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The crowd is rowdy tonight, maybe rowdier than usual. They’re loving the stand-up show, which is always a good sign for how they’ll react to the battles. Even though this isn’t the most high-profile Tuesday, true to form, the show is still kicking ass and taking names, with comic after comic killing.

At 11:15, Moses takes the stage to kick off the night’s fights. First up on the fight card are two Roast Battle virgins: ex-Texan Michael Monsour and Greek tragedy Stamati Arakas.

Perhaps the most difficult part of getting into Roast Battle is figuring out the difference between a cutting roast joke and an outright insult. As in plain ol’ stand-up, new battlers frequently have problems in making sure their material is actually funny and not just shocking for the sake of getting a reaction.

Stamati is one of those battlers. His jabs all center around Michael looking gay, yet the hits never land, falling flat almost every time. Michael, on the other hand, comes out swinging:

Stamati is so Greek, even his body is shaped like rotating gyro meat.

Stamati has a podcast called We’re Not Gonna Make It but to everyone else it’s We’re Not Gonna Listen.

Stamati’s mom died in a boating accident, proving why he named his podcast We’re Not Gonna Make It.

Stamati’s dad was supposed to be here tonight, which is good because it would be a shame to now have watched 2 Arakas’s die in public.

After his last joke, the crowd erupts as Michael drops the mic and walks out the back door to the parking lot. He comes back in to be declared the winner, then the boys shuffle off stage as Moses introduces our next battlers: Faith Choyce and Klee Wiggins.

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This duel of doppelgangers is hot from the start. Each comic has fine jokes, all of which get a decent-to-phenomenal response. Klee attacks Faith’s name and lesbian lifestyle, while Faith goes after Klee’s ability as a comic and her dating habits. It’s certainly a dream battle for the comics in the back. This joke from Faith get the best reaction from them all night:

Klee once got hit by a bus, but don’t feel too bad; after dating Ed Greer she’s used to getting smashed by something that weighs 12 tons.

 Their infectious energy lifts the crowd too, as a coveted applause break ripples through the room. However, after a close vote, Klee is declared the eventual winner.

One more chunk of stand-up later, and the second set of undercard battles commences, kicked off by a battle featuring a former jailbird and a birthday girl: John Mitchell versus Ali Macofsky.

Each battler is ready for a rumble. Ali, another Roast Battle virgin, enters with the swagger of a fierce competitor, while John steels himself in a pair of cargo shorts, dressed for battle like a true Portlandian. Coach Tea rings the opening bell and the jokes start flying:

Ali has a tattoo of a smiley face on her ass, which is ironic because Ali’s ass is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

John was in prison for fifteen months. If you want to know what a 15-month prison sentence feels like, just watch one of John’s three minute sets.

Ali is only 20 years old. She has to wait outside the comedy store to suck a dick that can help her career.

John, your dad is a lawyer and you still went to prison. I guess not getting people off runs in the family.

Ali loves to network. She’s had so much headliner cum inside of her I’m surprised she hasn’t given birth to some better jokes.

John’s so unfuckable, when he dropped the soap in prison, the other prisoners gang-friendzoned him.

Ali’s final joke whips the room into a frenzy. Moses retakes the stage, and after a brief vote, the birthday girl is declared the winner.

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The final undercard is a battle of boring white guy names: Dan Nolan versus Dan Lewis Fawcett. That’s right – we’ve got a bonafide Dan Battle. The crowd is practically fizzing with excitement, ready for these one-hit wonders to prove their Roast Battle longevity. Dan Lewis Fawcett, already experienced in crushing dudes who look like pedophiles, throws some verbal blows:

Dan looks like he could’ve gone to jail for exposing government secrets or exposing himself to little kids.

If this is what 5 months sober looks like, maybe you should get back on heroin.

I may be a virgin, but at least my first time wasn’t in jail.

Dan’s trying to get on top of things in life because in jail he was always a bottom.

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Dan Nolan, though, doesn’t back down, doubling the audience reaction with every joke he lobs DLF’s way:

I used to shoot up black tar heroin. Dan looks like he shoots up black people’s churches.

Dan’s so white his family name is Fawcett, after what they think whites and coloureds should drink from separately.

Dan talks about doing yoga in his standup. His favorite way to pose is “as a heterosexual.”

I’m in AA. Dan also has Anonymous meetings… With dudes he matches on Grindr.

Dan Nolan takes it by a landslide vote, though DLF’s boyish energy keeps the sting of loss light. Each competitor in this final fight will surely return to the ring.

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Two musical performances later – one from Regan & Watkins, the other from resident Tina Turner lip-syncher Boon Shok-A-Lok-A – and the main event is upon us. 

