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by Jay Light

“This is for everyone that’s fuckin’ wanted to chase a dream, and wanted to quit, and just didn’t stop. This is for you guys.” – Frank Castillo

Frank Castillo emerging as the victor of Roast Battle II: War Of The Words is much more than just a Cinderella story. It’s a win for the show’s home club of The Comedy Store. It’s a rallying cry for the Los Angeles comedy community. It’s a reminder that, at its heart, Roast Battle is a game of comedy fundamentals: good joke writing, confidence, likability, and a dash of theatrics. It’s a validation of the oft-repeated Roast Battle origin story, where a lowly open mic has the potential to become a worldwide phenomenon with the right amount of coaxing and coaching. Above all, though, Frank’s win firmly cements him as the once and future champion; a scrappy comic and hard-working member of the Roast Battle team who kept his head down and his nose to the grindstone until he was given a chance to step into greatness – and boy, did he ever take a gigantic step. If you haven’t congratulated Frank yet, get on it. Something tells me he’s about to get very, very busy.

Now that all the confetti has fallen and the trophy is safely squirreled away in the living room I used to call my bedroom, it’s time to get back to basics for the six fights scheduled for tonight in the Belly Room. Before we meet the battlers, let’s check in with our judges.

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Making his debut on the judges’ dais tonight is our newest champion, who will be sitting right next to the first Roast Battle champion, Mike Lawrence. Having finally relocated to Los Angeles after coming up in the New York City scene, I expect we’ll see a lot more of this master verbal assassin in the VIP section in the coming months. Rounding things out will be none other than Jeff Ross. Fresh off the season 2 wrap, it’s only fitting that the Roastmaster General gets to oversee how his two newest lieutenants take charge from on high.

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First up in the ring tonight is relative newbie Matthew Maloney versus total newbie Taylor Rizzo. Matthew, seen here challenging you to a chess game that you stand no chance of winning, has a victory under his belt already, and that win just so happens to have been earned in front of rising techno music star Corey Feldman. Way to stay in the pocket in the face of C-list celebrity, Matthew! Taylor, seen here breaking the cardinal “no shorts on stage” rule of stand-up comedy, has never battled before, but he does look like he’d wrestle an alligator. Maybe he’ll take that fearlessness into the ring tonight.

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Then we have Mark Stevens versus Guam Felix. Mark is still in the rankings after trucking through three women with relative ease, though he took his only loss incredibly hard. However, after punching enough inanimate objects to get his anger out, he’s ready to go toe-to-toe with our favorite VIP security guy. Guam is always an enjoyably theatrical battler, with elaborate intros and blunt jokes that wallop like a sledgehammer. Can the nimble Mark Stevens dodge Guam’s blows and hit him where it hurts, or will Guam take down yet another helpless little bitch?

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Following that we have Steve Lee tackling the titanic Kevin Munroe. I’m not sure who’s doing the impression of who in these photos, but I do know that Kevin has a massive lack of ring experience compared to Steve. Kevin is a solid comic who cut his teeth in the Bay Area, but he has never done a Roast Battle before, so his prowess for the game remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Steve is a new fan favorite with a couple of wins to his name, part of the ever-growing category of special needs battlers who have ambled their way into the hearts of fans citywide. Can Kevin manage a takedown on his first time on the show, or will Steve be the one doing the crippling?

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Up next, Keith Reza tries to prove he’s more mean – and less creepy – than Michael Amico. Here we have yet another example of someone with way more experience in the ring taking on someone with almost none. Keith has done a handful of battles. Some were great, some were outright terrible. This time, he takes on challenger Michael Amico, seen here trying to figure out which of your body parts he’s gonna put that cigarette out on. Michael does have a sliver of experience in the ring, but it’s not enough for me to adequately make a good guess as to how he’ll do tonight. Given the up-and-down nature of Keith’s battle record, this one really is a toss-up.

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Our final undercard is an all-female virgin sacrifice between Paige Wesley and Madison Shepard. Madison is a darling of the Eastside scene, where roast jokes go to die, but she is both funny and well-respected, which is always a good combo to sport on your first time in the ring. Paige is a tourinc comic and a Flappers darling, and is the first of the Burbank club’s house comics to tussle in the ring since Drew Lynch took on Connor McSpadden years ago. I’m really looking forward to this one – it’s one of the most intriguing all-virgin matchups we’ve had in a while!

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Tonight’s main event is a one-round, five-joke clash between two rising Roast Battle stars: Richie Gaines and Lindsey Jennings. Richie is typically a vicious battler, spitting well-crafted jokes with just the right amount of knife-twisting to them. However, his last match was a misfire against Nick Petrillo, so tonight he looks to redeem himself. Lindsey Jennings is one of the best battlers to never really crack the rankings, only bouncing into the top 50 once during her battle career only to quickly be bounced right back out. However, she always turns in a tough-as-nails performance no matter who her opponent is. She has proven that she’ll go to any lengths to try and win, particularly showing that skill in her last match by calling out Moses himself in more than one of her jokes. This one ought to be a white trash rumble for the ages, so don’t skip out early!

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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