Tag Archives: Jeffrey Ross

(T)rump Roast

What do Pamela Anderson, David Hasselhoff and Donald Trump have in common?

A. They are dumb blondes…even if it’s fake blond.

B. Their 15 minutes expired 15 years ago.

C. They are more famous for being famous than for actual worthy accomplishments.

D. They are how low the bar has sunk for “celebrities” at Comedy Central Roasts.

E. All of the above.

Which doesn’t mean that I’m not tuning in to watch; when truly funny people like Anthony Jeselnik and Whitney Cummings are going to savage easy targets, I’m game. But not only has the roastee gone down hill, but the dais now features the brain-dead (The Situation) and the living dead (Larry King) where giants one sat. Sadly, ace roaster Greg Giraldo is no longer with us, but where is Nick DiPaolo? Where is Colin Quinn? Where is Norm MacDonald? Where is…oh wait, I know where Gilbert Gottfried is

Maybe they were busy. Maybe they didn’t want to go slumming. But here’s how The Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump did go…

I think Seth MacFarlane is a perfect host; he’s got a great voice and really knows how to deliver a joke. Even if they’re ones he didn’t write, like perhaps “If his plan is to fire everyone he’s two years too late” or “He has such a big ego, when he bangs a supermodel he closes his eyes and imagines he’s jerking off.” With David Feldman and Jesse Joyce writing copy, at least there were good zingers for those qualified to deliver them. He’s also unafraid to go there, like feigning retardation while talking to the Jersey Shore mook.

Of course that was half the problem – the dais. Larry King was horrible, stumbling through lines he looked like he was seeing for the first time, and giggling at every one with that pedophile heh-heh-heh that is beyond creepy. “Lisa Lumpa Jelly“, he snarked…wow. But he seemed like Rodney Dangerfield next to the Ab Man (I’m not typing his name again), who was so inept that the crowd either booed or sat in total silence until Jeffrey Ross had to go up to the podium and beg for mercy. Granted, he’s not a comedian…but then why the fuck is he up there trying to be one? Is he banging Trump’s daughter? The Proactiv commercial during the break was funnier.

Marlee Matlin played the role of the proper girl who gets filthy-mouthed for the event; this is now a staple of every roast. And she was a good sport, and funny – using an interpreter to speak for her (when the camera picked him up earlier, I thought he was a Barack Obama look-alike who was going to engage in a skit with Trump!). But when he quit in mock exasperation, Gilbert Gottfried came out to take his place and got a huge ovation before tearing the room a new one. Obviously filmed before the Tsunami Twitter incident, Gilbert proved that nothing was ever sacred by saying Trump had defiled New York so much he is known as the “twentieth terrorist“.

Lisa Lampanelli’s “I love the brothers” routine is beyond tired but she did get off a couple of good lines. To Trump about his hair: “What do you have to say to a barber to get that haircut? I fucked your daughter?Snoop Dogg, always cool, got off a keeper when he riffed on Trump running for President by saying if he won it wouldn’t be the first time he kicked a black family out of their house. More consistently solid was Whitney Cummings, who peppered the stage with jabs on her first few jokes but then finished in a flurry of uppercuts and right crosses. By comparison, she had the biggest balls on the stage.

The clear winners of the evening were Jeffrey Ross and Anthony Jeselnik. Great to see Ross absolutely kill; he had the line of the night (to Trump: “Are you having a good time? Yeah? Tell your face…“). And Jeselnik deadpanned his way through one winner after another, from the simply clever (“the sense of humor to embarrass yourself on Saturday Night Live…and the casino business“) to the brilliantly subversive (“Marlee Matlin…are you even listening to me?”).

Theer were a few heartfelt mentions about Greg Giraldo, and he was sorely missed, although Jeselnik scored well enough to be considered for the role of roast assassinOr maybe they can feature Jesse Joyce, Giraldo’s writing partner and a hilarious dude in his own right (who also wrote some of the better lines on this show). Get some fresh blood up on the dais – quick thinkers with a ruthless streak like Joe DeRosa, Joe Materese and Kurt Metzger. You are filming this in New York, right? I hear some comics hang out there.

Hopefully this will wind up on DVD where some of the funnier or more cringe-worthy elements can be seen in all their glory. Most of the shows have been available, with few exceptions – the Joan Rivers set is a notable omission. Too bad – there were some tremendous punches thrown at her, and she returned hellfire. Much more impressive than Trump reading the teleprompter.

