Despite having an accomplished resume as an actor, writer, and producer, Jeffrey Ross is fine with the fact that many people recognize him as the dude from those legendary Comedy Central roasts. In fact, he hopes it will soon parlay into a regular series for the channel. He's taking it one step further here in town: He'll be speed-roasting the audience at Cobb's Comedy Club tonight through Dec. 4. He has even requested extra security for the occasion.
If people come to see you at Cobb's, does that mean they're signing a silent contract that they could be speed-roasted, or will you take volunteers?
Oh, only volunteers. I'll ask for people to come on stage who want to. Nobody will be embarrassed or bullied. It'll be of their own accord. They'll have to want it. But anything's possible. I kinda like it like that. I think it's going to be really fun. Cobb's is a great club for me. San Francisco in general has really sophisticated audiences.
So do you seriously think you might need extra security?
You really think it's gong to get that rowdy?
Well, between my Steve Jobs jokes -- you know, he's obviously a legend in the Bay Area -- and me speed-roasting the audience, lord knows what can happen.
You just filmed a roast-related pilot for Comedy Central. Do you have a lot of experience with the whole pilot process?
Oh, I have too much experience. I've done more pilots than, I dunno, the Iraqi Air Force? What's the joke there?
Does it make it any less frustrating to go through it?
No, but this time I feel more prepared. My pilots in the past were either not funny or ahead of their time. I feel like this one can work.
So you've found something that's funny enough and also of the moment?
Well, roasting has been getting bigger and bigger. I'm nervous about even talking about it, because when you talk about pilots ... you never know! It could get picked up or the next time we talk, I could be like, "Motherfuckers!"
The roasts have been a highlight of the Comedy Central programming in the past few years.
Roasting has become, like, our national pastime. Used to be football and NASCAR, now it's roasting. People love to roast each other at parties.
The flipside is that you have to take it as well as dish it out.
That does make it tricky. I don't think I could take it.
But you kind of do already. People always go after you at the roasts.
[laughs] I can handle the random pot shot. That's fine. But it's when there's a barrage of insults and you have a target on your forehead -- what [Charlie] Sheen went through, what [David] Hasselhoff went through, that's tricky.
Do you ever get to talk with them after the process to see how they fared?
Yeah, you know, in both those cases, those were both almost like roasting their public meltdowns, and I think that they were really pleased with the closure it brought them. And Charlie, I mean, he invited me to his house to watch the roast. He was a good sport and he enjoyed being roasted. I watched it with him, it was pretty great. I watched that and Two and a Half Men's first show with Ashton Kutcher; they were both on that same night. I wrote about it in the Hollywood Reporter. It was a very painful first part of the night and I think the roast became fun for him.
What a combo!
Well, he had thick skin that day.
You say you can handle the random pot shots but is there anything anyone's said at one of these shows that's needled you?
I'd be a hypocrite if I let that stuff get to me. The only time I get upset is when fans come at you at Twitter or something like that. That always hurts. I try to ignore them but every once in a while you have to unfollow someone.
You have a script in production that is said to have Robert De Niro as actor and Sean Penn as director attached to it. What's the premise?
There's not much to say about it yet. It's a dramedy and I worked really hard on it. For a comic and a former film student, it's a dream come true, if it comes true. It's about an aging insult comic, essentially a guy like me 20 years along who makes all the wrong decisions in life.
Did you write this as some sort of possible fate to avoid?
[laughs] Great question! I guess so! I got to live out an alternate life without living through the actual pain, just the hypothetical pain.