Everyone loves to watch someone famous get taken down a few pegs by a good roast. Comedian Jeff Ross — who comes to Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa’s Music Box 9 p.m. Saturday, March 18 — is the king of this particular art form. Rising to fame through a series of nationally televised celebrity roasts, Ross has become so well known for his roasting abilities, he is commonly referred to by his nickname “The Roastmaster General.”
Growing up right here in the Garden State, Ross has become something of a hometown comedy hero. Currently on tour with Dave Attell, their upcoming double bill looks to be one of the best nights of standup comedy Atlantic City has seen all year. Luckily, Ross took some time from his busy schedule to chat with us. Here is what he had to say:
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A.C. Weekly: You are playing at the Music Box at Borgata. Do you generally prefer larger rooms like that or are you more a fan of the smaller comedy clubs?
Jeff Ross: I like mixing it up. I like being able to play everything from a comedy club to the back of a truck in Mosul to a theater in my home state of New Jersey. As long as it’s full, I don’t care.
ACW: Do you find it hard to test out new material on the road with the advent of YouTube and cell phones?
JR: I think in the beginning it was hard because you were afraid that your new jokes were going to be on the Internet, but I think now people are more savvy. They aren’t watching our videos on YouTube any more, YouTube is for beginners and finished product. People want to see it live. Even if you have heard a joke before, it’s like a song that you love.
ACW: You are touring with Dave Attell. Do you have any amusing stories from the road? Meet any crazy fans?
JR: Whenever I go on tour with Dave Attell a lot of chicks with tattoos show up. I’m not sure what he attracts, but I get the more wholesome crowd and he gets the more rugged, rock ‘n’ roll types. Somehow they look hungover before they even start the night.
ACW: You are known for your roasting capabilities. Was there one joke that put you on the map?
JR: The younger generation would probably say that it started with the roast of Justin Bieber, but true roasting fans will know it goes all the way back to the roast of Jerry Stiller in New York when Bea Arthur was there and I turned to Sandra Bernhard and said “Sandra, I wouldn’t 'blank' with Bea Arthur’s 'blank.'” It wasn’t even the joke that was funny, it was her (Arthur’s deadpan) reaction.
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ACW: Do you think Bea Arthur was actually offended?
JR: Naaah … I think she was just trying to make it funny. A writer on The Golden Girls once told me that Bea Arthur could take a so-so joke and turn it into a home run just by her reaction. It was about her ability to bring out the best in us. Her take is what made the joke so funny.
ACW: Has anyone gotten offended?
JR: I think I’m really good and making fun of people who are good sports. I don’t really pick on people unless they volunteer and they can handle it. Otherwise it’s just bullying and that’s not my game. Although one time Courtney Love held me down while Bea Arthur beat the crap out of me — best night of my life!
ACW: What made you want to get into comedy? Were you the stereotypical class clown?
JR: I didn’t really have a lot of direction. I went to Boston University for film school and a buddy of mine suggested I try standup comedy. It was love at first laugh. I never looked back.