Jeff Ross, most famous for his work as "The Roastmaster General" at Friars Club Roasts, has always been one of the funniest guys in a room full of very funny guys. Recently, however, he seems determined to prove that he' good at more than just Bea Arthur jokes.
This past Saturday marked the premiere of Where My Dogs At?, an animated series that Ross created, writes and helps voice. The show features Ross and SNL alum Tracy Morgan as two stray dogs wandering around Hollywood, getting in trouble and ripping celebrities new assholes. Ross also recently surprised everybody with his hilarious, thoughtful and often moving documentary Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie, about his USO Tour in Iraq.
Lucky for us, Mr. Ross read CRACKED growing up and found time in his busy schedule to talk with us.
CRACKED: You guys are pretty scathing at times in Where My Dogs At? Aren't you scared you might get jumped walking the streets of LA?
Jeff Ross: MTV has promised to hire me bodyguards if needed.
CRACKED: You might have to take them up on that.
JR: I saw the Hilton sisters last night at a premier for Entourage and I got a big hello from Paris. And I'm thinking: that might end soon. These people are going to be so angry.
CRACKED: Can you tell us a little bit about the process? Do you pick the celebrity targets first, then write the joke, and then write the show around the joke?
JR: Well, every Monday morning, an unmarked envelope arrives from MTV with eight names and then we methodically destroy their careers. No, it' like we try to think of a good area. Our writer' PA goes to the newsstand, picks up Us [Weekly] and People and OK! and all those dumb magazines. And then we go through it. We think about what stories we want to tell. And who do we want to take down, who do we want to build up. It' like our little platform to say and do whatever we want with these superstars.
CRACKED: Are you normally someone who' interested in that sort of Us Weekly celebrity culture?
JR: For some reason I am, and I always have been. You have to be a fan of this stuff in order to do it. And because I'm a fan of all kinds of music and movies, and TV, it makes it a little bit easier. You have to embrace this stuff. You got to honor them to dishonor them.
CRACKED: When did you discover your knack for insulting people?
JR: I think it was like a hidden talent I wasn't aware of until much later in life. I think I always knew I could do it, I just never knew I could do it out loud. It was like something just hit me. It was somewhere around the first time I roasted Steven Segal-my first Friars Roast.
CRACKED: What did you say about Steven Segal?
JR: I looked at Steven Seagal, I looked out at the audience. And I said, "I realize a lot of you don't know me, but I am actually uniquely qualified to be here today because I am also a shitty actor." And Steven Seagal just started scowling at me. But the audience was roaring with laughter and so I was like, this is definitely my thing, man, I love this.
CRACKED: Seagal famously doesn't have a great sense of humor. SNL says he was the worst guest host they've ever had. Is there anyone who' ever approached you after a roast and sort of said, "What the fuck?"
JR: I think Penny Marshall' gotten pissed at me a couple times. I made fun of her at a couple roasts and she seemed to get mad, but then again, she might have been drunk. I don't know. Bea Arthur held me down and slid her tongue down my mouth once, but I don't know if that' because she liked me, or didn't like me.
CRACKED: It' happened to the best of us. Do you have a single favorite roast moment ever?
JR: Wow. One of my favorites ever is the one two weeks after 9/11 when we were roasting Hef. It' pretty dramatic you know. People weren't sure if we should go on with the show. And Rob Scheider was on stage. And he hit a bump, and a few of his jokes missed, like, two or three in a row. And I ran up from my seat and put my arm around him, and I said, "Rob, haven't we had enough bombing in this city?" It broke the ice in a really good way.
CRACKED: Your documentary Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie about your experience doing USO shows in Iraq is getting a lot of attention.
JR: Well, I can honestly say that it' the funniest movie to come out of Iraq. It' like a backstage pass to the war, you know? It' not what I expected it to be. I've grown to love the military, whereas before I didn't really care or understand really what they were about.
CRACKED: Has it made you a more political person?
JR: I was never political. If anything to me, it' made me the opposite of that. It demonstrated very clearly that we should try to put politics aside especially when it comes to war. It' not about getting our boys and girls home. To me, it' about stopping bloodshed.
CRACKED: In the movie, you say how great the troops were as an audience. Any thoughts as to why that was?
JR: My plan is to always not talk about the war when I'm there. The trick for me is to pull it away from there and not talk about Iraq, but talk about New Jersey, talk about anything. You know, take them on a trip away from the drama that they're living in. They're wearing helmets and bulletproof vests and holding guns. You know, there' no subtlety. You can really hit hard with a really good joke. They're really appreciative.
CRACKED: Can you tell us what it was like to sit in Saddam' throne in his palace?
JR: That was one of the most surreal moments of my life. Not since I got to lay in Hugh Hefner' bed.
CRACKED: Which one was better?
JR: I gotta go with Saddam' throne. Because there were slightly less stains. And I farted on it, which is even better.
CRACKED: Well that' the headline right there: Jeff Ross Farts on Saddam' Throne.
JR: Yeah man. Why not, right? Fuck Saddam.
CRACKED: The movie' been getting you a lot of really nice press. And not just from CRACKED.
JR: Yeah, the New York Post and The New York Times. I can't even believe it, a four-star review in the New York Post. I'm still sort of on cloud nine about it. First The New York Times and now CRACKED. What' next, L.A. Auto Trader? If I get a good review from you guys, I'll get a big write-up from the local Mexican restaurant on my corner.
You can catch Where My Dogs At? on MTV2 at 12:30PM this Saturday, June 10th.
And check out Jeff' website at "Jeffrey-Ross.com"