by Dan Nolan, photos by Troy Conrad

With the stage set and the panel of judges partially assembled, the night kicks off with our first undercard as fresh-faced Zachary Stein narrowly edges out unemployed wizard, Tim Hanlon.

“Tim has never used an illegal drug in his life. He’s never smoked pot, never popped a pill, and – despite his appearance – he hasn’t smoked crystal meth every day for the last ten years of his life.”

“Zach may look like the kid from A Christmas Story, but inside he’s very messed up. I’m afraid he might be the first person to do a school shooting with a Red Ryder BB gun.”

“Tim moved here from Florida and there are some differences. For instance Tim is a Florida 3, and an LA rapist.”

“Zach’s a drug addicted alcoholic and he fucks prostitutes, but he’s got the boyish face of a 13 year old. You’re like Charlie Sheen, The Wonder Years.”

“Have I mentioned that Tim’s a rapist? I find it repulsive, but I don’t book this show. Tim was born in 1970, making Nancy Regan’s anti-drug campaign the first time he’s ever complied with a woman who just said no.”

“Zach has fucked so many whores on Craigslist he needs to get tested for sickle cell.”

The sickle cell joke is Tim’s only dud and Zach’s “I don’t book this show” aside is a highlight, as the casual approach pays off and probably puts him over the edge against otherwise solid jokes from Tim Hanlon.

To follow an entertaining debut for two great joke writers is a second and equally unremarkable undercard for James Welsh against newcomer Nick Buda. Neither of the two are comics or joke writers, they apparently met in an acting class, and James was able to compete on the show previously on the coattails of Bill Murray’s nephew, which itself was an utter whiff some months back. Neither opponent comes out strong.

“I just want to thank Nick for coming out tonight and taking time away from his busy schedule of masturbating to ChatRoulette.”

“So when James got molested, he enjoyed it so much that the molester gave him the [inaudible] and said ‘here, you finish the job.’”

“Nick, you creepy motherfucker, you look like the zookeeper who shot Harambe because you wanted the kid for yourself.”

The Harambe reference does get a small pop, and it’s followed up with one of the toughest chokes in recent memory from Nick Buda.

“James is an illegal immigrant he’s gonna get…”

Roastmaster General Jeff Ross interjects.

“Breathe out when you talk. What time do you have to get the suit back? You dress like a used joke salesman.”

Nick composes himself and tries again.

“James’ penis is so small that he touches, um… pussy”

“Guys, Nick has never met his real father, but neither has his mother, ‘cause that’s how gloryholes work.”

James is unable to capitalize on even as catastrophic a failure as Nick Buda. His jokes are so weak, it’s clear that his choice in opponent after an already shitty 1-0 record that Nick is the only level of competitor he could ever best on merit. Nick sums it up with a final misfire as his last 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.”

There’s an audible “what?” that sweeps across the room, and after some roasting from the judges the audience declares a no-vote and both battlers leave the stage in defeat. For competitors taking on special needs opponents, where one might instinctively think that an easier target means easier laughs, the challenge actually becomes greater, to write jokes that are funny and insulting without being mean or coming off like a total asshole, a charge at which James Welsh utterly failed.

Steph Tolev and John Schabl follow, taking the stage with a friendly energy.

“This is Steph Tolev, guys, as a lot of you may not know, she was running a non-profit organization before this. You guys know Doctors Without Borders? She was running Anal Without Protection.”

“John’s the kind of guy who cries listening to the Goo Goo Dolls after his daily sit in the shower.”

“Steph’s spent so much time on Tinder that her pussy has so many stretch marks it looks like Dwayne Johnson’s chest.”

“John’s dick is so grossly pale and thin we’re holding a vigil for it outside after the show.”

“It’s interesting to hear Steph try to write fun jokes, cuz really the only thing clever about her is the way that she hides her Adam’s apple.”

“John’s only TV credit is gonna be when the government finds his hard drive.”

“If you see Steph Tolev in a dim light it looks like Khloe Kardashian who is in the middle of transitioning.”

“John was so happy he just had a baby girl because now he has access to finger a fresh, new pussy.”

