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by Keith Carey, photos by Troy Conrad

Roast Battle is an interesting work of art. Every comedy show has ebbs
and flows, but the Battle has a life force all it’s own. There are stretches where
the show feels a bit bored, or unsure of itself, and it’s reflected in the
audience and the performances. Since our TV debut, the show has gone through another wave of unforeseen evolution. A combination of heightened expectations, an adrenaline
drop after the big time, a fire marshal’s order that has caused the crowd to fundamentally change, and a strange cocktail of solid fights from old standbys and wobbly bouts from newcomers has caused the
overall show to seem a bit off-center. However, Tuesday’s battles reaffirmed that not only is the show truly better than ever, but it is regaining its footing to grow into a different beast entirely. From top to bottom, this was one of
the most overall fun nights of Roast Battle in recent memory. Let’s get into
it.

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The undercards kick off with David Nieker taking down Adi
Gordon!

Adi takes the stage first, sparking a debate
about the pronunciation of his name:

“It’s not A-di, it’s Ah-di!” – Adi

“It’s A-di until you win a fuckin’ battle.” – Moses

Adi achieves the rare feat of getting a laugh off of
attacking the Saudi Prince, then David takes the stage to the sound of
“Here Comes Santa Claus.” David, looking more like Krampus, has fire in his eyes, and Adi’s got redemption on his mind as
the bell rings and the battle begins.

“Dave, you look
like Hagrid if all of his spells used white powder.”

“Look at that nose. I turned Adi’s headshot sideways, I
thought a shark was attacking.”

“Dave’s from old Chicago, but that’s not why all his White
Sox are covered in deep crust.”

“Indian women won’t date Adi. They already don’t get enough
meat.”

“Dave, you unemployed stoner. Your ancestors didn’t get
burned and torched for you to just burn out on your own.”

“Adi is shorter for a much longer Indian name. His real name
is “Adi pleasure of assisting you with your call…”

“This was a great community college re-enactment of Lord of
the Rings
.” -Saudi Prince

David’s jokes clearly have more pop, but Adi moves the room
a little bit, certainly more than he has in previous battles. I’ll go on record
as saying that Chicago joke deserved way more love than it got from the
audience. Ultimately, David is declared the winner. David is set to go up
against battle-hardened Brent Duncan next month, while Adi will have to select
a new target as he inches toward victory. He’s still not great in the ring, but there’s
light at the end of the tunnel.

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Next up, Izzy Salhani edges out Brandon Jeddi!

Izzy is brought to the stage in all her “Raggedy Ann if she
was a women’s studies major” glory. Among Izzy’s credits is the fact that she is a
rape survivor.

“He didn’t do it right, then.” – Saudi Prince

Brandon Jeddi comes up next. He’s got a quiet, nerdy
exterior with an undercurrent of evil behind his eyes, like Lex Luthor or a
school shooter. After a long stand-off over who will go first, Jamar elects
Brandon, and the battle begins.

“Izzy’s acne scars make her look like Edward James Almost a
woman.”

“Jeddi fixes computers. So he doesn’t have to call anyone
when his micro-dick malfunctions.”

“Izzy was raped by 4 Marines. And 3 good men died in there.”

“Jeddi, it was easier to cope with being raped than it was
to listen to your stand-up.”

“Izzy was 24 and still had braces. She’s mangled more clits
than her Middle Eastern father.”

“They say laughter’s the best medicine. If only Brandon were
funnier, his mom might still be alive.”

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This is a solid fight, and showcases two different styles of
battle colliding. Brandon’s jokes are clever, and on paper are arguably stronger
than Izzy’s. However Izzy uses her knowledge of the energy of the room to take
big, broad swings that all connect, and uses a perfectly timed rebuttal to
neuter Brandon’s vicious rape joke. It’s a close vote, but Izzy gets a bit
more love from the crowd and walks away with the W.

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Next up, the battle rap invasion continues as Daniel
“Caustic” Stefani curbstomps Jose Trevizo.

Caustic takes the stage and immediately announces he is very
high. He follows that up with a pretty tepid freestyle that makes the room
wonder if they’re about to see a massacre. Jose takes the stage, and the two
set in to bet the shit out of each other.

“Yo, your rap game is like Vanilla Ice if Vanilla Ice was a
dirty wop.”

“What’s your name again? No mas trabajo? Nice tits, Josie. I
thought you’d be in better shape with how hard you’re struggling with your
career.”

