What is comedy worth? In our modern capitalist society, what is the market value of comedy? When you think of comedy as a commodity, how does it compare to steel or gold or oil? How does it compare to company shares, to stocks and bonds? When you start to consider comedy in these terms you might think it to be unnecessary by comparison. When thought of as a good or service, and put against other more tangible goods, it seems to diminish the value of comedy greatly. Kurt Vonnegut once said:
“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts.”
But in this rapidly changing world, where oil is still America’s number one export, what is sustainable? According to the McKinsey Global Institute, by the year 2030, only 11 years from now, 800 million jobs will be eliminated by automation. So in a world with electric, self-driving cars currently being sold on the consumer market and jobs being taken over by robots quicker than a computer can generate a résumé template, perhaps a career in the arts is the only job security that exists. In the future world of Artificial Intelligence, choose a career that requires you to be human. Humanity is a commodity.
Empathy and vulnerability and honesty are very uniquely qualities that comedy relies on to be effective. Comedy is pain. It’s a coping mechanism, a survival instinct. It is pain made palatable. Failure made funny. It is an irreplaceable human voice that says, “You are not alone.” Why was Richard Pryor the funniest man to ever pick up a microphone? Because he was honest and vulnerable, and therein exists a place where empathy can grow. Pain is the fertile ground in which genuine human connection can bloom. We don’t make jokes to offend people, we make jokes as an audacious attempt to connect with people. Some things in life have to be funny. If they’re not funny, they’re harmful. Some things are too heavy, and humor supplies the necessary levity for us to carry on. On Tuesday night, in the wake of death, there was a substantial release. A community of relief. Let’s roast!
DC Ervin, Joe DeRosa and the RoastMaster Jeff Ross are all present and accounted for. Brian Moses brings up the recent suicide of beloved comedian and Roast Battle regular Brody Stevens. Jeff Ross shares some stories and dedicates the show to Brody.
There is a buzz in the room as Moses calls the first battlers to the stage. Kim McVicar is joined by Eric Schinzer to commence the whitest possible battle to kick off the last show of Black History Month. Kim volunteers to go first and we’re off:
“Eric is like John Mulaney’s down syndrome little brother that nobody’s heard of.”
“Eric’s like HPV in that nine out of ten women don’t notice when he’s inside them.”
“Eric’s not the kinda guy you’d worry about raping you, but he is the kinda guy who’d build a robot and then have that robot rape you.”
You’ll notice I only transcribed Kim’s jokes because that is how the battle felt. In fact, it might’ve been better if Eric just said pass each time and let Kim make fun of him. The judges are joined by Frank Castillo, who came ready to play.
“This was weird… This looks like if Cartoon Network drew white people. I just wanna know if UCB gives refunds.”
“Eric grew up with both his parents.”
After the judges attempt to make dents in Eric’s unflappable self-esteem, the crowd overwhelmingly cheers in favor of Kim McVicar and extends her record to 2-0.
Kelsey Lane is brought to the stage, wearing a red trench coat, which she immediately opens revealing a black, rubber, strap on dick and balls. She then tears off the adult toy, asks the audience who wants it and launches it into the crowd. The strangest thing about the counterfeit cock is that it is completely flaccid. I get the balls being soft but why would you want a soft dildo. It’s like condoms in porn, it just ruins the fantasy. Perhaps it was hard and then saw a glimpse of Sarah walking to the stage. It’s also worth noting that Kelsey is uncharacteristically wearing a black dress and red lipstick, as opposed to her usual flannel and backwards hat like 90’s Jonathan Taylor Thomas cosplay.
“Hey, Sarah is super hot… if you squint. She looks like a hot girl drowned like three days ago. Sometime Sunni…”
“Kelsey told me she was super embarrassed when she was caught having sex next to a dumpster, which is weird because she’s gonna be living there in a few years.”
“I was having sex with a girl next to dumpster. I’m from Boston, it’s the closest we have to street tacos. Sarah’s never done cocaine. The only thing goes near her nose is her mustache.”
“Kelsey is a guitar comic, she’s a comic who plays the guitar, so she strums her g-string. Just like every other male comic at the Store.”
“That was pretty good coming from the dude from Moana with an astigmatism. Sarah is like the energizer bunny. She’s got double A’s and just smashes whatever is in front of her.”
“Don’t be fooled by this new Kelsey right here, she normally dresses like she’s homeless. She’s in fact so dirty and disgusting that instead of cumming during sex she pushes her yeast infection all over her partner’s face.”
“That shit at the end was fuckin’ foul. What the fuck were you talking about? That was nasty. She was like, ‘You put the puss and the shit all over your man’s face.’ That was fucking disgusting! That’s not a joke. That’s not a joke, that’s just nasty!”
“I don’t know, Sarah, good try and stuff like that.”
