Roast Battle Review: Sticks and stones

Chad White
Loves: Comedy Central, laughing
Likes: Roasts, Jeff Ross, The Wave
Dislikes: Commercial breaks
Hates: Getting his feelings hurt :(

Battle! Battle! Battle!

First thing’s first: this mess is brutal. These comedians are very mean to each other and my hat goes off to them for doing this competition. With that being said, Roast Battle is the greatest comedy special this year. Hands down. Where else are you going to see 16 comedians vie for the title of best roaster? What's more is that the whole event went down at the biggest comedy venue in the world under the Montreal Just For Laughs comedy festival. Jeff Ross and his crew did a commendable job at portraying what it’s like to be a part of these LA based events.  

Roast Battle comes from Jeff Ross, who is Comedy Central’s resident roast master. He leads guest judges, host Brian Moses and comedy group The Wave through four nights of off the cuff bullying. The special lives and dies by its jokes and every single night it delivered. True, there were some moments of great cringe and eye rollingly broad comments but all in all jokes hit hard. The audience played a big part too with Thunderdome-esque chanting that made the perfectly designed set feel like a battle arena.  

Most of the performers doled out jokes in stride and took them just as well. Jimmy Carr was particularly crisp against Christi Chiello. Sam Morril saw a weakness in Steve Rannazzisi (thanks 9/11) and ran with it (as did the judges). K. Trevor Wilson played it calm and struck when the situation called for it the most. There were more than enough personal jabs (Earl Skakel’s ex-girlfriend was part of the first round and Sarah Tiana is apparently very old and slutty). But what’s more surprising is how some people's tough demeanors were brought down almost instantly. Mark Normand’s face after a flop was very appropriate as Tony Hinchcliffe went right after his personal life. The same can be said for Ralphie May and Ms. Pat’s battle that almost turned into a brawl. Seriously, those two created more tension in the room than their bodies would allow. On an unrelated note, I’ve either spoken to or interviewed a handful of these comedians. It was nice to see them broadcasted on TV. 

The Wave, in particular, stood out with their verbose mini skits that followed almost every joke. These three men put it on the line by displaying gross acts (pretending to give another man a blow job and spitting out a gallon of fake cum) to hilarious (a Harambe tribute) to what the actual heck (random acts of running around and dancing). They deserve to be commended for all of their hard work throughout the four nights.  

The judges had the most difficult job because often times battles went down to the wire. With only four to five jokes, comedians had to fit in as much as they could. Later in the competition, jokes got much more expansive with several smaller jabs landing before the final blow. Sometimes comedians had to force a joke comment before or after the match. Ross and his merry band of rotating chairs dealt with it fairly though. Kevin Hart, David Spade, Whoopi Goldberg, Anthony Jeselnik, Seth Rogen, Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silverman, and Judd Apatow had their chance to spectate and judge one of the liveliest comedy specials in recent memory. They’ed even go after one another (Jeselnik versus Goldberg in particular was cut throat). That’s not to mention the random and inconsequential comedians that sat behind the judging area purely as spectators (JB Smoove, Russell Peters, Andy Dick, Louis C.K., Hannibal Buress, the Sklar brothers, Brian Posehn and a Mary Lynn Rajskub look alike). 

Should you watch Roast Battle?

No comedy special this year has had such a scope, intensity or consistent level of hilarity this year. Watch it as soon as possible and prepare to feel bad for those involved.