The comedy roast started at the Friars Club, and since then has spawned a full family tree of descendants. One of the strongest branches that grew out of the Friar’s Club roasts is that of Roast Battle.
Roast Battle started at the Comedy Store’s Belly Room as an after-hours way for young comics to get out some aggression and make each other laugh. It’s grown to an industry with big celebrities attending the original show in Los Angeles, two descendant shows that opened in New York City, Roastmaster Jeff Ross jumping into the mix, imitators and inspired homagers all around the country and an annual Comedy Central show.
Accidentally conceived in July 2013 at a small, sweaty Comedy Store open mic by Rel Battle and Brian Moses to avoid a comedian fistfight, insult-joke competition Roast Battle has since become a global phenomenon.
Taking cues from two seemingly divergent insider traditions – Friars Club roasts and urban rap battles – the show melded both into a mainstream format accessible to anyone who dared take the stage. The rules were simple: No subject was off limits, original material only, and at the end of the battle, competitors hugged. Equal parts blood sport and personal catharsis, the show instantly caught on with performers, industry members scouting the next big thing, and audiences who preferred their punchlines off-color. As host and referee, Brian Moses assembled a zany cast of supporting characters including revered Roastmaster General Jeff Ross, who was hooked from his first night.
Ross gave the show instant legitimacy. He also brought his celebrity friends along to judge. Tastemakers like Judd Apatow, Jim Carrey, Jason Reitman, Dave Chappelle, Jimmy Kimmel, Snoop Dogg, Sarah Silverman, Seth Rogen, and John Mayer counted themselves among Roast Battle’s devotees.
Now, on the five year anniversary of the inception of Roast Battle comes a new book from longtime comedy journalist Julie Seabaugh. “Ringside at Roast Battle” chronicles the emergence of a new fourth pillar of live comedy. From the coming-together of the principal players to the continuing influence the show will wield in years to come, the book explores the organic diversity, DIY nature, and politically-charged atmosphere encouraging a new generation of comedians to laugh in the face of tragedy.
Julie Seabaugh grew up on a farm in Missouri. She is now a full-time freelance comedy journalist of fifteen years, having covered the art form for Rolling Stone, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, GQ, Playboy, The A.V. Club, The Village Voice, L.A. Weekly, Vulture, and numerous other outlets.
Comedian Troy Conrad is the creator of The Comedy Jesus Show, and international sensation Set List: Stand Up Without a Net, which aired across the United States, the U.K., and Australia. Behind the camera, Conrad directed the award-winning Runyon: Just Above Sunset and is a regular photographer for The Comedy Store, Comedy Central, and Netflix.
Recounting the decidedly NSFW story of the most offensive, equalizing, and cathartic comedy show of the past five years, Ringside at Roast Battle is available for sale via Amazon.com and everywhere books are sold. With beautiful on-the-scene photos by Troy Conrad showcasing the venues, competitors, riotous cast of characters, and celebrity judges.