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Comedy

Talking with Jeff Ross about roasting Las Vegas

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If you’re a city and you see this man coming, better run — or have a great sense of humor.

The Details

Jeff Ross Roasts Las Vegas
March 16, 8 p.m.
$25-$30, House of Blues, 632-7600

As far as you know, has anyone ever roasted an entire city before?

This is definitely an experiment I’m enjoying. I didn’t know if anyone had ever done it. I don’t think so. It’s kind of a David and Goliath story, just me against the whole city. But it’s been very fun. Every city has a different temperament.

Why Las Vegas?

I felt that was the one place I could go with no holds barred. I’m going to be hitting all the hard targets—Whitney Houston, Joe Paterno, Steve Jobs, stuff that normally gets a lot of groans. And I know that won’t happen in Vegas. I assume Vegas has a very, very thick skin and can take a joke. There’s no subtleties in Vegas.

You shared the stage with Mike Tyson at the Charlie Sheen roast. What was your reaction when you heard about his upcoming one-man show?

I thought that had to be a misprint. But I’m happy for him, man. It should be interesting. I will be there. His voice? That will be out of sight. I can’t wait to see that. I hope it’s a big hit, and then we can roast him someday.

Why do you think roasts strike such a chord with audiences?

It’s interesting. They’ve become more popular than ever. I think it must have something to do with how people like to see a tar and feathering, a public hanging of sorts. People love to see their heroes taken down a notch, and the heroes love all the attention, so it works out pretty well.

Any particular celebrities you’d like to roast?

That’s a very good question. There’s no roast until August, and it’s tricky to top Charlie Sheen. I think that’s one of the reasons we wanted to wait. We wanted to take it to the fans to see who they think should be next.

Any other cities that might be deserving of their own roast?

I’ve been doing this a couple of months in seven other cities, but I didn’t hit New York on this tour, and I feel like the whole East Coast is catching a lucky break by avoiding my wrath on this particular leg of my career. But yeah, I feel like New York would be a great candidate.

What has been the overall reaction from most cities to getting roasted?

Some cities take a joke better than others. I was in Miami, and those people are a little sensitive. I came out dressed as Scarface and ripped into people pretty hard. They didn’t take some of the jokes too well. Mostly jokes about LeBron [James] and the Heat. Whereas Seattle, you might think they’re very PC, but it was quite the opposite. Their sense of humor was very sophisticated, and their skin was very thick under all that blubber.

So far, what’s been the most receptive city?

I had a great time in Washington, D.C. You would think audiences there are very stuffy, but they’re very loose and they love to laugh. Especially if the lights are out and nobody’s really paying attention. I had 20 people come over from Walter Reid hospital, staff and some wounded guys. Nobody laughs harder than those guys, because they’ve seen it all. That was a very raucous show.

Toronto was a nice break to roast our big dumb cousin to the north—that was great. Minneapolis was really good. It was really cold out. People just needed a laugh. The girl I lost my virginity to when I was 17 was in the audience. She came out onstage and told that story, so I got roasted myself that night. It’s been a trip, man. Really fun. I feel like after this I need to do another leg. If not America I’ll do the world. The world is my dais. Have jokes, will travel, as Bob Hope used to say.

Do you feel you’re keeping the spirit of the roast alive right now?

Comedy Central has been a big supporter, and there’s so many funny comedians that have been popping up at these roasts. I feel like it’s not just me, it’s a little community of roasters. The league of roasters, if you will.

Yeah, but I’ve seen all the roasts, and I think you’re the only constant in every single roast. I think when most people think “Comedy Central Roast,” you’re probably the first person they think of.

It’s pretty cool, man. I didn’t expect it to work out this way. I guess this is my lane, and I’ve learned to really love it.

I feel like if you weren’t involved in these roasts, they wouldn’t be as successful as they have been.

I’m excited to hear that ... and I agree. I do feel like I really push hard too keep the quality of the roasts up. I don’t want it to get soft. You don’t want to do too many because you don’t want to wear it out, and you want to roast people that are worthy. So yeah, I am sort of attached to these things. It’s like a religion for me. I only roast the ones I love.

So many comedians use the line, “Too soon?” Is it ever too soon for you?

Never too soon. It can be too much, or you can pile on and that can be bad, but as long as it’s just one or two well-crafted insults, you’re okay. Never too soon.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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