Steph’s baby-pussy joke is enough to earn her the win after John’s awkwardly worded reuse of the classic “You look like ___ [with Down’s Syndrome][mid transition][fucked ___][ate ___]” stock roast joke. Honestly, that’s a feat in itself: to take something that’s already been done a hundred times and alter it just enough to try and make it seem original, but also so that it doesn’t work. It deserves it’s own kind of kudos.

Following that, Jason Webb and Valerie Tosi approach the stage as friends. Valerie leads out.

“Jason’s beard is actually just a collection of pubes from all the dicks he had to suck to get on this show.”

“I don’t know if you know this, but all the comics call you Nintendo behind your back. It’s not because you’re a nerd, it’s ‘cause you only have 8 shitty bits.”

“Jason’s dad is a Southern preacher and his mom is just a pile of bruises.”

“Val’s had more black guys inside her than a Boost Mobile.”

“Jason just got fired from Whole Foods for actually making holes in the foods he tried to fuck.”

“Valerie used to fuck a racist Boston cop, so they had a lot in common because they’re both used to black guys shooting all over their chests.”

Jason’s jokes don’t seem to connect the way they look like they would as written. Though the audience isn’t as comic-heavy as it used to be, there is an audible dip in reaction to his first joke as comics in the back remind each other they’ve heard the Nintendo joke word-for-word from Toby Muresianu against Keith Carey not too long ago. During judge deliberations, Valerie comments that she’s never dated a Boston police officer, though Jason takes the crowd vote handily.

Up next Lonnie Johnson is back to prove that his debut was no fluke, and that he’s a real roaster. He takes the stage in a suit and tie passing out flag pins. His opponent Ezekiel Echevarria is a veteran of the Inland Empire’s comedy scene and has competed regularly at the now-defunct Roast Wars in Temecula. Lonnie leads out.

“You now it sucks there’s not gonna be anymore Obamacare because Ezekiel’s fat Mexican tits are giving him lower wetback-pain.”

“Lonnie Johnson loves to play video games because it’s the only time he can get an extra life for when the police kill him.”

“Ezekiel, you’re religious, right? I’m sure you’ve heard of the book of Ezekiel. Too bad no one’s actually heard of booking Ezekiel.”

“Lonnie Johnson recently got a job. It’s nice that something keeps him off the street. He went from being a target to pushing carts seasonally at one.”

“People say Ezechiel looks like Suge Knight, but the only wrapper he ever killed was a two-pack of twinkies.”

“Lonnie Johnson is from Mississippi, and he comes from a good family tree. A tree where… shit…”

Earl Skakel intercepts the fumble.

“We got a good lynching joke coming!”

The crowd pops at Ezekiel’s expense, and after another false start, he manages to get out the punchline, but it’s already too late.

“…a tree where all the Johnsons are known for being well hung.”

Lonnie Johnson takes it handily, and Moses is visibly proud. It’s adorable.

Parker Searfoss takes the stage dressed so remarkably hip, Pete Holmes can’t help but comment.

“You like like you’re about to take a really cool nap.”

Rusty Haynes enters with a lovable Southern charm, and leads out the round.

“Parker started vaping so he could finally get off cigarettes. His girlfriend fucked another guy so she could finally get off.”

“Rusty’s so dumb he thinks a Southern drawl is a Confederate coloring book.”

“You call your mom a sad Catholic. Yeah, your life is a result of a decision the church wouldn’t let her make.”

The abortion reference is clever, but probably too buried to land with the audience the energy shifts to Parker who follows up strong.

“Rusty’s a Southern man with bad tattoos. He’s the only wife beater that comes with sleeves.”

“As a member of the pep squad, Parker used to wave flags during the football games because even the gay kids needed someone to call a fag.”

“Rusty smokes cigarettes. It’s nice to see a Carolina boy light up something other than a black church.”

The round ends with the decision entirely going to Parker despite great jokes from Rusty. Closing on a Carolina shooter joke is generally a road map for success.

Richie Gaines enters unenthusiastically. Despite his impressive record, he seems, albeit characteristically, not entirely interested in his opponent. Nick seems charming and ready to earn back some love from the room after an awkward exit two weeks prior. Richie leads out, fumbling his first joke.

