Watching Ross rip into Courtney Love or Andy Dick on live TV, you might get the impression that hes a mean guy at heart. But actually, laying into people with his ribald wit is something he says he does out of love and respect. While he was growing up, his father owned a Kosher catering hall in New Jersey, where Jeffrey worked and practiced his craft. Id make fun of the bride and groom, the bar mitzvah boy, goof on the Haitian guys in the kitchen, or the Scottish waitresses that were always stealing the liquor, he says with a laugh. Even though his background seemed perfect for it (all you need to become a Friar is A bad childhood and a sport jacket), the film school grad hadnt given comedy much thought until a friend invited him to join a standup class. From there, what Ross calls a happy accident blossomed into a career full of razor-laced one-liners and sketch-format silliness.
These days, when Ross isnt doing roasts and making television appearances (including a cameo he recently did for the new season of the Sarah Silverman Show), hes touring the U.S. and abroad doing standup for the most unlikely of fans: U.S. troops. Ross documented his experiences entertaining troops stationed in Iraq in the 2005 film Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie. The first time I went it was sort of a guilt trip, says Ross of his USO performances he now makes with regularity. But now I feel a sense of responsibility. Its something Ill probably do forever.
Ross is returning to Iraq this November, but for now hell be roasting the audience members that attend his standup shows. Anybody in the front row, especially in these comedy clubs, is open game, Ross says with a laugh. But folks dont get mad. They know me. I only roast the ones I love. Ready to be a subject? Catch the Meanest Man in Comedy do his worst Thursday through Sunday at the Improv Paradise Live (5700 Seminole Way, Hollywood). Tickets cost $21. Call 954-981-5653, or visit www.improvftl.com.
Oct. 4-7, 2007