Jeff Ross is known as the Roastmaster General because his scathing insults have taken the celebrity roast to a new level. He will demonstrate his quick wit
Jeff Ross is known as the Roastmaster General because his scathing insults have taken the celebrity roast to a new level. He will demonstrate his quick wit during a three-evening run at the Egyptian Theatre next week. (Photo courtesy of Personal Publicity)

A roast is an outrageous and backhanded way of honoring a celebrity.

Comedians stand at a pulpit and hurl insult after insult at the lucky man or woman of the hour.

In past years, Jeff Ross has emerged as the Roastmaster General on Comedy Central and has belittled the likes of James Franco, Joan Rivers, Drew Carey, Hugh Hefner, David Hasselhoff and Donald Trump.

Ross's blistering one-liners landed him his own Comedy Central TV show, "The Burn," and is the topic of his book, "I Only Roast the Ones I Love: Busting Balls Without Burning Bridges."

The funny man will do some homestyle roasting when he performs at the Egyptian Theatre for three nights, Feb. 6, 7 and 8.

Ross talked with The Park Record last week during a phone call from Los Angeles, Calif., and said the comedy seed was planted in his psyche when he was a kid.

"I'm from New Jersey where everyone thinks they are a comedian," Ross said. "I was a chubby loser with no social life and lived with my grandfather. The insults are always flying around and I developed thick skin."

When it came time to find a career, Ross went to film school at Boston University and wanted to become a writer.

That was when he realized he could do comedy.

"Becoming a comic for me was a series of happy accidents," he said. "Most comedians are people who failed at something else. That's what makes them funny and gives them a sense of humor."

He liked making people laugh and began doing it regularly as a hobby.

"It was fun and a way to make friends and meet chicks, without going crazy while living with my grandfather," he said. "I didn't have any performing experience at all, but I did study karate as a kid, and that helped prepare me to become someone who could bust chops with the confidence of not getting beat up for it."

Ross quickly learned his writing skills could help him craft his jokes.

"I knew that I could communicate with words and that's powerful," he said. "It's all about how you create an insult."

Ross began using pop culture and music references in his act, which helped, but it was an invitation to a Friar's Club roast in 1995 that changed his life.

"I had never seen a roast because I couldn't YouTube it back then," Ross said. "So I did some research about how insult comics worked. I got really into it and realized quickly I could do it."

One of his career highlights is traveling to the Middle East to entertain U.S. troops, which was captured in the DVD, "Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie."

"That changed not so much my approach with comedy, but my approach to life," Ross said. "I found what I was doing with my life was important not just to me, but to others."

Everywhere he went, he found his audiences to be gracious and grateful.

"The U.S. military is much more sophisticated than how they are portrayed in films," Ross said. "In the day-to-day life of a soldier or Marine you find a lot of technical aspects that need to be approached with discipline."

Plus, he found the military is much more diverse than he realized.

"That was great for me, because if I'm going to be an equal-opportunity offender, then I want to offend all sorts of people," he said wryly. "In the military, you get all walks of life and ethnicity."

The one thing Ross enjoyed was the laughter of those military audiences.

"They laugh really, really hard," he said. "If you can tell a joke in a war zone and have it penetrate a bullet-proof vest or helmet, it's a really good feeling for a comic. I loved it."

He is looking forward to coming to Park City.

"I haven't performed there before," he said. "So this will be interesting and fun for me."

When Ross visits a city for the first time, he likes to arrive a day or two early to get a feel of the area.

"I read newspapers and watch TV and see what I can pick up for my show," he said. "I like to see how a place works, and I like to roast from the inside out."

In the past few months, Ross has been introducing more music into his performances.

"I will introduce some of that in Park City," he said. "The next level I want to do is keep the roast feel live and take it up and switch it up so it doesn't become the same. I want it to evolve and become more relevant."

He is planning something special for the Egyptian shows.

"If you're coming to see me for the first time, you won't be disappointed," he said. "I will speed-roast volunteers from the audience. There aren't many things more fun than seeing someone being roasted live on stage. So if you're weird-looking or pregnant, please, please, come to my show."

Comedian Jeff Ross will perform at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., from Thursday, Feb. 6, through Saturday, Feb. at 8, 8 p.m. Tickets range from $39 to $70 and are available at www.parkcityshows.com . For more information about Jeff Ross, visit www.roastmastergeneral.com.