Each year when Comedy Central announces a new roast, everyone has two questions on his or her mind: (1) Who will the target be? And: (2) What will Jeffrey Ross do? Now dubbed the "Roastmaster General," Ross has made a living out of tearing people to shreds. He killed so many roasts, the network had to give him his own show. But Ross became a permanent figure in comedy long before getting sent home the first week of Dancing With the Stars.
Now Ross' jokes stand out no matter who is in the room. With upcoming shows in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Ross isn't flying down just to escape the cold. He takes funny business seriously. And while he seems like a guy who talks only in insults, we found him warm and passionate about keeping his act fresh. Before he migrated down south, we chatted with Ross about vets coming to his shows, what we can expect from the next season of The Burn, and why he encourages everyone to embrace roast-worthy behavior.
New Times: You say on your Twitter bio that you "don't waste your best material on Twitter." What happens when you think of a joke? Do you write it in a notebook or smartphone or not even bother writing it down, like Kanye West?
Jeffrey Ross: You know, I have gotten more disciplined. If it's a great joke, it just stays in the front of my brain, and I am OK. But every now and then when I have an idea, I'll put it in a little notebook. It just triggers me. I don't have to write them down verbatim anymore. And I'll get down to Florida at least a day early and I'll read the local paper and watch the news and talk to people. And I'll make notes in a little notebook so I've got it full when the show starts.
It used to be The Tonight Show was the place for new comedians to break in, but that doesn't seem so true anymore. Where do you think comics are making it these days?
That's a great question. You know, honestly, they make it on the internet and YouTube and stuff, but I think the roasts have broken people, and I love that fact. The roasts are a real showcase for new comedians, and that makes me really proud. I love seeing new funny people there.
How tough was it for you to make the decision to say yes to joining Dancing With the Stars?
Oh, I jumped at it, because I love the showmanship of it. When I was a kid, even before, comedians were well-rounded entertainers; they had to sing and dance. And I thought I would pay tribute to the comics that came before me and learn how to dance. Unfortunately, I got booted off in the first week.
There is a section on your website where people can roast you and send in an insult. Do you do it to encourage roasting behavior?
It is because roasting shouldn't just be about celebrities and tuxedos and being on TV. I think roasting, at this point, is about the fans, and it's interactive, but it's also the reason that when I get to Florida, I am going to invite fans up from the audience and get speed-roasted. So anybody who is reading this and always wanted to be roasted, this is your chance.
The Burn is great. How much freedom does Comedy Central give you on that show?
Oh, they gave tons of freedom; it was the best job I ever had. Now they want me to do it as quarterly specials instead of a series so it will be a little bit more sharp. I will be able to really go to battle and think about my targets.
You did a documentary about performing for the troops overseas [Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie]. Does that experience also make it into your act?
I don't know if it makes it into my act where I write material about it, but more and more because of my USO experiences, active-duty military and veterans will come to my shows, and then inevitably one of them winds up onstage getting speed-roasted. So yes, it does sort of creep into the live stage show, which I love. They are the greatest audience, and they also are way more sophisticated than people realize. I love military audiences because they are every ethnicity, they are every age, and they get it. They're not drunk, spoiled people. They are real comedy fans, and they've had a hard life.
What is your favorite kind of sandwich?
Oh my God, that's easy. Chicken salad, not too much mayo, with bacon on a toasted onion bagel.