Shockya had the opportunity to speak with comedian and famed roaster Jeff Ross, whose Comedy Central series The Burn with Jeff Ross had its second season premiere last Tuesday, January 8th at 10:30pm. Though he is relentless with the subjects of his roasts, he’s actually a pretty friendly and nice guy. Follow Jeff on Twitter and keep reading below to hear what he has to say about the Westboro Baptist Church, his show, and what he wants to hear from you.
Q: What can you tell me about season two? What’s new and different?
A: We’re being a bit more daring. I went to visit members of the Westboro Baptist Church last week, and I think that set a precedent of roasting people who need to be taken down a notch as well. We’re hiring bodyguards.
Q: What prompted you to go see the Westboro Baptist Church?
A: I was an hour and a half away on Christmas visiting my girlfriend’s family, and noticed that one of their members had been following me on Twitter. We were going to go down and look at it more out of curiosity, and then my girlfriend suggested that I direct message the guy on Twitter and see if they would come out and participate. What was interesting is that we found that they actually do have emotions, these haters. That was at least some encouragement for the human people.
Q: Do you plan to take others down in the future?
A: Yeah, we’re sitting here in the writers’ room today thinking of similar targets. Any suggestions would be helpful.
Q: I know you’ve mentioned Bob Hope as an inspiration. Are there any other comedians who have inspired you?
A: The old-time roast comedians, Don Rickles, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, those guys, who shoved the truth in people’s faces. I have never been too into hidden-camera pranks and stuff like that. To me the best comedy is when you make fun of a person to their face.
Q: Do you find any scripted comedy series to be fitting of the comedy standard?
A: Well, it sounds crazy, but I love Glee. I think it’s really funny, really clever, and I love musicals, so people wouldn’t expect that from me, but there’s something really pure about that show that I love. I also love Children’s Hospital. I think that show’s hilarious, and I got to guest star on that one playing myself, which was a real treat.
Q: Are there any topics that, for you, are off limits?
A: Oh, man. For our show, there are no limits. The more provocative we are, the more the audience loves it. If we go easy, people complain. We try to take down the biggest targets. This week it was Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber and One Direction all in one episode.
Q: Who has been your favorite subject of a roast?
A: Wow. I got a real kick out of roasting Flavor Flav a few years back because I used to love Public Enemy as a kid. My buddies and I used to drive around listening to Public Enemy in high school and college, so that was really fun, plus at the time racial comedy was really in a strange place. It was coming off Michael Richards’ n-word outburst, so to suddenly see race handled by professional comedians on TV was really encouraging, and it showed that comedy can bring people together. Plus, I got to dress like a pimp.
Q: Do you plan to continue visiting troops?
A: Doing stuff for the soldiers at this point feels like a lifelong commitment. Everywhere I go now, I bump into soldiers who have either seen me in Iraq or Afghanistan, and there’s a real desire to at least keep going to the hospitals and doing the little bit I can. It takes a lot out of you emotionally, but imagine what they go through every day.
Q: Who are some of your favorite comedians and roasters working today?
A: We have Dave Attell on the show this week. He’s my absolute favorite, he just kills me. He roasted every single person in the room. All my favorites are coming on. I’m pretty lucky that way. Some comedians I really look forward to seeing and really respect are saying yes, which is making us feel like we have some longevity. Amy Schumer, one of the top roasters today, is coming back for her third time.
Q: How does it feel to have a home on Comedy Central?
A: It feels good. Comedy Central, to their credit, lets me do experimental videos and we don’t get censored very much. It’s a good place to exercise our first-amendment rights as comedians. They have yet to censor one panelist on our show. Everything has been really free. Roasting and The Burn, it’s sort of a movement. People are really getting into it, not only the celebrity roast, but people are starting to roast their bosses or their friends at bachelor parties or at school. These homegrown backyard roasts are the next wave, I think.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers of Shockya?
A: We welcome your suggestions. Go to the Burn Blog and tell us who you think we should burn. Maybe your fans will weigh in and tell us who they think we should take down a notch.
Written by Abe Fried-Tanzer