Recap: Jeff Ross presents Roast Battle Night 1

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Comedy Central’s four-night mini-series, Roast Battle, kicked off last night, broadcasting from the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival, and lemme tell you: it was a scorcher. To paraphrase head judge Jeffrey Ross, this show is not for the thin-skinned (and you thick-skinned folks, see a dermatologist). We’ve got the blow by blow after the jump.

If you’re familiar with Comedy Central’s Roasts, then you get the general premise of the program. It’s basically an hour of witty insults hurled by comedians at one another. The twist here is that instead of roasting a famous third party, like Bieber or the Hoff, the comics go head to head and roast each other and it gets heated!

In the first matchup, Sarah Tiana took on Chris Cubas. This battle really set the tone for the evening. There were NO punches pulled. And while the contestants hug it out at the end, and probably drink together in the green room backstage before and after, these digs are MEAN. But as Ross warned, comedians and viewers alike need thick skin.

Tiana advanced to the next round for her unflappable comebacks. As a judge, David Spade seems to be the most discerning, really picking apart the set-up and delivery (and taking notes!). But Kevin Hart is a delight to watch pretty much always.

The second battle was between Steve Rannazzisi and Sam Morril. If you didn’t know, Rannazzisi told a long, elaborate lie about being in the World Trade Center on 9/11. For years – only coming clean last fall. Obviously this was major fodder for his opponent, Sam Morril. While some judges wanted to deduct points for Morril ONLY doing 9/11 jokes, as he pointed out, “If you’re roasting Sandusky, you’re not gonna talk about football.”

Props were given to Rannazzisi for even taking the stage, but the dude crumbled under pressure and failed to get his first joke out. Morril advanced.

Up next were Earl Skakel and Tom Ballard. Skakel took the stage topless, in leather pants and kneepads, perhaps baiting his opponent, who is gay. If the first round was race jokes, and the second starred 9/11, this battle was primarily gay jokes.

At any rate, Skakel took this round and advanced to the semis.

However, the best battle was saved for last. Comedy Central’s final battle for the night starred Christi Chiello and Jimmy Carr, and we really wish both of these comics could have advanced. Chiello’s nervous self-deprecation was endearing in an evening of bravado. But Carr is a deadpan, one-liner legend, and the odds were in his favor from the beginning. However, we will take issue with his use of a clipboard; all the other comics had memorized their jokes, so this seemed like borderline cheating. Nevertheless, he won the battle and lives to roast another day.

And so, takeaways from the first night of Roast Battle: Your standup and comedy experience is going to be tested on an entirely new level when it comes to Roasting. It’s a different muscle entirely, and when the comics flex it right, it’s darkly beautiful. But there’s a very real risk of injury, too.

Find out who roasts and who burns all weekend long at 10/9c on Comedy Central, or anytime on the CC App. We’ll be back tomorrow with a recap of tonight’s match-ups!