including tussles at the prior Comedy Central taping, and are ready to bring the wealth of additional experience to this do-over fight.

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In the evening’s second rematch, lanky boy-toy Connor McSpadden takes on femme fatale Leah Kayajanian. Connor took down Leah in a close match the last time they dueled, but Leah has the edge on battling on TV and the swagger of winning the tournament at RiotLA at the beginning of the year. Still, this fight is so close that fans are already thinking it might be a little too close to call. Will Leah avenge her earlier loss with the ferocity she’s been cultivating since her last fight, or will Connor fulfill the fever dream of Trump’s America and put a woman in her place?

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In the home stretch, we have the pride of Orange County slinging their best jokes with a match between Keith Carey and Anna Valenzuela. Keith is a two-time Battler of the Year and a truly remarkable contender, putting on memorable battles every single time, win or lose. Anna, in some ways, is Keith’s battle protege, taking what she’s learned him the best and morphing it into her own lovably mean style in the ring. Furthermore, these two are BFFs, which adds another layer of depth to an already dynamic battle. I won’t shy away from saying it – this one may be the battle of the night, folks.

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Finally, straight white male Pat Barker takes on transgender Asian female Robin Tran. These two are incredibly strong competitors, and in fact have both taken down the two-time Battler of the Year in previous attempts. As far as rankings go, these two are pretty far apart – Pat is #3, Robin is #42 – but Robin’s low rank certainly belies her savage joke writing skills, since she is considered by many to be one of the best battlers with a losing record. Pat, on the other hand, is an impeccable battler, with just three losses and the recent cancellation of the HBO show he was writing for potentially driving him to take his next shot on TV like his rent depends on it. If Keith and Anna isn’t the fight of the night, this one will be.

Tickets for tonight’s show will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Belly Room entrance. The show starts at 9 PM, so arrive early if you want a seat for the greatest show on Earth. Be there or be square. Let’s roast!

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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