And to borrow a line from Mr. Ross…”Greg Giraldo, roast in peace.”

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WTF Turns 100

Congratulations to Marc Maron – tomorrow will mark the one hundredth episode of his brilliant WTF podcast. Since September 2009, like clockwork, these hours of self-analysis, penetrating interviews and social observation keep popping out twice a week like gold.

The WTF Podcast page

The very first episode featured the Roastmaster General himself, Jeff Ross, and the array of guests he’s welcomed is staggering. Patton Oswalt, David Feldman, Maria Bamford, Jim Norton, Robin Williams, Dave Attell, Sarah Silverman, Doug Stanhope, Andy Kindler…he’s quietly assembled a library of audio documents that any serious comedy lover should savor.

And Maron, beyond being incredibly funny in his own right, has proven to be an incisive interviewer who is unafraid to broach sensitive topics (and yes, sometimes with a personal edge). Some of my favorites included a frank discussion of race with Chicago comic Dwayne Kennedy and some gutsy exchanges with two popular but controversial comedians accused of joke thievery (Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia).

Although many are recorded in his garage studio, Maron has taken WTF on the road and has even filmed a pilot for that will hopefully be picked up as a series. Not only will it bring in some welcome funding, but the show and its brilliant guests will get much-needed exposure to the vast majority of people who don’t even know the show exists, let alone where to find it. Surely there has to be room in the vast cable landscape for intelligent discourse?

For now, I’m just thankful that Maron, Bill Burr, Kevin Pollack and so many others have adopted the format and put this out there for free. With literally hundreds of hours of these shows available, there will never be another boring car ride. Ever.

Congratulations, Mark! Please try to enjoy the moment.

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Stand Up Wit…Jeffrey Ross

Although I love Jeffrey Ross’s stinging barbs on the Comedy Central Roasts, I was not a fan of his first CD/DVD release, No Offense. Matter of fact, I gave it a kick in the nuts at the time, and I stand by that review; he’s capable of much, much better.

But I need to give credit where credit is due, and over the past few weeks I wound up viewing his film Patriot Act and finally reading his book I Only Roast The Ones I Love. Big thumbs up to both.

The book is a combination of three things – light biography, showbiz back room stories and a how-to-be-a-Roastmaster primer. Credit the author or credit the editors, but it juggled the three topics adeptly and for the most part is a breezy and enjoyable read. The how-to part is obviously written tongue-in-cheek, since being funny is a gift, not a trade. But he offers some valuable tips for the weekend/wedding roaster which should elevate a clumsy act with potential into at least a clumsy act that’s organized.

The bio and backstage bits are well-balanced; lots of caustic one-liners from the roasts, some inside and backstage bits about famous comics and several heartfelt exchanges with or about legends (i.e. Milton Berle) who Ross obviously reveres. While obviously charting his own success he deftly describes this rise with a minimal amount of ego-stroking.

Fans of his generation will no doubt appreciate the anecdotes involving contemporaries like Jimmy Kimmel, but anyone who appreciates the art of comedy will see the respect that he has for the history of the art form. By extension, they’ll learn to respect Ross a little more in the process. I know I do.

But that Bea Arthur story is going to give me nightmares.

I’m as much an avid fan for films about stand-up comedy as I am films of stand-up comedy. Ross promotes this as little more than a “home movie”, but it’s simultaneously as strong a documentary about comedy as it is an endorsement of our brave troops stationed around the world. I don’t mind when those of us with different political agendas get caught up in deep discussions about our political beliefs, but it’s a weak mind that thinks a person opposed to a war is “against the troops”.

Maybe it’s the word troops; these are people like you and me, or our sons, daughters, siblings and parents, who have volunteered to serve our country and by that definition, serve the rest of us. When I hear some politico accusing another of being “against the troops” I know they’re out of mental ammo and gasping. It’s bullshit cheap shot rhetoric that only idiots and talk radio sheep buy into.

I wish all those poison hearted people who toss words around with such callous disregard could watch how a group of comics interact with our military personnel and juggle full frontal comedy with complete deference and respect. But even if you miss the more important point, you’ll come away having enjoyed some great jokes courtesy of Ross, Blake Clark, Drew Carey, Rocky LaPorte and Kathy Kinney. (And as a longtime fan of Drew Carey, I was glad to see his tireless efforts for the troops get some overdue recognition.)