Moses explains that there hasn’t been a black battle in all of Black History Month this year, so he’s extra excited for this next battle. Jasmin Leigh dances her way onto the stage, and Brian Moses asks her why she’s battling Oduduwa. Jasmin replies:
“Because he has bigger boobs than me, and I’m jealous.”
This prompts the wave to start a chant of “Let us see! Let us see! Let us see!” As the chant fizzles out Oduduwa is welcomed to the stage. He says he wants to battle Jasmin because she always smokes his weed and never has weed of her own. Jasmin takes first joke and the battle begins:
“A lot of people don’t know this, but Oduduwa is the black gunk stuck underneath your nails.”
It’s not often that a roast joke gets absolutely zero. It takes a special blend unfunny and confusing, but somehow Jasmin pulled it off perfectly. Even Eric Schinzer’s worst jokes got some sorta response. Jasmin goes on to try and explain the joke before giving up and Oduduwa doesn’t even realize it’s his turn to go. After Jeff Ross suggests they start over, Oduduwa finally says his first joke with the passion and anger of a Rick and Morty fan who was just denied Schezwan sauce.
“Jasmin is the bitch on the R. Kelly tape.”
It’s not a great joke, but Oduduwa’s delivery gets the room going.
“Thank you, mask of Killmonger. You look like you smell like your name: O-doo-doo-wa.”
“Jasmin is alway ashy and never has any weed. As far as black people go, she’s useless!”
Jeremiah Watkins punctuates Oduduwa’s aggressive tone by slamming down a stool.
“Oduduwa goes by OD, and we’re still waiting for him to live up to his name.”
“Jasmin is an extra on a lot of different shows, she has no lines and if you blink you’d miss her. So with all that fame it’s no wonder she SUCKS DICK FOR RENT MONEY! She’s on EBT!”
Oduduwa tags his joke with the EBT line and tries to start an “EBT! EBT!” chant, but Brian Moses interrupts and reprimands him for chanting EBT during Black History Month.
“This is fuckin’ tough. Two people fighting for last place. This shit is tough.”
“In a month of R. Kelly and Jussie Smollett, the fact that this is worst black disaster I’ve seen is fuckin’ astounding.”
Jasmin grabs a mic and defends the battle, asserting that only one joke bombed. That would depend on your definition of a bomb. Some comics hold themselves to higher standards than others. One joke got silence, so that’s about as bad as a bomb can be. It was an oddly entertaining battle, but not necessarily a good one. Jeff Ross asks to see one more joke and we go into overtime to the bewilderment of the other judges and some of the audience. This time, Oduduwa goes first:
“Trump wants to build a wall between America and Jasmin’s face because she an ugly bitch!”
“Give it up for Oduduwa. I never knew it was possible to have resting Predator face.”
Oduduwa continues saying his jokes like he’s in a fight on the Jerry Springer show in the 90’s, and Jasmin does one of the hackiest jokes I’ve ever heard. She employs the overused replace-the-middle-word of “Resting bitch face” formula, which has been stale for several years now. And she combines it with the overly obvious call a black dude with dreads Predator observation. The crowd cheers louder for Jasmin as she shakes her ass, so she walks away with the win, and we move onto more white guy battles.
The Canadian and very white John Hastings is brought to the stage and immediately asks what EBT is. After a brief and nonsensical explanation from Jamar Neighbors, Brendon Burns burst onstage splashing around an adios motherfucker.
“I can’t wait to see David Letterman vs. Paul Shaffer.”
The pre-roast shenanigans are entertaining albeit sloppy. Burns tries to read the back of one of John’s cards and he offers an explanation:
“It says, ‘Burnsie fucked a goat on the BBC.’ He told me that before the show started, and then I wrote it on the card.”
Burns starts to break down what actually happened, but Moses interrupts:
“Guys, guys, guys, wait until the battle to not be funny.”
Undeterred, Brendon begins a rambling account of what happened between and a goat on the BBC. Hastings clarifies words that don’t makes sense to Americans, such as snogging, which means kissing. Finally John volunteers Brendon to go first, saying he should redeem himself after that really good story.
“I didn’t even get to finish it, but fuck it, he always gets to open for me.”
This gets a good pop from the crowd, and Burns postures like he just won the Royal Rumble. After arguing about who was supposed to go first, John steps up and starts:
“Brendon’s had a rough year. He found out he was deaf, which makes him really fucking lucky because he doesn’t have to hear his horrible voice. Brendon, you sound like machines cuming. Brendon, you sound the way shit smells. Speaking of shit, Brendon, you talk so bullshit everyday, your sentences can grow vegetables.”
“I love John, dearly, I really do, uh… Sometimes I wish he were my son, and other times I think he might be my son because in the 80’s I took a bunch of crack and fucked a bunch of snow leopards.”
“Brendon, did you do a laugh when you got a laugh?”