‘Nick’s 37, a struggling comic, struggling with addiction, I feel like I’m up here physically battling depression.“

"Dude, I’m 37 but I look good. You look like a 12-year-old that’s filing for bankruptcy.”

“Look, I’m not gonna call Nick’s girlfriend a dumb blonde. For financially supporting a 37-year-old open miker, I’d say she’s retarded.”

“Richie used to use Tinder a lot, but after going to jail 3 times, it’s really opened him up to Grindr.”

“Nick’s adopted and in his last battle he got upset and stormed off stage. Just like his parents, he abandoned the disappointment as fast as possible.”

“Richie’s Jewish. He’s the kind of Jew that would drop a dime on Anne Frank, and then pick that dime back up.”

Without even hitting the stage, Moses calls immediately for overtime, which puts Richie a little off balance, and it takes him about 40 seconds to remember another joke.

“I’m not worried about Nick, if comedy doesn’t work out he can always fall back…into the grips of addiction.”

“Yeah, I may be adopted. My parents adopted me just like you adopted Dan Nolan’s jokes.”

The sweet “Dan Nolan” reference is lost on the star-studded panel of people who’ve never heard of the budding Roast Battle star. Anthony Jeselnik sums it up.

“I don’t know who the fuck that is.”

Despite the misstep in overtime, Richie’s early fumble leaves room for Nick to take the match on a cumulative vote for the round. Like many battlers before him, Richie’s streak is busted after four wins.

Finally after a break from Boon and some complaints from Jeselnik that the show is still going on, our one-round main event kicks off between Roastmasters Tournament runner-up JP McDade, and our own Jay Light, who takes the opening spot in exchange for home field advantage.

“JP went to Sandy Hook Elementary, which is why after every joke he tells, there’s a moment of silence.”                                                        

“First of all I’m so glad to be here, Jay it’s great you’re here, it looks like mother had to push your stroller out here. Jay, you look like Rick Moranis in Honey I Shrunk the Audience.”

Per the New York style, JP eases into his joke, which is tough to pull off in the Belly Room, where spectators have grown accustomed to a back-and-forth bludgeoning with concisely worded barbs. The impact is dulled with every unnecessary word added and the difference in audience reaction from the two jokes makes that clear.

“JP, you loaf of Wonder-if-he’s-gay Bread. JP’s so whitebread his biggest fear is that ducks will eat him.”

“Thank you, Jaybia majora. Jay does comedy because he was too nerdy to be in Weezer.”

“JP you trust fund fuckboy. JP went to college in North Carolina, because that’s the only state where you can major in ‘slave auctioneer.’”

“Jay Light, you attorney for gamers. When Jay was in college he was in a frat, because it’s easy to make friends with date rapists when your mouth looks like a freshly waxed pussy.”

“JP, you sentient piece of string cheese. JP loves golf, tennis, hockey, basically any sport with a weapon he can beat women with.”

“Jay, you rolling backpack of a person. You had a very Christian upbringing, but you’re nothing like Jesus. Mexicans don’t talk to you.”

This joke falls flat, leaving Jay open for a one-two comeback punch for his closing joke.

“You’re the tallest guy who looks like he’s in over his head. Honestly, I’m glad we’re not doing this in New York, they couldn’t handle watching another tower fall.”

“Jay’s girlfriend is Jewish. She must be disappointed that his lips aren’t circumcised.”

JP’s closing joke is essentially his weakest in the round, but of all the "Jay Light has pussy lips” jokes that have been done over the years, his is one of the best. Jay opted to shift styles as well to accompany his opponent with the New York style pre-joke-jokes. Even Anthony Jeselnik is impressed overall by the round.

“The Main Event should’ve just been The Event.”

Jay sweeps the board with the judges’ vote and is handed the victory. JP, who’s been an absolute sensation on the New York roast scene, has met his match amidst the more precision-based structure of the Belly Room. Jeff Ross comments that he seems out of place in the LA iteration, having seen him at both The Stand and their Road to Roast Battle taping. As both competitors participated in this year’s Road to Roast Battle tapings, a rematch is more than possible, and it could be interesting to see both sides clash on a national stage where the home field advantage for the Comedy Store’s competitors might be lessened. We’ll see next season.

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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