Roastmaster General, Jeff Ross, comes to Warren, MI at Andiamo Showroom
By Kevin Tshiamala
It is rare for Metro Detroit to be graced by great comedians due to the lack of our comedy venues. Fortunately, following the Oddball Comedy Tour this past summer, Roastmaster General, Jeff Ross, will be coming back to Metro Detroit in a few weeks. HEAR got a chance to chat with Jeff Ross about his career, writing, directing, performing over seas for our beloved troops, his Comedy Central Roasts and much more. Take a listen to our Raw Sessions, uncut, audio interview here or read on.
Hear Magazine: You grew up in Newark, as I’ve read. How would you say, if at all, it has shaped your comedy career or stand up career?
Jeff Ross: I feel like if you’re from New Jersey. It’s probably like that in parts of Michigan too, but when you’re from New Jersey everybody thinks they’re a comedian. There’s a lot to make fun off, the pollution, the people. I think you develop think skin and you learn how to take a joke. I think that is the heart of what I do. Being able to take a joke ultimately. Maybe if you can do that then maybe you can start dishing it out too.
Hear Magazine: Are you the type of comedian that sits down and writes all day and is intrigued in the writing process? Or are you more like the Lewis Black type and sort of think it, work on it through your on stage appearances?
Jeff Ross: I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’ve always been a writer first. I really enjoy that part of it. I came to this as a writer. I even took a stand up comedy class as a beginner, which I thought was a writing class. I didn’t realize it was for performance. I’ve always been a writer, I wrote as a kid. I love that part of it. I feel like the most fun part about it is coming up with the material. Delivering it is fun, but I think the creation of it is the excitement for me.
HM: On in Bed with Joan Rivers you stated you went to film school is that correct?
JM: That is true. Is that on there? That is cool, I haven’t watched it yet.
HM: You won an award in Montreal at a film festival for your Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie. What was the inspiration behind that and did it stem from your film school experiences?
JR: Yeah I mean…the digital age made it easier for me to go to a remote location like the Sunni triangle in Iraq and this is the very beginning of the war there. So I knew I was seeing something that very few people got to see. I had a backstage pass to the war and I wanted to capture that. I knew I wouldn’t be able to explain it to anybody. I knew I had to take those pictures especially landing in Sabal airport all blown out and stuff. It was cool to have the soldiers open up to me about their experiences. And the comedians as well had gone through emotional journeys. One of them was a Vietnam Vet now returning to war. It was fascinating and I wanted to learn about the subjects and Honor them… I loved it. I would love to make another movie down the road.
HM: How did you revive or get into the Comedy Central roast series?
JR: It was pretty calculated. I had been doing the Roast for a couple years that weren’t on television. It’s like the Friars roast in New York they were pretty private. They were super fun and I was up there with some legends of comedy, like Milton Berle and Buddy Hackett at a young age. Once again it was something I wanted people to see, but couldn’t fully explain. So I was able to convince the Friars and comedy central to get married for a few years. They did and the result was these great early Roasts. Now obviously they’ve been elevated to modern times. Where we roast like pop culture figures. There’s this huge uh, it’s almost like a movement of people roasting now.
HM: Is it difficult to find someone, like a pop culture figure? Is it difficult to get these celebrities up there to take this berating in a way?
JR: It was more difficult, but it’s become easier as the roasting become more popular. People are now more down with it because they kind of get what it is. They get it’s good natured and feelings aren’t meant to be hurt. It’s sort of a back handed compliment when you roast somebody. It’s hard sure because you really have to find somebody special who is accomplished enough to roast but who is also humble enough to laugh at themselves. That’s the real tricky part and we’ve been lucky to be able to find people that have been really good sports so far.
HM: You wrote a book in 2009 I Only Roast the Ones I love. How long did it take you to write the book and what was the process like?
JR: It was lonely. When you do stand up you’re part of a party. You’re running a big night out. Writing a book you’re reflective and you’re reflecting back at your own life. It can be happy, it can be sad, it could be funny, but it’s got to be interesting. It was a challenge. I’m proud of it. I loved doing it. I love it when people tell me they read it and got something out of it because there’s a lot of advice about roasting and about life in the book.
HM: So you’ll be coming to Andiamo Showroom in Warren, MI on April 12th. Is that mainly stand-up or do you roast the audience a bit or is it a combination of the two.
