Review: Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals

Comedian Jeff Ross provides some great insight to those imprisoned.  Photo Courtesy: D. Myles Cullen
Comedian Jeff Ross provides some great insight to those imprisoned.
Photo Courtesy: D. Myles Cullen

By Paul Esquival

Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals: Live at Brazos County Jail premiered Saturday June, 13th on Comedy Central.

“Where are my murders at?” asked a man about to insult an entire jail, the jail, Brazos County. The man, Jeffery Ross.

Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals: Live at Brazos County Jail is a bold and unconventional stand up special, blurring the lines between a regular hour long routine and informative documentary. Jeff Ross brings his own brand of insult comedy and once again proves why he’s earned the title of “The Roastmaster General”. After every lock up facility turned down Ross’ idea of entertaining criminals, Brazos County Jail in Bryan, Texas was the only place that agreed to make it happen. With a population of 600 men and 150 women who could only go to the show if they were on good behavior for one whole month with no disciplinary action, nearly half the population complied and were able to attend the show. The special begins with lesser-known facts flashing across the screen: “1 out of every 100 Americans is behind bars. Seriously”, “We have more jails and prisons in America than colleges/universities”, “We have more black men locked up right now than were slaves. What!!??” that continues through the special while intertwining clips of the actual roast.

Next, we see Ross getting to talk one-on-one with the prisoners inside the jail, in the common rooms, and at their beds, this adds to making the special feel more like a documentary rather than just a comedy special. Ross sheds light on a very real problem in America that we are ignoring, and does a great job of showing us that these inmates are people just like you and me who will one day be released back into the public while providing awesome comedy. When Jeff steps on stage after spending three days with the prisoners, he has already formed a bond with them and is able to go right into his natural insult comic routine and the very first thing he does is ask one of the inmates in the front row how is he so fat, asking “who gains weight in jail”.

Ross talks to inmates who are locked up for drug charges and points out the flaws in our legal system, talking about how some people are in prison for things that are now legal in the same state. He also speaks with Brazos County guards who have real compassion for the prisoners, and pride themselves on their staff and facility, which they rightfully should. One memorable moment is when Ross speaks to the the prisoners about “The Shu”, the jails Solitary Housing Unit, aka solitary confinement, and how it feels like down right hell. When asking Courtney Waller, one of the guards, about whether or not she thinks it’s torture, she starts to reply “probably” but cuts herself off and says “possibly” instead, continuing to say “we can’t have anyone kill themselves on our watch, and we do the best we can”. Ross also speaks to Jail Administrator Wayne Dicky, who informs us how “our nations jails are the biggest mental health institutions in the country” and that “there’s more mental health treatment going on in jails than in hospitals”. This change happened throughout the 1970’s because nearly half a million mental health treatment facility beds were shut down without any safety net, leaving those who were receiving treatment to be left on the streets.

Ross proves to be more than just another funny guy in this innovative and informative comedy special, not just trying to make you laugh, but also make you learn in the process, in Ross’ words “people under stressful situations just want someone to talk to, it’s different than if they were talking to a journalist who’s just looking for information, 90% of these people will come back out, they are our neighbors, its important to give them hope, levity, and put a human face on incarceration.”

Ross is defiantly breaking boundaries, making us learn and laugh in a one-of-a-kind special that is truly a must see.