Coincidentally I just re-read Jay Mohr’s book Gasping For Airtime this week. He and Ross both revered Buddy Hackett, and while I grew up watching Hackett on television and in the movies (It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World is a stone cold classic), I came away with a new respect for him as a both a comic and a mentor. And seeing a new generation of comics paying genuine respect to those who laid the foundation is heartwarming; both Mohr and Ross knew Hackett well (and Mohr does a killer impression of the man). Maybe someday the DVD wizards will finally release this gem.

Jeffrey Ross on Wikipedia.

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Stand Up Wit…Nick Di Paolo

"Am I that old that I have to warm up before I give somebody the finger?"

"Am I that old that I have to warm up before I give somebody the finger?"

Detractors call him a racist, a misogynist and/or a homophobe. I prefer the term equal-opportunity offender. But whatever you call him, Nick DiPaolo is funny.

Although the name and accent might scream “Brooklyn”, DiPaolo is originally from the Boston area, although he’s been a fixture on the NY/NJ comedy scene for years. His blunt, brutal sarcastic edge might flow like a river of well-directed bile, but that cadence is a product of great instincts and skill, highly polished over a two decade career. For Nick, nothing is sacred (including, and especially, himself) and we’re all along for the ride. A veteran of the comedy club and late-night TV circuits, Nick was also a main panelist on Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn and is a frequent member of the dais for the Comedy Central roasts.

Funny How is a Gatling gun of intolerance towards marriage, bad customer service, reality TV, drug commercials, sexual and racial inequality and the general stupidity we encounter every day. Recorded at the ACME Comedy Club in Minneapolis prior to the 2008 election, DiPaolo naturally spends a bit of time skewering the candidates, but not too much; only a tiny bit will risk sounding dated years from now. (The John McCain bits were great, but you could tell the physical gestures he was making made it twice as funny for those in the audience!) Despite being an avowed Republican, he rightfully whacks everyone – on both sides of the aisle. Yes, folks, Nick DiPaolo is a uni-ter, not a divi-der

Lots of laugh-out-loud moments; my favorite bits were the “Bat Story” (a bat loose in his bedroom turns Nick into a pussy) and “To Catch A Predator”, which almost made me drive my car into the guard rail. Half the fun is listening to Nick toss out three jokes in a single sentence, see the audience catch one or two and then chide them for missing the money shot. I’ve caught a lot of his televised appearances, and although I imagine a lot of this is seasoned club material to NYC fans, most of it was new to me. The couple of routines that weren’t (like “Dead Pope” ) remain so strong that I laughed as hard as I did the first time I heard them.

If you buy a Nick DiPaolo album you know it’s not something to play at the children’s party, so those with the right wavelength for this material should go grab it right away without reservation. (Also be sure to check out Nick’s earlier albums, Road Rage and Born This Way. Both are really funny, and if you like any of the three, you’ll like all three.)

 roast_logo

I wish I could say the same for the album released by Nick’s frequent Roast partner in crime, Jeffrey Ross. Granted, I popped the CD in with high expectations having enjoyed Ross’s brutal podium work in the Comedy Central roasts. But No Offense: Live From New Jersey is a big disappointment, thin on material and containing very few funny lines. Half the CD is an extended bit where two audience members (and I suspect the second was a plant) come onstage and play piano as Ross recites nonsense poems about his balls or whining in Chinese. It’s the kind of joke that works once if you do it right (Sam Kinison did it to great effect years ago) but it gets tiring the second and third time you trot out another poem, and then after that it’s just painful to sit through. Ask Dice.

I will not smell that finger, no sir!

I will not smell that finger, no sir!

Maybe it was the blue hair crowd at the casino that caused him to milk a routine that was working, or maybe he didn’t want to cross the line too deeply in front of an audience of relatives and friends…I don’t know. But silly poems? Ross isn’t John Valby, he’s a throwback to the quick-jabbing comedians of yesteryear, only more vulgar and gross because time has changed what’s acceptable in a commercial theatre (the old timers could be filthy and vile too, but most kept that in the clubs). The sharp put-down, whether to others or himself, is his strength, but he didn’t play to it. Then again, I’ve only seen Ross on television; I’ve never seen him headline a full show – maybe this is his act.

Or maybe the whole album was satire and it went over my head? Nah. He’s better than this. Hope he documents a stronger performance on CD/DVD soon.

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