by Pat Barker

I wanted to come up with a really brilliant way to recap the past year in the Belly Room. I kicked around some ideas. Maybe 2,000 words on which newcomers made the biggest impact. Perhaps 3,000 words on how Albert Escobedo’s 7-0 run is the most underrated achievement in Roast Battle history. Or 4,000 on how it’s actually overrated. Maybe I would just take all the thousands of jokes that were used and rank ‘em. From 1 to 2,859, or whatever. Just sitting around all day, every day, ranking jokes until my wife left me and my landlord evicted me. After weighing all of these options I decided that the fewer words I needed to use, the better. There’s no way that I could properly capture all the pandemonium we’ve experienced this year. Fortunately, there’s someone who can – Troy Conrad. Troy is the most unheralded Roast Battle superstar, managing to run all over a completely packed Belly Room every Tuesday, completely undetected, and get the absolute best pictures to document the madness as it unfolds. The guy is wildly talented and should probably be photographing for National Geographic or Time or Sports Illustrated, but instead he’s slumming it at The Comedy Store and taking shots that will live on long after all of us do. So without further ado, I present the year in Roast Battle, captured through the lens of the great Troy Conrad.

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January 5 – In one of the most bizarre undercards in the show’s history, Thomas Kellogg gave an insanely incoherent performance before delivering his closing joke, which consisted of pulling out a Mr. Potato Head doll and simulating sex with it. Thomas has not been back since.

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January 12 – In a year that featured an unprecedented amount of on-stage makeout sessions, this is the one that started it all. Courtney Banks and Lindsey Jennings took the third rule of Roast Battle further than anyone before. The look on Brian Moses’ face says it all.

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January 19 – Dave Chappelle was on hand to judge for the third time in the past couple of months. The main event saw Nick Petrillo destroy Tim Groeschel in one of the year’s only two round main event wins.

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January 26 – In the first and only (to date) battle to feature two characters, legendary hater The Saudi Prince won a hotly contested affair against Skippy Greene.

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January 30 – The one Los Angeles venture outside of The Comedy Store took us to the Riot LA Festival, where Earl Skakel and Olivia Grace stole the show.

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February 2 – While simple, this is one of my all-time favorite Roast Battle pictures. The childlike joy on Tom Goss’ face after pulling down a win over Dan Nolan is the perfect representation of how emotional the show can be, and how good a victory can feel after putting in so much effort.

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February 9 – Speaking of simple, there was perhaps no Wave moment that was this perfect all year. Some were certainly more elaborate and thorough and, just, BETTER. But nothing was more appropriate than Haiti running on stage while the crowd gave Steven Alan Green deafening silence and nailing him with a blow dart, adding injury to insult.

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February 16 – The man who effortlessly alternates between being the most lovable and hateable person at the show every Tuesday, Mark Stevens, debuted with a big win.

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February 23 – The ol’ baby bird bit.

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March 1 – An undercard battle was so bad that the judges made both participants do push-ups on stage. As you can tell from their form, they weren’t particularly successful at anything that night.

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March 8 – Jerry Seinfeld graced the stage at The Comedy Store for the first time in 37 years. While he didn’t attend that evening’s battle, it wasn’t for a lack of effort; during a question-and-answer segment with the crowd, Lou Vahram used his battle fearlessness and complete lack of understanding of social boundaries to try and persuade Seinfeld to come upstairs. It didn’t work, but we all respected Lou’s effort (even if we cringed as he was doing it).

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March 15 – In a very handi-capable undercard, Joe Eurell took home a win over Steve Lee. No word on who kept the balloon.

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March 22 – All seemed to be in order in the judges’ section – Hinchcliffe, Ross, Davidson… but lurking below them was… Jamar? In an Omid Singh mask? I’m not entirely sure.

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March 29 – I wasn’t sure if the previous week featured an Omid Singh mask, but this one definitely featured Omid himself offering an assist on perhaps the most repulsive Wave bit of all time. During the epic Jay Light vs. Keith Carey main event, Jeremiah took the stage to brush his teeth and spit the residue into a toilet plunger. Omid proceeded to down the contents of the plunger to the absolute disgust and delight of the crowd.

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April 5 – The first Belly Room title match in almost a year featured Alex Hooper and his Heisman Trophy stance edging out a win over defending champion Leah Kayajanian and beginning his second reign as champ.

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April 12 – What a difference three months makes. Compare Moses’ reaction to the Courtney/Lindsey kiss on January 12 to the Keith/Connor one here. It had clearly become a normal occurrence by this point. As for the battle, Keith and Earl Skakel saved the show with an impromptu main event after two battles were last second scratches. The surprise battle remains one of the coolest moments in the show’s history to date.

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April 19 – The ol’ clothespins on the nipples bit.

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April 26 – Another under-the-radar star of the show, Boon Shakalaka, moved the crowd with a stirring rendition of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary”.

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May 3 – In a solid main event, Toby Muresianu defeated Doug Fager and cause The Wave to do various activities (drinking beers, touching their nipples, doing the Kevin McAllister face slap) while wearing diapers. But the biggest reactions came after the fight, when Doug unleashed his wrath on Tony Hinchcliffe and shut down the Golden Pony’s post-battle bullying.

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May 10 – This is Justin Matson. I don’t remember his battle, but the report said that it was bad. Fortunately, while bombing, he posed for a delightful picture with a cute little doll.

