Tonight, I’m a Roast Battle outsider. I watch a jittery Periscope feed in the back seat of a car driving north from San Diego, silently cursing AT&T for not offering unlimited data. We try to hook up to Bluetooth so all the comics in the car – fellow Comedy Store family members and big Battle fans – can hear Moses lay into the weirdly unresponsive crowd.
“Who got laid this week?” Moses asks, and applause and cheering ripple through the back of the room. The comics’ section. Moses verbally backhands the crowd: “Come on! Homeless people are getting laid before you guys!” The comics clap again and the crowd starts to loosen up. Moses, the sensei of this roasting dojo, knew exactly what they needed. After some ribbing from the Ghost of Tommy, who decided to dish out hate from the back of the room instead of Earl’s usual seat at the Haters’ table, the crowd was finally ready to see some abuse.
The first undercards get introduced: DC transplant and comedy newbie Izzy Salhani vs. the seasoned Paul Elia. The diminutive Izzy comes out swinging during her first seconds on stage:
“Why’d you choose Paul?” – Moses
“Because I know I’m funnier than him.” – Izzy
The crowd’s bloodlust starts to show as they roar in approval. Moses sets the battlers loose:
“Bitch, I don’t know which confuses me more. Why you decided to do comedy or which bathroom you use.” – Paul
"I’m gay, and even I don’t know which closet you’re in.” – Izzy
“Izzy got her name from her dad. The doctor said ‘It’s a girl’ and her dad said, ‘is he?’” – Paul
“Paul’s so desperate for fame, he just came out…as a Bill Cosby rape victim.” – Izzy
After the crowd can’t come to an obvious consensus in the voting, the back of the room starts chanting “JOKE-OFF!” It looks like these two aren’t going down easy until Paul tries to pull off this insult:
“You look like one of the Little Rascals.”
Crickets. Even Izzy is dumbfounded.
“That’s your joke?”
That simple retort winds up being all she needs to lock up victory. After tossing out one final joke about Guantanamo Bay, the crowd declares Izzy the new champion.
Next up are two bespectacled white guys: Scott Bowser and Dave Sirus. These Roast Battle virgins came to play. The Periscope feed commenters think Scott looks like a bootleg Brody Stevens, but Dave had plenty of other things to hit this self-admitted former homeless alcoholic drug addict with.
“I was expecting you to come up with something more smart right away considering you look like a pedophile with a master’s degree.” – Scott
“Bowser is the name of the main villain in Super Mario Brothers. And just like that Bowser, you’ve also been double teamed by two Italians on mushrooms.” – Dave
“I’ve seen better punch lines on Rihanna’s face.” – Dave
“Scott once quit drinking, but kept doing comedy, so his life was still filled with boos.” – Dave
Scott’s first joke lands, but he struggles to keep up with the burns Dave is dishing out. They continue to trade barbs after the bell, prompting criticism from the back:
“Guys, this is like Season 3 of Whitney – unnecessary.” – Tommy
Dave is declared the obvious winner, and the two hug. I shut off the feed to conserve battery. We stop at a gas station for a pee break. By the time we’re back on the 5, the second set of undercards has begun.
The challenger, Jeff Sewing, takes the stage, followed by his opponent, four-bout veteran Leah Kayajanian. These two spar the way the best battlers do: by pulling no punches. Such is the beauty of a roast between close friends.
“Jeff is like a thin Drew Carey wearing a fat Drew Carey suit.” – Leah
“I’d rather look like a comedian who’s on TV than a girl who climbed out of a TV in The Ring.” – Jeff
“Jeff is one of my best friends in comedy, and even I can’t remember which white dude he is.” – Leah
"You look like somebody glued a witch mask onto a 12-year-old boy.” – Jeff
“If Jeff were alive during the 1800s, he’d be a dude who thought he was a good person because he taught his slaves to read.” – Leah
“Leah, have your lips always been that thin or did all the dicks you suck just erode them over time?” – Jeff
Each new joke seems to hit bigger than the last. Jeff and Leah are not only rocking the room, but also making each other crack up. Yet, although it was supremely close, Jeff takes home the win. The Sklar Brothers show up early to offer their wowed reaction:
“He literally took the rug she sold to him and pulled it out from under her!”
Then, as my signal falls and the feed stutters, we hear Moses yell amidst some commotion: “The original All Nigga Wave is here!”
“Jamar just came back from playing the ampersand in the Key & Peele movie.” – Jeff Ross
"WHAT’S THAT MEAN? WHAT’S THAT MEAN? WHAT’S THAT MEAN?“ – The Wave
The Roastmaster General, who had also been watching this monstrous bout, declares it one of the best undercards the show has ever had. High praise from the high priest of Roast Battle.
With the help of the original Wave’s manic energy, the crowd is finally fully in tune with the vibe of the show. They’re ready for our last undercard: Guam Felix versus Justin Harrison.
Guam enters with Mad Max flair and threatens Justin right from the start when Moses asks why he’d chosen his opponent:
"I’m from the island…I’m very used to roasting a pig.” – Guam
“He had to leave the island because it was sinking too fast.” – Keith Carey, in the Hater’s section
The Haters fire some more barbs, then Moses starts the final one-rounder before the main event:
“Justin did a show at a children’s hospital, at the end, one of the kids unplugged himself.” – Guam
“Guam has been celbiate for a year by choice, meaning he doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘choice.’” – Justin
“In all seriousness, Guam overcame a lot of adversity in his career, like when he got killed at the end of Ghostbusters.” – Justin
“Justin has the face of a UFC fighter and the body of a KFC champion. – Guam
Although Justin has good jokes, he doesn’t quite possess the confident delivery that Guam nails. The crowd cheers as Moses raises Guam’s massive arm above his head.
