A Riot To Remember
While TJ Miller's show wraps up in the theatre, the Roast Battle crew waits in the green room. The Wave figures out which props they'll be using, eyeing some megaphones that came in the official RiotLA swag bags. Moses, a bottle of pH-balanced water in his talkative hands, entertains his parents. Keith Carey, Guam Felix and I put war paint on the ample bosom of Roast Battle's war crier Joshua Meyrowitz. The battlers trickle in, going over their notes and talking shop on the stairwell.
The show ends and we rush into action to get things set up in time. We're already behind schedule, but that's okay. Running late is our strong suit.
The minute Coach Tea is set up, the festival organizers open the doors, and the sold-out crowd begins to fill the room. I pop on the Periscope feed and bob and weave around the room, trying to capture the palpable energy the best I can.
Autistic Thunder leads the crowd in the first battle chant of the night, and Moses comes to the stage. After friend of the show Leah Knauer sings the national anthem, Moses asks who has never seen Roast Battle before. Most of the crowd applauds politely. Then he proceeds to explain how they're in for the meanest, dirtiest comedy show on the festival bill - he can't say he didn't give them fair warning. Taking the show out of the Belly Room is historically tricky, but this crowd seems to be on board for the impending verbal carnage.
After Moses introduces the All Negro Wave, the House Haters, and our esteemed panel of judges - Jason Sklar, Moshe Kasher, and Joe DeRosa - it's time for the first bout of the night: Joe Dosch versus Connor McSpadden.
The self-proclaimed "mean boys" come out swinging:
"If you guys are having trouble seeing in the back, we're projecting the battle on Joe's forehead." - Connor
Moses cuts the introductory jabs short and starts the round.
"Joe recently quit drinking. Now he just spits it out on his chest."
"Connor was molested as a child. It was the only time someone powerful has chosen him for something."
"Joe's just jealous because he wasn't with a man until his 20s and I was getting dick when I was 5."
"That's turning a minus into a positive." - Jason Sklar
"HIV positive!" - Moshe Kasher
"Connor, you look like if Tig Notaro were made out of high-fructose corn syrup."
"Joe is a bottom. When he tops, he looks like a blind person trying to plug in a USB cord."
"Connor, you look like if Pete Holmes had a special-needs cousin he took care of."
"Joe's been with so many older men, his prostate has an early bird special."
"Connor had a show by the San Bernardino shootings, so he threw the worst office party that day."
"Joe used to be fat. Now it's just harder to explain why he's ugly."
"I've been bullying Connor for years, and like his molester, I wanted him to push back."
"Joe's such an asshole, when he licks his lips its considered a rimjob."
The crowd is already floored, and so are the judges:
"I paid $20 for parking and walked 12 blocks...that first round was worth it!" - Jason Sklar
Jason and Moshe both vote for Connor, prompting Joe Dosch to lash out at the panel. Joe DeRosa sees this as all tied in to sexual tension between these BFFs:
"I will say this: you guys need to fuck. That'd be a hate-filled buttfucking session, and it'd be beautiful." - Joe DeRosa
"Nah, they'd probably ram dicks." - Jason Sklar
In the end, Connor snatches the victory, and the boys clear the stage so we can get on to the night's second battle: Leah Kayajanian versus Pat Barker.
These Roast Battle phenoms fought their way to the top of the Roast Battle Royale tournament, overcoming underdog rankings to meet in the finals tonight. And, boy, did they ever prove why they deserve every victory they've earned on the way:
"Leah's like a good breakfast. She's got pancake tits, a butterface, but, at her age, a limited supply of eggs."
"That's a good food joke!" - Keith Carey
"Pat, were you conceived at a swinger's party? Because you look like you're made of 20 different ugly people."
"Leah's been keeping up with the Kardashians by having an Armenian name and looking like she's transgendered."
"Pat played the bass drum in high school, which prepared him for a life of carrying a heavy load and rarely hittin' it."
"Leah's got a big nose, hairy legs, and a Foo Fighters tramp stamp. Fucking her is like playing miniature golf: all the holes are blocked by a bunch of goofy shit."
"Pat's been failing to get his wife pregnant. Have you tried telling your sperm her eggs come with a side of bacon?"
"Leah lost so many relatives in the Armenian genocide, her Ancestry.com page just says 404 - File Not Found."
"Pat wants to have a kid so he can pass on the Barker name and the oinker body."
The judges are beside themselves, and while they initially say that Leah has the edge, our lone Sklar brother calls for a joke-off:
"Leah's chest is so flat, B.O.B. uses it as a globe."
"Your head looks like someone covered it with glue and threw a bunch of eyebrows on it."
That seals it. A satisfied Sklar votes for Leah, and Moshe and Joe follow suit:
"Pat, I love you dude, we're both from Philly, we both have terrible bodies...at least I didn't eat all the cheesesteaks before I left." - Joe DeRosa
"This is the only time three Jews will vote for an Armenian." - Moses
Leah takes the crown while Regan and Watkins take the stage to perform a halftime ditty from their stable of hits, "You Make My Dick So Big (And By Big, I Really Mean Average)". A true American classic!
