Jeffrey Ross at Pabst Theater
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As accomplished as the career of actor, author, Dancing With The Stars contestant, and card-carrying 25-year stand up comedy vet Jeffrey Ross has been, it’s still difficult to describe him without using the word “roast.” There’s good reason for that, as his scathing yet somehow still kindhearted verbal dissections of celebrities such as Donald Trump, William Shatner, Pamela Anderson, David Hasselhoff, and (most recently) Charlie Sheen have helped revive the lost Friars Club brand of insult comedy. Thursday night, it was the Pabst Theater’s turn to fall willing victim to the Roast Master General.
After opener Tony Hinchcliffe channeled his worst inner Daniel Tosh for 15 minutes of gay jokes, and Adler (of Kramp & Adler fame) served up a wordy introduction, the General mounted his attack just nanoseconds after stepping on stage. Before the meaty morning DJ could even walk away, Ross asked to motorboat him. From there, Ross dispatched his wisecracks outward. He first hammered on the age of the Pabst, alleging, “This theater is older than the beetles. Not the band, the life-form.” Ross then went after a black man who was part of security, asking him to smile so he could be seen. Looking past front-row security, the obligatory fat jokes soon started flowing like—according to Ross—cholesterol into our water supply.
In time, the jabs were directed inward in the form of time-tested standards about Ross’ own dick size, lack of stamina, and fondness for pot. Celebrities both living and dead fared no better. Betty White, Steve Jobs, Joe Paterno, Patrick Swayze, Anne Frank, Gary Coleman, and many more were subjected to the bold comic’s never-too-soon remarks. Ross had even prepared a Don Cornelius “Electric Suic-slide” bit.
As true to form and satisfying as Ross’ set was, the evening ascended to new levels of raunchiness and hysterics when 12 eager volunteers ran onstage to be “speed roasted” by the master himself. There, participants were brazenly called ugly, fat, and all other insults imaginable (and many unimaginable), even prompting one woman to half-heartedly kick Ross in the groin. Still, the roasted parties seemed happy with their brief time at the pulpit, before Ross told them to “have a great walk back to obscurity.”
The audience portion of the show was stolen by bubbly bleach blonde “Jacquelyn” (though, based on her interaction, it’s probably spelled with more Y’s or I’s with hearts than that), who walked onstage and appointed herself to accompany Ross on piano as he read poems. To her amusement, Ross tore her apart before sending her on her way. Sticking with the limited ivory-tickling skills of history teacher Chad (Ross’ original audience member pianist), the comedian ended the show with a trio of dirty poems about breakups and wet spots. Ross claims he only roasts the ones he loves. Judging by the response Milwaukee gave the Roast Master General, the feeling is mutual.