The gang’s all here by now: the All Negro Wave, the ever-growing Haters section, and our trio of judges. Tony Hinchcliffe takes command as the primary voice of tonight’s panel, slinging biting jokes from the balcony with deadly precision. Steve Byrne, here for the third time, openly wonders whether or not Moses has run out of Asian actresses to call him instead of his real name. (He hasn’t.) Last-minute replacement judge Andy Haynes is mistaken for a former white rapper. 

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As usual, the judges and Moses have a great rapport, keeping the energy in the room alive as the Main Event is introduced. Sean Leary bounds on stage looking like Mr. Clean if he managed an American Apparel, while blogger extraordinaire Josh Waldron saunters to the stage dressed a bit more casually than he usually is when performing. Moses goes over the rules once more, then the bell rings. Round 1 is underway. Sean throws some solid punches:

Josh’s twitter handle is Optimus Waldge to pay tribute to Optimus Prime. Why don’t you do us a favor and transform into a funny comedian?

Josh looks like he might be cross eyed. Which must get tough seeing double the amount of people not laughing.

Josh thinks he has good style. Yeah, he really puts the H&M in homosexual.

But Josh bests him with stronger writing:

Sean dates a comedian and helps write her jokes. So he gives her shitty material and HPV.

Sean is so bald and sensitive his nickname in college was The Clitoris.

You can tell by Sean’s body he works out a lot. You can tell by his material it’s not at open mics.

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After everyone gets in some jabs at the way the competitors look, the round goes to Josh. Round 2 sees Sean take the lead:

Josh doesn’t have a car, but that hasn’t stopped him from driving away every woman he’s ever met.

Josh once had me take him through the Taco Bell drive thru to get a burrito. It was weird having two cheesy, full of shit disasters in my car.

Josh has openly admitted to having sex with a stripper. It was the first and last time he will ever be inside a Mercedes.

Josh mounts a comeback:

Sean Leary you look like a human academy award. Maybe one day you’ll win one for best male actor in another male actor.

Sean threw up the first time he went down on a woman. Which isn’t that bad considering the girl killed herself.

You look like Maroon 5 months left to live.

The judges give Sean the round in a close vote, prompting a round three.

I’d actually seen Josh and Sean run their jokes hours before. We were at an intimate open mic in the Kibitz Room, a dive bar of the highest order jutting off Canter’s Deli. They were drawn in the lottery practically one after the other. They performed with their heads in their notes, but their jokes still landed on the strength of their writing, because comics can always appreciate solid joke writing. The jokes they used in the final round all hit amongst the other open micers, just like they presumably did at other open mics they tested the material out at.

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Here, however, with a Roast Battle win on the line, the performers show the same tentativeness they did in the Kibitz Room, lacking the bite they displayed in rounds 1 and 2. Maybe it’s simply because this particular crowd is somehow more terrifying than almost any other comedy crowd. I’ve seen nerves take down plenty of performers in this ring before.

The final round jokes showed promise:

Josh’s breath is so bad. It’s probably from always eating shit on this stage.

Sean has a show called Free Parking which is also what the gay community named his asshole.

Josh did a show on NuvoTV called Stand Up and Deliver. Which is exactly what his Mexican mother did 14 times.

Sean has a web series where he plays a cop. It gets no views and is being called the worst the police have looked on the Internet all year.

Josh says he wants to be a memorable comedian. Josh, the only way you’re going to leave your mark on the Comedy Store is when you jump off the Andaz.

Sean donated money to a children’s hospital. The kids gave the money back because his future looked more bleak.

Josh follows Candice Thompson, Iliza Shlesinger, and Sarah Tiana on Twitter. He also follows them to their cars.

Sean’s bald and I have a top knot. The only top knot Sean will ever have is when comedy fails and he has to tie a noose.

But throughout the round the valiant performers stumble and stutter, leaving the crowd and judges wanting more than just decent writing. Tony, in particular, seems outraged at the way the third round unfolded. He used his vote to launch into a fiery monologue against the fighting style on display tonight, urging the competitors to write better jokes or simply quit altogether.

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In the end, Josh is declared the victor, but the air is decidedly uneasy. Sean and Josh are both nowhere to be found after the show lets out, both feeling like they needed to go home and lick wounds instead of stay out after such a strange ending.

The next morning, both competitors told me they weren’t taking anything personally. That’s an admirable attitude. I can’t wait to see how they take this memorable experience into their future performances at the Roast Battle and elsewhere.

Though the night turned out fun – as it always does – the main event proved to be not just a comedy show, but an essential lesson for Roast Battlers everywhere. This show is a joke writer’s showcase, but the ability to muscle through a main event is its own struggle requiring commitment to the material. Don’t leave room for a lackluster performance. Know your jokes like you know your best three minutes. The rest is out of your hands.

post by Jay Light, photos by Troy Conrad

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