Jeff Ross insists that he only roasts the ones he loves. If that's true, then he loves a lot of people.
The Roastmaster General, as he's become known as in the comedy world, has burned everyone from celebrities to cartoon characters, and now he's taking on America.
This Saturday, the insult comic makes his first-ever appearance in the Twin Cities as part of his Jeff Ross Roasts America tour at the Varsity Theater. Before he sets his sights on our town, Ross got on the phone and spoke with us about Kim Jong Il, roasting Batman, and if he thinks he's ever gone too far.
OK, before we get into anything else, we need to talk about you roasting Batman. (Backstory: This past summer, Ross voiced an animated version of himself in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold where he roasted the Caped Crusader along with some of Batman's most famous enemies. Check out the video below.)
Yeah, I couldn't believe it when I got that call. I'm one of those guys who never wanted to meet his heroes because they might disappoint me, but Batman had a great sense of humor. (Laughs) Seriously though, doing that made me realize just how big roasting has become and how popular it's become in the mainstream.
Back to your tour, is this really your first time in Minnesota?
First time doing comedy, yeah. I'm looking forward to it, but it's not my first time in the state. I actually lost my virginity in Minnesota, so I'm not sure how this trip is going to top that.
Hopefully this performance goes as good as that one did. Now, you're touring in support of a new TV show, right?
Sort of. The show is called The Burn, and it's actually sponsoring the tour. It hasn't been officially picked up yet, but it's looking really good. It's going to be a weekly show where we talk about topical issues and then burn them. We've also got a segment on the show called "Too Soon" where we roast people who died recently.
That's pretty dark. What if no one dies one week? Then what are you going to do?
Then we kill someone. (Laughs) Could be my neighbor; could be me. I'm actually looking forward to trying out some of my "too soon" material in Minneapolis. I've got a bunch of Steve Jobs and Kim Jong Il jokes, and I want to see how they work and really push people and see what they think.
Speaking of dead dictators, you made a pretty big impression when you came out for the Charlie Sheen roast last year dressed as Moammar Gadhafi. You got a Kim Jong Il outfit ready to go yet?
I have my tailor in North Korea working on it as we speak. Actually, to be honest, I probably shouldn't be making "too soon" jokes about Kim Jong Il, because I think that's his daughter's name. But then again, you know what they say: Here today, Jong tomorrow.
Obviously you're not worried about pushing the boundaries, but do you ever worry about your jokes going too far?
By now I think most people who come to my shows know what to expect. I mean, you have to be willing to jump off a cliff to make a splash, you know? Comedy comes from pain, and if you can't laugh about it then don't come to my show.
It sounds like famous people aren't the only ones you roast onstage. You do something called speed-roasting; what's that about?
Yeah. What I do is invite people onstage who want to feel about 15 seconds of pain. I only go after people who volunteer, so no one is allowed to take a swing at me, but we get a bunch of people up there and I just machine gun it down the line.
You ever had anyone get pissed?
Some girl slugged me onstage one time. She was upset, but her friends were laughing so I think it was fine.
Given the nature of your type of comedy and roasting, do you feel like people feel more comfortable trying to heckle you or give you a hard time onstage? Kind of like, you gave them shit so they feel like they should get to give it back?
That's a good question. My show is definitely interactive but I'm like a lion tamer up there. If they act up, I'll put them back down -- quickly. I'm all for people being a part of the show when the time is right; just not when it's not.
Last question: Is there anyone you've never had the chance to roast who you still want to?
The good people of Minnesota. If you're fat, tall, short, or ugly you have a responsibility to come to my show.
IF YOU GO:
Jeff Ross Roasts America
Saturday, Feb. 4
Doors: 6:30 p.m.; Show: 7:30 p.m.