Roast Battle Continues: The Semi Finals Get Serious


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Good stand up comedy is 50% writing and 50% performance. Unfortunately, most television is 90% appearance and 10% any form of talent. So most of the time, performers you see doing stand-up on TV aren’t necessarily the best, they’re just the most photogenic. But roasting is a different animal. It’s 90% about writing, and while the Battle format adds a strong performance element, there’s 0% coasting on looks. Even (incredibly attractive and talented) judge Anthony Jeselnik pointed out that no other show on television would feature this motley cast.

Roast Battle’s quarter final round was an exquisite example of how much talent is being hidden behind the cameras in the writers’ rooms on every show you love on television. The episode features previous round winners going head to head, with the best judges’ table yet – and Seth Rogen. Rather fitting, since both started their careers a little bit left of “classically handsome” but combined their incredible comedic talent and some time with a personal trainer to become the megastars they are today.

In that spirit, here are some of the folks you’ll see on tonight’s show whose words have been making you laugh forever, but whose faces you might be seeing for the very first time.

– A favorite to take it all since even before Road To Roast Battle began, Mike is well known for his precision and fearlessness. He’s been an integral part of both the Comedy Store Roast Battle and NYC’s Roastmasters as both a Battler and Judge. Without fail, when Mike is judging, he will come over the top of everyone with the most “oh shit, that’s so true and funny!” snipe that leaves even the victor with something to aspire to. While Mike’s face is familiar as a favorite on @midnight, he’s most well known (and Emmy nominated) for his writing work on Inside and the recent Triumph election specials.

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– As an attractive blonde, Tiana has probably had the most screen time of any quarter-finalist between her appearances on Reno 911, Chelsea Lately and The Soup Investigates, but has also contributed significantly as a writer to The Comedy Central Roasts and Jeff Ross’ last roasty series, The Burn. But Roast Battle is the first real chance for her to combine her verbal prowess with her camera-ready looks, finally showcasing her own words coming out of her own mouth.

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Tony Hinchcliffe – Another writer who cut his teeth on the Comedy Central Roasts and The Burn, Tony’s first round in front of the Battle cameras was against Mark Normand, an opponent with a remarkably similar skill level, sensibility, cadence and even almost-matching flannel shirt. But without giving too much away, Tony makes a memorable impression going toe to toe against Canada’s K Trevor Wilson in the quarter finals. A mainstay of Roast Battle from its humble beginnings, Tony also sharpens his razor wit each week on the wildly popular podcast Kill Tony, where he helps build up some promising young comedians, but mostly schools a lot of delusional wannabes.

Willie Hunter (The Wave) – Probably the most surprising juxtaposition of off-camera background and on-(Battle)-camera performance is The Wave’s Willie Hunter. In many ways, The Wave originally coalesced around Willie’s moonwalking, high-stepping, chest beating antics from the very early days of Roast Battle in The Belly Room. And Willie has never shied away from joining Jeremiah or Jamar in the silliest of scenes. But Willie’s writing experience carries a surprising amount of gravitas for a guy who will take off his shirt and put on a wig just to make sure the audience knows what a bomb that last joke was. He is co-creator and writer for the critical hit The Carmichael Show and previously contributed to Deon Cole’s much too short lived TBS series Black Box.

You can catch all this great writing (and a lot more) tonight at 10 when the quarter finals pits Mike Lawrence v Ralphie May, Sarah Tiana v Sam Morril, Tony Hinchcliffe v K Trevor Wilson and Jimmy Carr v Earl Skakel.

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Amy E Hawthorne is a New York by way of LA comedy journalist and founder of ComedyGroupie.com. She's also a produced numerous stand-up shows, got a paycheck and a drinking problem from The Comedy Store and is convinced that the Big Avocado lobby are the ones who really pull the strings in this country.