In 2001, Luis J. Gomez quit community college to start selling comedy-club tickets in Manhattan, and he’s been hustling ever since. He has appeared on Comedy Central’s Roast Battle; he cohosts the podcasts Legion of Skanks, Real Ass Podcast and Believe You Me; and he produces and hosts the live show RoastMasters, at which comedians compete to defeat each other with insults. Before the roast-off resumes its weekly residency at the Stand Comedy Club on Tuesday 30 at 10:30pm, the very funny New Yorker spoke to us about the therapeutic power of insults.
Is anything off-limits at a roast battle?
There are no rules. Typically, the roast battlers sit down with each other before the show and decide on what’s off-limits, but if I hear that roast battlers are telling other roast battlers that things are off-limits, that doesn’t make me want to put them on the show. My father was murdered when I was four years old and my mom died of cancer. I roast-battled Aaron Berg, and he came out dressed up as my dead father with a knife sticking out of his head.
Did you laugh?
I laughed my ass off. If I had been visibly bothered, it would have projected an energy onto the audience that would have made them go: “Ah, I’m not comfortable with this.” I got killed in that battle, by the way. He took a huge chance and went as dark as possible.
It seems like it’s a safe space for comedians.
Roast-battling sends a message that people still want to hear dark, edgy jokes. You see it on message boards, you see it on YouTube, you see it on Twitter. There’s this culture that’s almost being pushed down of people saying messed-up stuff and what we consider no-no words. RoastMasters is an opportunity for comics to let the air out of their tires.
Have any comedians reacted badly to being roasted?
We’ve had a few people who maybe were talked into doing the show and didn’t really want to go to some of those places. Comedians have a right to be guarded. But if you’re going to do the show, you should be an open book. I also believe it’s a really great exercise.
In what way is it a great exercise?
You look at something like your parents dying, which a lot of people suppress. I have multiple outlets—like podcasts, my stand-up comedy and roast-battling—where I can not only talk about it but really examine it. If I’m writing a joke about my father’s death, I’m looking at it from a very different angle, because I’m trying to find humor in it. I’m trying to look for something positive in it. Is that not therapy in its purest form?