A Pat Regan song and a Coach Tea/All Nigga Wave R. Kelly collaboration later, and it’s time for the main event: Frank Castillo versus Kim Congdon.
In the Periscope feed, Frank’s mom calls him the original Beanie Baby. I crack up, my seatbelt unable to restrain my laughing fit.
The Ronda Rousey and Chuck Liddell of the Roast Battle come to the stage. I can feel the tension even from miles away.
"We’ve got a Puerto Rican, a Mexican and a Black on stage. Is this a Roast Battle or a DMV line?” – Tommy
After Moses introduces the judges one more time – Jeff Ross, “everyone’s favorite nobodies” the Sklar Brothers, and “the kiss of death,” Julian McCullough – goes over the rules, and cries, “LET’S ROAST!” Coach Tea rings the bell. Round one is on.
“Frank is a Mexican, but I’m not worried, because I know he’s not stealing any jobs in comedy.”
“They say why by the cow when you can fuck Kim Congdon for free?”
"Donald Trump says Mexicans are murderers, but I’ve performed a lot with Frank and I’ve never seen him kill.”
“The only time Kim kills is when she headlines at Planned Parenthood."
After intense deliberation, the judges give Frank the round. Jeff notices Frank’s zen-like calm:
"How hard did you prepare for this roast, Frank?”
“Very hard. I was on the road, so I wrote a lot while I was gone.”
“On the road? Doing what, picking up trash?”
Julian, meanwhile, takes to the rhythm of the room with no problem:
“White, black, no matter what your race, if you go to prison, you come out lookin’ Muslim.”
Jeff notes that he thinks Kim had excellent jokes and that she’ll come back in the second round. She opts to defer to Frank for the thirty-second round. Frank doesn’t bat an eye:
“When Tony told you to kill it tonight, he meant the baby.”
“Kim doesn’t date Asians, which is odd. She’s had 2 chins for years.”
“Kim’s fucked so many writers her vagina has a whiteboard in it.”
“Kim gets a lot of hot material from headliners. Usually she just wipes it from her face.”
“Stripping runs in Kim’s family. She came out of the womb to ‘Cherry Pie.’”
Kim, practically cowering in the corner, fires off her retorts:
“You’re right Frank, I have fucked a comic. It’s too bad your girlfriend hasn’t.”
“Frank was really on the fence about battling me, but naturally he jumped over it.”
“Frank, I don’t know why you picked me, because I’m not lettuce.”
The judges are impressed with Kim’s ruthlessness:
“That’s how a Puerto Rican is supposed to cut you.” – Julian McCullough
And a little concerned that Frank is still in zen mode:
“This is like the most calm beheading ever. This is like lazy ISIS.” – The Sklar Brothers
Tommy, meanwhile, is just concerned for the safety of West Hollywood’s children:
“That judges’ row looks like a goddamned AMBER Alert lineup!"
The round goes to Kim, though Jeff notes that both battlers still need to put some oomph into it, and that Kim should come out of her corner and to the front of the stage. He gives Frank the chance to swing first in the haymaker round. I’m dashing up the stairs to my apartment so I can finish watching on my computer instead of my horiffically cracked phone screen.
“Kim has an Amazon Prime body and a return to sender face.”
"Frank, your best friend lives in your living room, and he gets more pussy than you, and that’s just from your girlfriend.”
“Kim doesn’t know who her father is, and audiences will never know who she is.”
Kim, looking a little blindsided, tries this joke:
"Frank made fun of me for dating a black guy, but nobody ever makes fun of him, proving that hack lives matter.”
The crowd groans. They don’t like this one. Frank retorts:
“Kim wanders around aimlessly on stage. I dunno if you’re looking for a joke or another dick to suck.”
"Frank was born premature, which means he’s always had bad delivery.”
“Kim doesn’t like condoms. She always makes guys pull out…the couch she sleeps on.”
Then, when it looks like Frank has the round sealed up thanks to Kim’s stumble, she drops her final joke:
"Frank’s got a new Netflix special coming out. It’s called Selling Oranges the New Black.”
It immediately becomes the consensus line of the night.
“On that last joke, a hush went over the parking lot at Home Depot.” – The Sklar Bros
The judges give Frank props for his prowess in the ring, and his castable look:
“Frank, you definitely have a future in stealing computers then programming them. Are you starring on Maricon Valley?” – Julian McCullough
Jeff offers congratulations to both battlers, then declares Kim the victor. I close the feed, then look over from my computer chair to Frank’s open bedroom door. I get the feeling he won’t be coming home for a while.
Josh drops by on his way home. I say that thought it was exciting to watch, solely based on the Periscope feed, it didn’t seem like Kim had the victory as much as the judges said she did. As I pace around my living room bedroom, Josh says it felt totally different in the room. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. Two weeks without a live Roast Battle in my life feels exceptionally weird. It’s just more incentive to actually be in the room next time.