Third on the fight card is a battle that's been hotly anticipated for months: Earl Skakel versus Olivia Grace. These two lovebirds are some of the fiercest Haters we have, though ever since Olivia was banned from the Comedy Store due to her age, battle fans worldwide have been unable to see her exercise her roasting chops. Luckily, the Downtown Independent has no age restrictions, although everyone seems to think Earl's wardrobe should:
"How can you make fun of this girl when you look like you're going through the same identity crisis?" - Keith Carey
"Shouldn't you be embarassing the kids you're chaperoning at a school dance right now? You look like hipster Encino Man." - Connor McSpadden
"Earl looks like he knows where there's 24-hour RV parking everywhere he goes." - Moshe
"He's dressed like a failing painter." - Joe DeRosa
"You look like a mongoloid version of me!" - Earl Skakel
Earl swings his hate like a broadsword:
"I don't know what works harder on you: your hear, your arteries, or the buttons on your shirt!" - Earl, to Keith
Olivia gets in on the requisite hatred, too:
"Shut up, Keith, you look like you're wearing a neck pillow backwards." - Olivia Grace
The crowd is on the edge of their seats, ready to watch this lover's quarrel explode in all its fiery glory. Earl and Olivia start in on each other:
"Earl's family has a lot of money, but his dick must have a trust fund, too, because it never works."
"Well, maybe it would work if you didn't look like a hipster Hamburglar."
"Earl's calling me fat, but I'd be in good shape too if I threw up every time I looked in a mirror."
"Olivia has a retarded sister, so between the two of them, who doesn't drool in that family?"
"Earl's balls are so prune-y I can't give him a blowjob without getting diarrhea."
"You don't swallow semen since you found out there's no carbs in it."
"The only time Earl ever crushes is when he uses his forehead to open a walnut."
"Olivia, your breath is so bad. You smell like you brush your teeth with your pussy."
"Earl's cousin is on trial for stabbing a girl to death, but at least someone in Earl's family knows how to penetrate a woman."
"Olivia is awesome - she's got cankles on her forehead, back acne on her tits, and neck fat on her pussy."
I laugh so hard during this battle that I almost faint in my chair. The judges are impressed once again at how close the margin of error is, particularly former battler Joe DeRosa:
"These are great battles tonight, Kelly Osbourne, you did great. Earl, even though you look like a midget that doctors made regular sized..." - Joe DeRosa
Overall, every single one of the judges love Earl's pussy joke, and Moshe and Joe both vote for him. Jason Sklar votes for Olivia on the strength of her joke writing, even though he knows Earl's already won based on his ability to be present as a performer coming from the 18 years of experience he has as a comic, compared to the 20 years that Olivia has been a living human being.
Just for kicks and giggles, we get a bonus joke from each competitor:
"Earl is such a hollow shell of a man, when I put my head on his chest, I can hear the ocean."
"Olivia was raped by a black guy. There's clearly nothing funny about it - it's just a case of black-on-Blackfish crime."
With that, Moses brings out the headliner bout: Sarah Tiana versus Guy Branum. Two well-respected battlers with undefeated records enter the ring, one leaves with their first loss. The crowd is still live, and the Wave is still hyped up, busting out backflips and wrestling moves as this scorcher unfolds:
"I was very nervous about coming here, but then I realized I shouldn't be. I used to beat Guy all the time when he was King Hippo in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out."
"Sarah, to me, you're like if Wal-Mart were a person: Southern, tacky, and full of material I have no interest in."
"Guy's just jealous because the Bible Belt is yet another belt he can't get around his waist."
"So many mediocre comedians have fucked Sarah Tiana, if you put your ear to her vagina you can hear Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen."
"When it comes to finding a boyfriend, Sarah is as sweaty and thirsty as I look right now."
"Guy is obsessed with Canada, which makes sense, because both of them have huge shitholes referred to as 'Whistler.'"
"More mediocre comics have gone through Sarah than UCB 201."
"Guy reminds me a lot of Charlie Sheen. He's not HIV positive, but he is considered two and a half men."
"Sarah is very athletic, which is a nice way of saying 15 pounds overweight."
"Guy is gay, fat, and Jewish, which means he must audition for every role Hollywood has to offer. But he doesn't get all of them. In fact, he auditioned for the Revenant, but they already had a mountain covered in snow."
"Sarah has so many great jokes, but I think my favorite is that no man will ever truly love her."
Guy's booming laugh and Sarah's disarming Southern drawl make frequent appearances in this title fight, and their jokes underline the most important part of Roast Battle: mutual respect between competitors. As our good friend the Roastmaster General often says, we only roast the ones we love, and it's obvious that these two have an abundance of love for both the craft of comedy and their opponent's abilities. The judges have their work cut out for them.
"You have to admit, Moshe, this is hard. How do you roast something that's flaming?" - Sarah Tiana
Moshe votes for Sarah, while Joe casts his vote for Guy:
"We're all glad you could take time off from being a mascot for tires." - Joe DeRosa
Jason, once again, is too conflicted to make a decision:
"I'm gonna give it to the big queen, but I dunno who that is." - Jason Sklar
Our final sudden death joke-off of the night commences:
"Sarah is super into sports, which is a great way to get men to pay attention to you if you look like Sarah."
"Guy, in a lot of ways, you are the Steven Avery of comedy. You're way smarter than you look, and you should have a way better reputation than you do. But, actually, you're nothing like Steven Avery, because at least he's been on Netflix, and his family actually wants to see him again."
Sarah's final joke is more to Jason's liking, so he casts the deciding vote in her favor. The two battlers hug, and Moses agrees to buy Sarah a new glass of wine to replace the one the Wave spilled all over the stage. Moses thanks the packed room for checking out this dynamo of a show, and encourages them to keep tuning in on Periscope and to come see how we do things in the Belly Room sometime.
The crowd, still jacked up, files out, chattering on about how much fun that show was. The doors to the venue open once more, and the smell of bacon-wrapped hot dogs fills the air. After we shut down the live stream and finish cleaning up our mess. I buy one with the works and chow down while the crew figures out where the festival's afterparty is. We've got a photo booth to take victory pictures in.