“No, my fucking feet didn’t fit on the thing.”
What actually happened is that Brendon drunkenly shed his jacket, which then blocked his feet from resting on the stool. Back to John’s jokes:
“Brendon’s a father. He’s such a terrible father, his son is studying to be a DJ.”
Coach Tea plays his signature sound drop of “Who’s bad?” The answer, of course, being Coach Tea, who is a DJ. John continues his joke:
“Brendon, based on your son’s life decisions, I would assume he experienced some early trauma like being raped by his dad. But that’s impossible, that would involve you actually spending time with your son.”
“Well done. Oddly enough, I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of you. Which is a sentence you’ve never heard from your real dad, or your countrymen, or your own inner-monologue. Also, unlike John’s real dad, I’ve actually watched John perform on numerous occasions, which is why I pretend to be deaf.”
“Brendon’s mom got breast cancer this year-”
“Fuck, hey! Fuckin’…”
“Hang on, so now Brendon thinks his cum will give you cancer.”
“That’s actually true.”
“You came on your mom’s tits.”
“No, no, that’s actually true, my cum gives you cancer, which is why I’m worried about your anus, face and stomach. That’s not my go, that’s my not my go, that’s my comeback.”
“These flashcards are funny!”
“He’s fuckin’ adorable. He’s like a puppet. Yeah, you’re barely a person. Uh… hang on, wait, wait, wait… no, not that one. Fuckin’ come on!”
“What the fuck is going on?”
What the fuck is going on is that Brendon is frantically shuffling through his jokes, which are printed out on strips of paper. He can’t seem to find the right one.
“I’m having a go, shut up! John used to be a fat kid, this is true. After sheer hard work and will power, he lost a hundred and twenty-five pounds. Fuckin’ eh, come on, give it for him! Such a shame that this is you without the weight. It almost hardly seems worth it, doesn’t it? Going off cakes and bacon for this shit. You, young man, are conclusive evidence that inside every fat person there is a top-heavy, short-legged, furrow-browed, bobble-headed, frozen-piss-skinned, cabbage-patch-doll-lookin’ fuckin’ monstrosity trying to get out.”
And with that spastic rambling, the battle is over.
“It was kinda like watching the British version of the Office. The whole time I was like, America just does it way better.”
Brendon Burns has some great off-the-cuff comebacks, and the judges seem to like him. However, the audience favors Hastings by a narrow margin, so in the end John takes it.
Josh Waldron comes to the stage to face off against Tom Whalen. That last battle is a tough act to follow, but both of these guys seem up to the task, both jumping on first joke. Josh defers to Tom and he kicks it off:
“Josh looks like he lost his virginity in a fist fight.”
“Tom can’t go to Japan because of all the poon. I don’t mean girls, the Japanese will try to harpoon him.”
“Thank you, Peter Pan… sexual.”
“Thank you, Robert Kraft cheese.”
“Go Pats, baby, go Pats. Josh’s dad is Homophobic. I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t know what screams faggot more, his dad or his haircut?”
“It’s for sure my dad, he voted for Trump. Tom has black belt in Judo, which is the art of grappling. But the only thing Tom has a firm grip on is diabetes.”
“First off, I just want to say thank you to Queer Eye for the Samurai. Josh, you look like you vape cum.”
“Tom is from Boston and he’s classically trained in Opera, which means he really likes to sing… the n-word.”
Tom’s Queer Eye for the Samurai jab gets a huge laugh, and the vape cum joke starts chants of, “Vape cum! Vape cum! Vape cum!” The judges have nothing but praise for both battlers. Josh put up a fantastic fight, all of his jokes hit, but Tom Whalen just loaded the bases and hit a home run, solidifying himself as the undeniable winner.
Alex Duong comes to the stage for our three-round championship main event. Brian Moses asks why he’s gunning for Toby’s title, and he replies:
“I want the belt, Toby has no use for it, his wife wears the pants in the relationship.”
Toby Muresianu joins Alex onstage to respond with his own pre-roast line:
“I’m very excited, I’m actually really good friends with Alex, and I remember Pearl Harbor, so…”
Alex volunteers to go first, and we’re off:
“Toby you’re in shape for a hipster. You look like the only guy who collects the Joe Rogan podcast on vinyl.”
“I was the best man at Alex’s wedding. Not officially, just overall.”
“Speaking of relationships, Toby, why do you have resting ‘I can’t wait to beat my wife’ face. That’s a rebuttal… Toby, your skin is pastier than the glue ate as a child.”
“Alex’s biggest acting role was in one of John McCain’s flashbacks.”
“Thank you, Jewy CK. Toby can’t drive for Uber because the last time his people took rideshare, they had to stop to get gas’d.”
“Alex thought his rock bottom was when he got drunk at a wedding and groped a bunch of women. But then at his wedding, he ruined one girl’s whole life.”