“If any of the shit you rapped about was real, you’d be in
jail right now sucking Sug Knight’s dick.”

“You’re Mexican, but you’re, like, a white Mexican. Your mom
had the tortilla fever? It doesn’t make you a wetback just ‘cause you’re
drowning in debt.”

“This dude’s girlfriend is just some grenade he jumped on
for Eminem back in the day.”

“You’re talking about MY girlfriend? You remind me of the
national anthem; Jose, can you see? Those are some really nice tattoos. You
shoulda just gave the guy an extra 20 bucks to write ‘faggot’ on your face.
Shit’s like a magic eye. You look close you can see the exact spot where he’s
gonna kill himself. They gave him a peace sign because they know he’s gonna
fucking kill himself.”

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Jose’s jokes are, as the judges point out, more declarations
of fact than actual jokes. He fumbles the delivery of the third one so bad that
nobody knows what the fuck he’s talking about. Caustic brings a loose,
easy-going energy to his jokes. Just when you think he’s rambling himself into
a disaster, he closes with a strong punch. However, his third joke whiffs hard,
and even with a chance to redeem himself after the bell he drops the ball.
Regardless, Jose is a mess and two strong jokes from Caustic are more than
enough to get him an easy win.

“I give this one to peanut Eminem.” – Tony Hinchcliffe

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Our final powerhouse undercard sees Kabir Singh decimating Daniel
“Dirtbag Dan” Martinez!

Dirtbag Dan takes the stage and immediately makes a point to
acknowledge the trainwreck that was the last battle, saying he picked an
opponent he respected to avoid a similar debacle. If only he knew what was
about to happen to him. Kabir gets up and looks a little tense. It’s his first
time in the ring and it seems the nerves may have gotten the best of him.
Still, the judges are optimistic about Kabir:

“You seem like you’re gonna suck, so you have to be really
good.” – Tony Hinchcliffe

“He looks like Horatio Sans Talent.” – Saudi Prince

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The bell rings and the knives come out.

“Kabir Singh, ladies and gentlemen. I’m not sure what that
means in your country but at the airport it means “mandatory cavity search.””

“Dirtbag Dan has a lot of street cred. He survived 30 years
in a cul-de-sac. Lotta super soakers out there!”

“Give it up for Aziz I’m Sorry. Kabir, lemme ask you a
question. 5,000,000 people in your country, how come none of them were in the
Olympics? Too bad smelling like shit isn’t an professional sport.”

“That’s what I look like? You look like Cypress Hillbilly.”

“Cypress Hillbilly? Fuck you, when you spike your hair you
look like Hindu the Hedgehog. Kabir’s a Bay Area comedian who puts North
Hollywood on his Facebook profile. Nope! 500 miles north, in your parents
basement. It smells like curry and failure.”

“Please excuse Dirtbag Dan. He’s having a bit of writer’s
block. He can’t find anything to rhyme with white privilege.”

“I think Kabir’s Adderall just kicked in.” – Michael Kosta

All three of Kabir’s jokes detonate with lethal efficiency.
They’re short, smart, and laser-specific. “Cypress Hillbilly” brings the room
down and triggers possibly the most violent Wave moment of all time, as Jay
Washington bursts in and beats the shit out of all three of them. 

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Dirtbag Dan,
to his credit, keeps his energy up and delivers his jokes confidently. However,
not even the time-tested Battle strategy of blunt force racism can make up for
how outmatched he is as a writer, and he loses handily. This battle gives us
not only the first battle rapper to lose a match, but the birth of a potential
Roast Battle superstar in Kabir Singh.

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Finally, in what is sure to go down as one of the most
memorable matches in Roast Battle history, Tony Bartolone’s win streak is cut short by Doug Fager!

One of the elements of Roast Battle that divides the fans
most is the elaborate, wrestling-inspired intros that some fighters use.
Battlers like Alex Hooper, Earl Skakel, and world champion Mike Lawrence have
gotten theatrical in the past with great success. Some people think this is in
the spirit of the show, others think battlers should focus on the jokes and
leave the sideshow antics to the Wave. Tony Bartolone’s weird, acid-trip intro is arguably the
oddest moment I’ve ever seen in the Belly Room. Take a look:

Holy shit. The video is hard to see, but the ghost is wearing a sign that says “Greg Fager”, aka Doug’s oft-joked about dead brother. This bit blurs the line between whimsical and outright cruel. It is in incredibly poor taste, and yet is also one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. 

