Feel the burn: comedians Katherine Ryan, Phil Wang and the stars of ‘Roast Battle’ on killer combat comedy

The stars of the Comedy Central show have some red-hot tips

Some compelling American inventions that have crossed over to the UK: hip-hop, marvelling at Donald Trump’s miniscule hands and, now, the concept of the comedy roast. A bonafide hit in America, the show Roast Battle now has a new British makeover on Comedy Central. Hosted by former NME columnist Katherine Ryan and judged by Russell Brand and Jimmy Carr, it sees comedians duke it out in an attempt to batter each other with insults. Almost nothing is off-limits – even though two of the opponents, Harriet Kemsley and Bobby Mair, are married – and some of the barbs are truly eye-watering.

Here, ruthless readers, the show’s roasters tell us how to throw shade with reckless disregard for common decency.

Katherine Ryan

 What’s the secret to the perfect roast?


 “Clarity and viciousness.  It’s got to be a lethal execution, but performed like music. You want to get straight to the point, with each joke growing meaner and meaner, and make sure you say nice things and list your opponent’s achievements throughout to mess with their blood sugar.”

What’s your best opening gambit?

“You need to do the heavy lifting for the audience.  Start each roast joke by setting up a very clear premise, usually kind of a compliment about your opponent, or pointing out one of their achievements or characteristics – before tearing it down.”

What’s the best takedown you’ve ever delivered?

“An American comedian said I would never be a household name and then I said she didn’t even have a household. That was pretty cool because she’d recently been evicted from her flat.”

And the best one you’ve received?


“People are way too nice when they roast me!  Comics on the show said stuff like I was a porcelain doll or guys only wanted to f*ck me to advance their careers. Those are compliments! “

Phil Wang

Is anything objectively off-limits when it comes to a comic insult?

“Your credit score.”

Should swear words be used sparingly in a takedown, or can you just let rip?

“Never swear too much in a single burn. Inflation takes place – the words lose their value. Use just enough to punctuate your point without distracting from it. Be precise. Be a sniper.”

How do you make up after the battle?

“Naked wrestling.”

What’s the secret to the perfect roast?

“Par-boil the potatoes.”

If you were to do it again, who would you most like to roast next time?


Suzi Ruffell

What’s the best takedown you’ve ever delivered?

“A heckler once shouted that he and I should sleep together, so I took quite a long time to explain all the reasons why I wouldn’t be going home with him. By the end he was embarrassed and clearly regretted it. It was very satisfying and I doubt he will ever heckle a female comic with that sort of dirt again.”

Is anything objectively off-limits when it comes to a comic insult?

“I don’t think so, though I would never punch down. I hate it when people are horrible to or about people who are clearly having a harder life than they are.”

If you were to do it again, who would you most like to roast next time?

“Oh, I would love to do a roast with Katherine Ryan, because she is just so brilliant at it – and it’s a kind of an honour to get roasted.”

Harriet and Bobby

How do you identify your opponent’s weak spot?

Bobby: “Since Harriet’s my wife, I know her weak spots. There aren’t many as most people really like her and she smiles constantly.”

Harriet: “Bobby has too many weak spots to list.”

How do you know where the line is, and not go too far and say something wildly offensive that you later regret?

 Bobby: “Our line was: anything that we wouldn’t say in our stand-up, we wouldn’t say in the roast. So, for me, there were some areas that I didn’t go to.”

 Harriet: “Luckily Bobby talks about every aspect of his life on stage, so for //me// there was no line and I had a lot to work with.”

What did you enjoy most/the best thing about taking part in Roast Battle?

Bobby: “That people go to see how she treats me when no one is around.”

Harriet: “Making people laugh at the things I have to live with every day.”

How do you make up after the battle?

 Bobby: “We fight a lot, so doing it to entertain other people actually brought us closer together.”

Harriet: “I felt closer to Bobby afterwards than I have in our marriage so far.”

Alex Brooker

What’s the best opening gambit in a comedy roast?

“I think it’s a bit like those rap battles in 8 Mile where you say what you think your opponent is gonna say about you – you own it before they can. That, or there was a line in a film called The Business where a bloke says, ‘Somebody order a cunt?’ Such a great put-down.”

How do you identify your opponent’s weak spot?

“With [political comedian] Matt Forde it was easy – I just looked at his face. Google also helped. I found out that his mum was a nun before having him. An absolute gift.”

What’s the best takedown you’ve ever delivered?

“I’m an Arsenal fan and once had a tweet from a Tottenham fan saying that I was a shit Jeremy Beadle, which actually I found quite funny, but I couldn’t let it slip without replying. So I just replied: ‘You may be right, but even I can count the number of league titles Spurs have won on one hand.’ He had absolutely no comeback after that.”

What did you enjoy most about taking part in the Roast Battle?

“I found it absolutely exhilarating. It’s like a boxing match but you’re trading insults rather than punches – which is just as well for me.”

Roast Battle airs all this week at 10pm on Comedy Central UK. Viewers will be able to catch up on the series weekly on Comedy Central UK starting Wednesday 24th January at 10pm.