If you’re a fan of live comedy there is no better time of year than now. The Just For Laughs Festival continues this week in Montreal featuring some of the best performers in the industry. One of the festival’s more anticipated events kicks off this Wednesday as Just For Laughs and Comedy Central will come together to present a four-night extravaganza, Jeff Ross Presents Roast Battle. The tournament is stacked with some of the biggest names taking part as contestants and judges with even more names being announced as judges today- some of the biggest stars in the business.
Returning from last year’s roast battle is K Trevor Wilson. Wilson is one of the hottest comedians in Canada right now. He’s one of the stars of the critically acclaimed Letterkenny and was the 2015 Male Comedian of the Year at last year’s Canadian Comedy Awards. An original member of Toronto’s Comedy Records, his album SexCop FirePenis topped the iTunes Comedy Charts and won a CCA for Best Live Recording.
Wilson recently sat down to talk about the upcoming battle and what he took from last year’s event to help prepare.
What was it like taking part in the Roast Battle at Just For Laughs last year?
K Trevor Wilson: It’s definitely weird. You’re roasting people you don’t really know. Last year, there were a few more international comedians; a few Australians, a couple Brits, a few more Canadians. We were from all over the place so we really had no idea who each other were. We had to look each other up on the internet which was kind of fun cause you found out there are some really good comics out there.
Everyone’s a good sport. We all knew what we were getting into when we signed up so you can’t take it too personally. But it’s weird, I’m generally a nice guy so ripping into people is not my forte, but I took it as a challenge. It was something new for me to try and it went well. I made it to the semi-finals last year and lost to Matt Broussard.
Did you take home any favorite memories from the roast?
K Trevor Wilson: There were two big ones for me. The first night Wanda Sykes called out Ashley Barnhill for all the jokes she didn’t do about me. And then Wanda went off and torched me with rapid-fire burns. Getting destroyed by Wanda Sykes was a real honor. The other was having Dave Chappelle there watching my set and then when Jeff Ross asked him to comment he was like, “I have nothing to say to this man. He just said words I’ve never imagined.” That was cool ha.
How will you prepare for this year’s roast?
K Trevor Wilson: This year, it’s a little different. Going in, I have a better idea of what I’m doing and we have more time to prepare so that really helps. And this year, I’ve got a few more connections in different cities so I’ve been able to message them and ask, ‘What can you tell me about this person?’ It helps a lot. My first round I’m going against Olivia Grace. She added me on Facebook so we’ve been chatting for the past few days. She’s similar to me, not comfortable torching someone she doesn’t really know. We face-timed yesterday.
Is any material off limits?
K Trevor Wilson: We talked a bit about stuff. She didn’t mention too much that she didn’t want me to go after. I think you try to avoid specifics. Make fun of their comedy, make fun of their appearance… you know, exaggerate the general knowledge you have about them.
You made the semi-finals last year. Is there a secret to advancing?
K Trevor Wilson: There’s a strategy. You’ve got to be prepared in case it goes to a tie-breaking round and you need an extra joke. And you’ve sort of got to weigh out your jokes because you don’t want your ‘Hail Mary’ jokes to be soft. You also don’t want to harp on just one topic. You can’t do the same joke over and over again, you’ve got to have a mixed bag. You’ve also got to think, what are they gonna come back at you with? It’s always good to have rebuttal jokes. I know the other roasters are gonna come after me about my size. There’s probably gonna be a couple diabetes jokes… I’ve been roasted enough and know what my buddies say about me that I know what will probably come up.
A lot of it is that you write the jokes and then you’ve got to figure out the order to tell them, but that will change on the fly depending on what they say. What I’ve tried to do this year is to make fun of one aspect of the person that’s wrapped up in another point so it’s harder to come back.
Any predictions for this year’s battle?
K Trevor Wilson: If you read threads out of Los Angeles no one thinks I stand a chance against Olivia, but I enjoy being underestimated at these things. I think that comes from being Canadian. People also aren’t giving Jimmy Carr credit and he won the thing last year. For my money, Jimmy is the man to beat. Also, I don’t think a lot of people remember, but Tom Ballard came the closest to eliminating Jimmy last year. People need to consider Tom a much bigger threat than they’re giving him credit for. My ultimate dream is to meet Jimmy in the finals this year, which I fell short of last year. The unknown, unsuspecting Canadian kid vs the millionaire juggernaut. So this year, I’m gonna try and make that happen.
Jeff Ross Presents Roast Battle will be a four-night event, filmed live at Montreal’s L’Astral, and will be aired on Comedy Central [Comedy Network in Canada] as four one-hour episodes from July 28th-31st at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The finale will air live on July 31st.