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The judges are perplexed, but Michael Kosta declares it the best introduction he’s ever seen. Bartolone then makes it clear he will be fighting from inside a garbage can, and the room slowly loses its mind over the weirdness of it all. Tony makes a long, rambling “opening statement” that goes from disastrous to hysterical as it unfolds, including a shout-out to his months-long hashtag campaign, #FuckFager. Fager throws a couple quick jabs, but Tony has completely taken control of the room as the bell rings and round one begins.

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“Doug looks like a bouncer at a Whole Foods salad bar.”

“Tony looks like the guy who brings nachos to a gangbang.”

“I’m just happy I get to be in a gangbang in that joke. Doug always has a shit-eating grin on stage, because he’s always eating shit on stage.”

“Tony’s gone through the five stages of grief, and so has every girl that’s fucked him.”

“I’m not sure how Doug’s dead brother died, but one thing’s for sure, he did not die laughing.”

“Tony, you actually remind me a lot of my brother. My brother died of food poisoning, which means you’re both going to eat yourself to death.”

The judges, almost begrudgingly, acknowledge Tony’s domination of round one. The “die laughing” joke in particular is hailed as brilliant, but there’s still some criticism made toward Tony.

“If a trash can could speak, this would be the first one that said ‘Get out of me.’” – Kirk Fox

“It’s appropriate that you’re in a trash can because a couple of those jokes were recycled material.’” – Sarah Tiana

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Doug makes a bold decision to lead off in round two, which almost all battle veterans will agree is a less powerful position. However, the gamble pays off big-time as the battle continues.

“Tony hates his stepfather. But mostly he just hates steps.”

“Tony recently went down on a woman in a wheelchair, proving he will eat anything if it’s on a roll.”

“It wasn’t strange for Tony having sex with a woman in a wheelchair, because every time he fucks a woman she can’t feel shit down there.”

“Doug looks like a Mormon with multiple husbands.”

“Doug has sent so many unsolicited dick pics that his phone has HIV.”

“Doug is a Christian. But everybody who’s seen him perform knows that there is no God.”

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All three of Doug’s jokes pop hard, whipping the Wave into a frenzy. Tony’s Mormon joke hits hard, but the HIV phone joke flops, and he fumbles the delivery on his round two closer. Tony Hinchcliffe speculates that perhaps there is a pay-off to the trash can gimmick coming, a speculation that perhaps hurts Bartolone going into round three. Tony is offered the opportunity to get out of the can by Kirk Fox, but the crowd demands he stay in it for the final round.

“Tony, you look like Peter Jackson directing Lord of the Onion Rings.

“Doug, you white Wisconsin motherfucker. You look like Hitler jizzed on a cheese curd and grew a faggot.”

“Tony’s dad died doing what he loved: leaving Tony behind.”

“Doug slit his wrists just to drink his own blood alcohol content.”

“People think that Tony is a fat, 29-year-old, worthless piece of shit without a future. And to those people, I say: Tony is 30.”

“Doug’s first words when his brother died were ‘This is gonna get me so much pussy.’ Doug actually used his brother’s ghost as a wingman.”

Tony’s first joke creeps up and gets a huge reaction from the room, but Doug consistently hits, while Tony’s last two jokes falter. It’s truly a remarkable battle. Against any lesser battler, Tony’s swagger and confident weirdness would have made him a runaway success, but Doug Fager is a brilliant performer and a fucking devastating writer, and won a hard-earned victory. Tony Hinchcliffe is critical of Bartolone for having a weird gimmick that doesn’t have a big pay-off. Y’know, like this:

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In the end, Michael Kosta sums it up best:

“The goal of Roast Battle is to make you fucking laugh and entertain you, and you both did it.”

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The room empties as the staff sadly realizes how much loose food Tony has dropped out of the trash can for them to clean up. Both battlers truly deserve to be commended here. Doug Fager is one of the best, most consistent writers in the game, and fought his way out of a hole that I’m not sure anybody else could have. And Tony Bartolone continues to bring a maniacal whimsy to the show. I’m sure in coming weeks we will see pale imitations of his intro by less-seasoned battlers, and it will only serve to highlight how effortless Tony made it work. It defied expectation and made the crowd laugh in spite of themselves, and it doesn’t get more Roast Battle than that.

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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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