JR: It’s almost like a multi-course meal. I’ll do stand up. I play songs on guitar. And at a certain point I invite audience members up to get speed roasted. It’s a party. If you’ve always wanted to see a live roast or be a part of one, this is your chance. I take anybody on to come up on stage. There are no requirements or pre screening process. Just come on stage and let me rip into you for your fifteen seconds of fame.
HM: I’m sure no one has taken that too personally. I’m sure since they’ve volunteered they’re not going to get upset with whatever you say?
JR: Everyonce in a while I get smacked, but I can take it.
HM: Almost every comic I think has a bomb story of some sort. How many times did you bomb before you were validated by the crowd?
JR: Well you know it’s all about confidence. If you’re confident you never bomb. Even if the crowd stinks or you’re having an off night, you kind of stay in it and don’t let them see you sweat too much. You essentially become a professional and that’s part of being a professional. That’s what you see from appearing to bomb. We all take our lumps in the beginning, but I once heard Dave Chappelle tell an open mic’er, amateur comedian, “Don’t worry kid you only start out once.” You eventually work through it.
HM: Were you mostly interested, growing up, in standup or did you always want to do various things in the industry? Like we’ve talked about you’ve written a book, directed a movie, you’ve been in movies…
JR: We’re pitching a pilot right now for ABC we’re hoping that gets picked up.
HM: Oh nice what is it about if you can talk about it?
JR: It’s produced by the comedian Kevin Hart and it’s based on his real life divorce and raising his kids. It’s really funny and really sweet and we’re doing it for ABC…It’s going to be great, another actor named Romany Malco is in here also. He’s in 40 Year Old Virgin and Weeds and he’s super funny. There are a lot of funny people on it.
[Fan questions provided by the lovely folks from the Goombacast Podcast]
Goombacast: Who were your comedic influences growing up?
JR: I’d have to say Alcohol and Marijuana.
Goombacast: What was your favorite roast or who was your favorite person to roast and why?
JR: I get that question a lot from fans. It’s a tricky one because the process is so much fun. Like I was saying before to you the writing. So I have to say my favorite person to roast is whoever’s next. Because getting ready for these things is the real thrill for me. You know getting a haircut, getting shaved getting a new suit writing a joke. That’s the fun part.
HM: How long is that process, like writing the jokes for the roasts that are coming up?
JR: Usually we have about a month in advance and the second I hear the name I start obsessing. It’s like going to battle. I start thinking about that person 24 hours a day. I even dream about it. I had a dream about James Franco. I can’t help it. I woke up one day with cornrows. It was some sort of weird roasting miracle. I embody these people. I really take it so seriously. But yeah, the second I hear the name is when I start.
Goombacast: Any good behind the scenes roasts stories?
HM: I always ask this question. Any advice you have for up and coming artists not pertaining to comedy, just any advice for someone trying to make a dream come true?
JR: I would say, lead towards the positivity and try to enjoy the process. Don’t ever get too sad and don’t ever get too happy. Just sort of enjoy the process and stay in the middle because [in] show business there’s no pot of gold. There’s no rainbow at the end, you have to enjoy the process along the way otherwise you’ll be miserable. So I say enjoy the process.
HM: Wrapping it up, any shout outs or public service announcements you want to make?
JR: Shout out to the comedy fans. If you come to my show, bring a date. Because I talk about sex a lot and laughter is a great aphrodisiac and you’re almost guaranteed to get some action afterwards.
From stand up, to directing, acting, writing a book, hosting his own Television show The Burn, and countless appearances on television, Jeff Ross has had a very successful career. Though this is, like most, he continues to tour, combining his vast career experiences for an unbelievable one night performance.
Jeff Ross will be performing at the Andiamo Showroom April 12th.
For more information please visit Jeff Ross’s official website: http://roastmastergeneral.com/
For social media please visit: https://twitter.com/realjeffreyross
PS. There are very few artists, let alone comedians, that make me nervous before an interview. Seeing Jeff’s number come up on my phone is a moment I’ll never forget and one I hope repeats itself. He is a class act, a kind man and as we all know a viciously hilarious person. I can’t thank Jeff enough for taking the time out of his day to speak with us over at HEAR.