Alex has a minor misstep with his second joke, blurting out a rebuttal that doesn’t quite land and then following it up with a joke that gets a light response. Toby, on the other hand, nails all three of his jokes perfectly. This is a blow-for-blow, heavyweight fight. Joe DeRosa tries to weigh in, but Jeremiah Watkins mocks him on another mic, and doesn’t let up. Toby is awarded the first round by judges decision. Second round, each battler gets thirty seconds to say back-to-back jokes. As the loser of the first round, Alex defers to Toby.
“You might wonder what’s up with Alex’s voice. He’s from Texas, but he was born retarded.”
“Alex has a tattoo that says ‘The world moves out of the way of a man who knows where he’s going.’ Which is so appropriate for a Lyft driver who’s caused two near-fatal accidents.”
“Alex just got his big break. It was a trip to Long Beach during surge pricing.”
“Geez Toby, you’re so robotic. I bet your 23&Me just said “bleep blorp bleep you fucking Jew nerd.”
“Toby’s fiancee’s here, Stacy. What does it take to get Toby in the mood? Put on something sexy and then he polishes his train set?”
“Toby, you may be number one here in the Belly, but I doubt you’ll have a lot of success putting one there in your girl’s belly.”
Alex comes back in round two, and the judges agree. Each competitor has one round, making round three the deciding round. Moses throws to Jeff Ross to choose who goes first in round three, and he says somebody should volunteer. Toby obliges, and kicks off the final tit-for-tat round:
“First, I want to note that Alex can’t get his wife pregnant, because he only comes hair gel. That was a rebuttal. Alex says his name is Alex Duong, but his Vietnamese name is Charlie.”
“Toby’s a vegetarian, so between his diet, religion and career, that’s three times he’ll never take home the bacon.”
“Alex is an Asian redneck, so he’d fuck his sister if his parents had kept her.”
“Thank you, Flat Damon.”
“You don’t have to say thank you, Alex. You’re not working at the restaurant anymore.”
“Toby’s a lot like the Patriots, he’s from Boston, he wins a lot, and he’s definitely wicked retarded.”
“As a white dude, it’s cool to battle someone who wants to say the N word more than me. You look like you say the N-word with a hard L.”
Toby starts the round with a rebuttal to Alex’s last joke in round two, followed by brilliant callback to Alex’s blunder in round one. He nails all of his jokes, and even has a comeback to Alex saying ‘Thank you.’ Alex’s jokes are hitting as well, but Toby’s impressive performance has put a lot of pressure on this last joke from Duong.
“Toby, you have the charisma of guy who would order a sex doll then cum while reading the instructions.”
Alex hits it out of the park, and the crowd erupts in chants of “One more joke! One more joke!” Frank asks for one more joke, Joe asks for one more, DC wants one more and Jeff Ross confirms that we will see one more joke starting with Alex.
“Toby, you come from money, you graduated Ivy League, and now you can’t get a decent job. If your life was any more unstable, America would invade it for the leftover oil.”
“Alex’s family is in the entertainment business, his dad produced 2,000 iPods.”
Alex comes from left field with a topical joke, and Toby fires right back with racism. The crowd demands one more joke as we go to the judges. Joe DeRosa votes for Toby, but it quickly becomes clear that they’re going to do another joke. Toby goes first in double sudden death overtime:
“Alex’s parents skipped his wedding, because they heard he was headlining.”
“Toby’s a Romanian Jew. Is that we you look like the only vampire you can kill by taking away his asthma inhaler?”
DC Ervin is the first judge to weigh in and he votes for Alex. It’s an absolute nail-biter. Joe DeRosa seems unsure, he recognizes how tough the decision is, but he votes for Alex. Frank adds one more vote for Alex, and all the RoastMaster has to do is congratulate the new champ. Toby Muresianu was a great champ who took on all worthy challengers. He is a surgeon in the Roast Battle ring. He landed so many punches in that fight, if were anybody else it would’ve been a knockout. But it was Alex Duong, who stayed in the pocket and kept swinging with everything he had. Both these warriors put on a helluva show. However, Alex is the victor and to the victor go the spoils. Word to the wise, next person to challenge for the title: Be ready for the fight of your life.
In Roast Battle, you are confronted with some of the most painful and embarrassing experiences of your life. You look at these things in the face, the audience laughs and the fear disappears. That is a vital commodity in this current culture of fear. When presidents are talking about building walls and students are murdering their classmates with semi-automatic weapons, anything that diminishes fear is paramount. Kurt Vonnegut went on to say:
“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
So in this carelessly transforming world, have the nerve to make something. See you next Tuesday!
Follow @RoastBattle on Twitter for all the latest updates, subscribe to our podcast, check out our Instagram and Facebook pages for the latest pictures from our fights, and watch live on Periscope at 11:30 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.