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May 17 – In a contender for Troy Conrad Picture of the Year, The Wave fights over an ear of corn while Tony Bartolone reveals a custom Giant Killer shirt after dropping an absolute killer of a joke on Quentin Moscaritolo. This is Roast Battle chaos done at its absolute best.

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May 24 – Earl Skakel stepped into the ring once again for a classic draw with Joe Dosch. Here, he musters every bit of strength he has to Hulk Hogan the remains of his t-shirt.

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May 31 – In what I believe was his only attempt at an elaborate entrance, Frank Castillo entered to “Coco” and tried to do a LeBron James powder deal with a brick of cocaine. There were numerous technical difficulties with the entrance and Frank lost the battle to Rich Slaton, but he gave us a great picture in the process.

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June 7 – In the battle that took her from “budding Roast Battle star” to “legitimate top tier superstar”, Anna Valenzuela took down Josh Waldron and had a message for the crowd in the process.

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June 14 – A star-studded judge panel took in the action at the first Comedy Central Road to Roast Battle taping. The night would see victories from Olivia Grace, Keith Carey, Sarah Tiana, Alex Hooper, and Earl Skakel.

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June 21 – The Ultimate Hater.

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June 28 – In what was arguably the greatest battle in the history of the show, I emerged with a triple-OT win over Keith Carey. In what was inarguably one of the coolest moments of my comedy career, we got a ravenous standing ovation and “battle” chant for our efforts after the third round ended.

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July 5 – The ol’ blowjob and spit cum all over the stage bit.

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July 12 – Something somebody said was too much for Hannibal Buress. 

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July 19 – In the final Roast Battle before Montreal, Jamar Neighbors made an absolutely legendary entrance before losing handily to Canadian battle rapper Corey Charron.

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August 2 – Darran Davis pulled down his first-ever win, and the happiness was too much to handle. He went airborne and gave us a classic victory shot.

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August 9 – The ol’ yoga bit.

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August 16 – Jay Light made a theatrical entrance for his Alex Hooper title fight, complete with a mock Donald Trump. The joke was on Jay, as he lost the battle and the real Trump won the election a few months later.

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August 23 – I have no idea what happened in the battles this week, but Troy snapped this action shot of Coach Tea at work before the show began. One of the unsung heroes preparing to work his magic.

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August 30 – Roast Battle superfan John Mayer came by for the fights, and took a pic with Haiti and Jeff Ross afterwards. Despite their facial expressions, everyone had a good time that night.

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September 6 – In one of the most offensive (and effective!) entrances of all time, Tony Bartolone brought the house down with a multi-layered theatrical performance that featured an unexpected cameo. The battle didn’t go quite as well, as Doug pulled out a win in the third round.

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September 13 – Danielle Perez defeated Heather Marulli in a fight that will contend for Undercard of the Year, but the real story is this picture. The welcome mat and the angle make it a great shot, but the unexplained shoe where Danielle’s foot would have theoretically been is what makes it art.

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September 20 – For the second straight week an undercard stole the show. Leah Lamarr beat out Nicole Becannon in the battle of the night, but the important thing is that everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

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September 27 – The ol’ political bit.

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October 4 – Jamar showed up for his Joe Dosch battle in style, and then backed it up in the ring with one of the strongest wins of the year.

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October 11 – An absolute legend and Dennis Rodman.

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October 18 – If the fire marshal is reading, please relax. The flames were added in post with CGI. Haven’t you fucked with the show enough this year?

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October 25 – After dozens of images displaying the insanity that the show brings, we take a little break to look at perhaps the greatest actual battler the show has ever seen – Keith Carey. On this night he lost a close fight to Kim Congdon, but his resume is still unparalleled in the sport.

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November 1 – The ol’ Haiti fucking a Lindsey Jennings body pillow bit.

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November 15 – Was there a night off on November 8? I think there was, but I don’t remember why. Anyway, this was the night before the Road to Roast Battle II taping. It was underwhelming. But man, look at the suit on my guy to the left there. I don’t remember this fight, but a look at the recap says he closed with this joke: “So, for the people who don’t know, I’m slightly retarded, and I have a speech impediment, so I wanna give James a round of applause for helping retards and bringing retards into the community more.”

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November 22 – After the R2RB2 taping (of which there are no public photos), another highly anticipated battle went down – the debut of The Wave. It did not go nearly how anyone expected, as they caught an absolute beatdown at the hands of The Virzi Triplets. Here we have the Triplets breaking down the skin tones of The Wave members with a little bit of visual assistance.

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November 29 – In his latest title defense, Alex Hooper confused the everloving fuck out of me en route to a victory. Here we see him twirling his tail in delight after delivering a joke.

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December 6 – Haiti picked up his first ever win, and he did it in pajama pants.

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December 13 – More Boon. Wait, no, that’s Jamar lip synching to Whitney Houston while wearing a Billy Ray Cyrus wig.

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December 20 – The final entry in this column, as Troy captures one of the few good moments before Tony Bartolone’s master plan began to come unraveled.

I’d like to close this piece by encouraging everyone to check out more of Troy Conrad’s work. As a comedian and photographer, he does more shit “for the love of the game” than anyone could reasonably expect, and he does it while being one of the most pleasant human beings on earth. If you live in the LA area and need a photographer, check him out. 

Big update on the Roast Battle Fantasy League coming in two days – until then, enjoy the last show of the year tomorrow night in the Belly Room. Let’s roast!

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