When Jeffrey Ross made his headliner debut at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa last summer, it was a homecoming of sorts for the Newark native. The gig was also accompanied by a great deal of tension, since he was recording his first stand-up Comedy Central special and DVD - "No Offense: Live from New Jersey" - in a room filled with family and friends.
His return to Borgata's Music Box on Friday, Aug. 28, will be much more relaxed. There's no DVD to film. He knows the room. And he is co-headlining with Dom Irrera, another Borgata veteran (see sidebar).
"Dom and I go way back, and he's really one of my favorite comedians," says Ross. "He'll bring the Philly crowd, and I'll bring the Jersey crowd. It will be a fun night. I have some new stuff that I am pretty excited about that I want to do in A.C. And I also have a new bit I want to do that I think will be talked about. I am speed-roasting members of the audience who volunteer from the crowd. I give them 15 seconds of pain. I guess I better tell Borgata to add some extra security."
Ross certainly knows how to dish out the pain.
Known as one of comedy's greatest roastmasters, Ross has either hosted or served as a featured comic for the Comedy Central roasts of Courtney Love, Bea Arthur, Flavor Flav, Pamela Anderson, William Shatner, Bob Saget, Larry the Cable Guy and, most recently, Joan Rivers.
"Joan's roast was special for some reason," says Ross, who has written for the Oscars and the "MTV Video Music Awards" and acted on "C.S.I.," "Six Feet Under" and "The Sarah Silverman Program." "She has been making fun of people for so long, I felt I had a personal responsibility to give it to her real good. I felt like I needed to roast her vicariously for everyone she ever goofed on."
Ross, as usual, killed.
"This isn't a roast, it's an autopsy," he cracked. "Joan had a difficult choice to make … whether to do this roast or be the fifth celebrity to die this month. Who's your plastic surgeon? Tim Burton?"
"I even went after Missy (Melissa Rivers)," Ross adds. "I called her a chip off the old face."
Ross says Rivers took the grilling like a champ.
"At the end of the set, she said some nice things and was actually touched by it all," he says. "We are like kindred spirits. To her credit, I never saw the guest of honor take over at the end of a show like she did. She schooled everyone at the end. Here's Joan, at 115 years old, ripping the roof off the place."
Rivers was one in a long line of Ross targets. And fans will be able to find out more about how the comedian's brain works when he releases "I Only Roast the Ones I Love: Busting Balls Without Burning Bridges" (Simon Spotlight), on Sept. 15.
"It's like somewhere between a memoir and how-to book and philosophy book, all while definitely being funny," Ross says. "I'm very proud of it. I give away a lot of the tricks of the trade when making fun of people. And all of the best roast moments are laid out there … the killer jokes."
Ross began the book last summer and took a couple of months off after he was asked to participate on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," where he was voted off the first week.
"I was surprised they asked me, but I was more surprised I didn't win," Ross says. "It was a lot of work. I did the cha-cha-cha, but it was more like ha-ha-ha. I tried very hard. I was actually brought to tears when I got voted off. I left with a broken heart and scratched cornea because my partner accidentally stuck her long, fake, beautiful fingernail in my eye. I really wanted to go the whole distance, or at least stay a few more weeks. I won a dance competition when I was in summer camp, so I always thought I was a dancer. I guess not; I had the lowest score in the show's history since Heather Mills' leg fell off."
Getting back to the stress of performing, Ross says being nervous comes with the territory of performing in New Jersey.
"I like the Jersey thing," he says. "I dedicate a whole chapter in my book to it. When I go back to Jersey, it has a very homecoming, hometown hero feel to it … like a boy makes good or whatever. Every aspiring roastmaster must visit Jersey to be familiarized about brutal honesty. If they don't like you in Jersey, you know it right away."
and Dom Irrera
WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28
WHERE: The Music Box, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Atlantic City
HOW MUCH: Tickets, priced at $35, are available at the Borgata box office, ComcastTix at 800-298-4200 or go to
Comic Dom Irrera got his big break performing on Rodney Dangerfield's HBO special "Nothing Goes Right." In 1989 the South Philadelphia native earned his first CableACE award for his own HBO special, "One Night Stand." Irrera won a second CableACE in 1995 for hosting the Showtime stand-up series "Full Frontal Comedy." Over the years, Irrera has appeared on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," "The Late Show with David Letterman," "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," "The Daily Show with John Stewart," "The View" and "Oprah." He has also appeared on sitcoms such as "Everybody Loves Raymond," "The King of Queens," "Seinfeld" and "Becker."
Irrera is known for having a very natural style of comedy, which springs from his upbringing in a multi-generational Italian American household in South Philly. A great deal of Irrera's material comes from stories about his adult life, as well as tales from his childhood. He was listed at No. 79 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time. Unlike the character he played on an episode of Seinfeld, Irrera is not a prop comic wielding a rubber chicken and a water gun.