JEFF ROSS: Who will roast the Roastmaster?

“Insult” comedy is nothing new. What’s new is the trend of celebrity roasting where big and not-so-big stars alike fall all over themselves for the privilege of being the victim of one hilarious insult after another at the hands of people like Jeff Ross – the “Roastmaster General of the United States.” Well, of the Friar’s Club and Comedy Central, anyway.

Even the non-famous are not safe. For his show this Friday at the Myer Horowitz Theatre, Ross will demonstrate the art of “speed roasting” to any volunteer brave enough to come forward. Why let Charlie Sheen have all the fun?

Q: If you could be any other celebrity, who would it be and why?

A: How about Kanye West? He has a lot of money, he gets to say whatever he wants, he gets to dress however he wants. I think he’d be a great target for a Roast. I’d love to roast Kanye West.

Q: Do you get celebrity subjects who don’t take their roast well?

A: I roasted Courtney Love straight into rehab. Roasting saves lives, people.

Q: Worst heckler story?

A: I get heckled every show. My whole show is heckling. I had a guy throw his prosthetic leg on stage. He couldn’t get up so he threw his leg up instead. He wanted to be part of the show. We had a connection.

Q: What about a heckler tale from your early days?

A: I remember very early in my career I got hired to do a private party at the firehouse and everyone said, “Make fun of Dave! Make fun of Dave!” So I make fun of his hairy knuckles and his giant forehead. Of course he’s 6’ 4” and 300 pounds. So about halfway through my act, Dave got up, walked on stage and took the mic out of my hand. Show was over. I went home. It was after that I thought: enough backing down, I need to start working on some insults and comebacks, so I think that’s when the young Roastmaster emerged.

Q: If you could go back and give Dave a comeback, what would it be?

A: Your knuckles look scraped, did you walk here?

Q: Are there celebrities that are beyond roasting, basically pre-roasted?

A: They said that about Charlie Sheen, but we managed to roast him pretty viciously. I feel like everybody’s roastworthy if they’re up for it. You just have to be a good sport and have some career ups and downs that we can goof on. You have to have accomplished something, but also be able to take a joke.

Q: So Kim Kardashian would be disqualified?

A: She hasn’t done anything except bang a few guys. That can get old. You want to roast people you respect. Politicians would be great roast subjects. I always thought that would be a great gauntlet to getting elected. Everybody has to get roasted.

Q: There seem to be more comedians getting into politics, Al Franken’s a senator, Dennis Miller and Bill Maher might not be far behind. Do you think this is a good idea?

A: I would love to roast Dennis Miller someday, because his comebacks would be so good. With the case of Al Franken, because he’s so bright and so thorough in his research as a senator, you listen to him speak and he’s amazing. I feel like he makes all stand up comedians look more sophisticated.

Q: How can speed roasting work on people who aren’t celebrities?

A: It doesn’t have to work for an hour and a half. It’s a lot of fun and people consider it a badge of honour. It’s also a good way to check the thickness of the Canadian skin, the blubber.

Q: Have you ever had a speed roasting go wrong?

A: A girl kicked me in the nuts the other day. That was kind of fun. High heels and a fur coat. I asked if she was a mail order bride and I don’t think she liked that because she was a newlywed. Roasting is dangerous, no doubt about it.

Q: Is there a line for you that you can’t cross?

A: There’s no line. People come to my show, I feel they don’t want me to hold back. They want it raw, they want it real and they want it funny. I pride myself on the fact that there is no line.

Q: And no sacred cows?

A: If the joke is right, you can joke about anything. I truly believe that. My jokes right now are about Steve Jobs, the Penn State sex scandal, the American elections, the Canadian people. I feel that if you do it the right way and you do it live to people’s faces as much as possible, you get away with murder.

Q: Do you have a new bit that’s going over well?

A: It’s really sad about how Steve Jobs passed away, and his family made this elaborate tribute video for his funeral and they couldn’t play it because they needed Flash.

Q: Too soon?

A: Nope, never too soon. We don’t always have the luxury of time. As soon as someone dies, I start getting Twitter messages wondering what I have to say about it. We live in a very immediate society. It’s never too soon.

Q: Do you think you have to be a pessimist to be a good comedian?

A: Quite the opposite. I’m a very positive person. If you want to get laid, I highly recommend you bring a date to my show. I’ve been known to hook people up and talk them into it, and there’s a lot of sexual jokes in my shows. I’m always about tomorrow, less about yesterday.

Q: Have you ever been roasted yourself?

A: I don’t think I could handle it. I’m very sensitive.