Comedian Jeff Ross isn't sure, but thinks it may have been Jimmy Kimmel who gave him the nickname "Roastmaster General." What he does know is how much fun he has roasting people on Comedy Central specials and in his standup act.
"It's like going into battle," Ross says. "I love preparing for it. Plus, I get to buy a new suit."
Ross, who will perform Feb. 14-16 at the Fort Lauderdale Improv, has roasted big-name stars such as Charlie Sheen (during his "warlock" and "winning" days), Betty White (she was a good sport, Ross says) and James Franco (Ross wore long dreads to poke fun at Franco's thuggish character in "Spring Breakers").
Ross recently spoke to us by phone from his hotel room in Park City, Utah, where he was performing, sightseeing and, he says, looking for some good pot to smoke.
What would you say at a roast of President Obama?
That's harder than you might think, although he seems to have a great sense of humor. First, I'd start with his ears. Then, I'd probably talk about his domineering wife. She kicks butt. All politicians should not be above getting roasted. It's great for the nation. An Al Gore roast would be a three-part miniseries about how he single-handedly stopped global warming by blocking the sun with his own giant body.
Not to generalize, but there is a dark side to comedy that sometimes leads comedians such as Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce to become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Why is that?
Comedians are very emotional people. Our emotions are our trade. Buddy Hackett once said, "Comedians feel pain more than most people." As far as addictions, I've managed to escape that devil so far, unless you count coffee and pizza. I have a new song about pizza that I'm going to debut in Florida. I'm bringing my custom-made Fender guitar with me.
What else will you bring to Florida?
Trying an experiment to make roasting an Olympic sport, so anyone who wants to volunteer can come onstage and get roasted. I called it "speed-roasting," or "15 seconds of pain." The good people of Florida are great targets. Some of the zaniest characters, too.
Jeff Ross will perform 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 7 and 9:45 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Fort Lauderdale Improv, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, 5700 Seminole Way, in Hollywood. Tickets cost $25-$51.72 for Friday's shows, $22 for the others. Go to Ftl.Improv.com.