by Ryan Meehan
Everybody loves comedy roasts because they give us a chance to pay tribute to the ones we care so deeply about while also mercilessly destroying their feelings. In standard roasting practice, the individual who is being lampooned for the audience and the dais’ entertainment usually has to wait until everyone involves gets their shots in before they have an opportunity to take over the mic. That’s where we’re going to shake things up a little bit, and give the man who’s the focus of an upcoming Quad Cities roast a chance to talk with us first.
Typically before preparing an actual roast in the world of cooking, occasionally the piece of meat in question will be left to soak in some sort of liquid. This procedure is called marination, and at this point in the paragraph I’ve realized that I probably shouldn’t be talking to you like you’re a fucking fourth-grader. Anyway, whether it be a chicken, a goat, or a rare breed of delicious panda that was simply too slow to escape the tranquilizer dart that would eventually be its downfall, the marination process enhances the flavor of the main course. (I’m still doing it, aren’t I? Did you finish your homework? Don’t make me call “weekend mommy”…) In this instance the flavor-enhancing agent is going to be my sub-par journalism, which is sort of like using rat poison to give your salad an extra kick.
Local comic Bobby Ray Bunch has been performing stand-up for several years now, telling stories about his time in the military, excessive drinking in public, and just about everything in between. The guy knows a great deal about comedy, and I recently had the opportunity to discuss the business of funny with him in the week leading up to his roast. That event will be taking place on Saturday, July 11 at the Speakeasy in Rock Island at 8:00PM. It’s right next to Circa ’21 Dinner Theater, and you can get tickets by calling 309-786-7733 ext.2. In the meantime, feel free to grab a carafe of stale breast milk and check out our artist profile. This is the pre-roast marination of Bobby Ray Bunch.
RM: First off, how’s your summer going so far? Any highlights or lowlights worth mentioning?
BRB: I am enjoying the summer so far. I decided to get back into running which was a dumb decision. Running is stupid, but I felt my lower back jiggle as I ran down my steps so I think it’s time for me to be more active. I picked up golf this summer and I am really good already. If there is sand or water in front of me, I’m really good at getting the ball to land there. I’ve found that I don’t like most golfers, though. They usually tend to fist bump and that’s the worst thing that’s happened to human beings in the last few years.
RM: Have you ever participated in a roast where you weren’t the comic being skewered? If so, how would you rate your own roasting skills on a scale of one to ten where one is “The Situation” from Jersey Shore and ten is Greg Giraldo?
BRB: I have participated in a few roasts. I would say I am an 8.3 when it comes to roasting someone. I’m pretty quick with insults, which is why I enjoy hecklers, and being able to write mean things ahead of time is fun. I always end it with something positive, unless I truly don’t like the person, which happened at the last roast I participated in. As long as you say it into a microphone and there’s an audience, it’s not mean, right?
RM: When were you first approached about becoming the subject of a roast? What was your initial reaction when you found out?
BRB: This roast came together much like my 30th birthday party. I planned it. Hell, I even bought my own balloons. I have a good relationship with the Circa ’21 Speakeasy and have been putting shows on there this year and wanted to change things up a little bit. I figured it would be a good opportunity for the local comedians to have a chance to rip me apart. I am looking forward to seeing how creative they can get.
RM: What can you tell us about some of the other Quad City comedians who will be on the dais? Which comic are you most looking forward to seeing take shots at you; and who do you predict with be the most ruthless with regards to their material?
BRB: This is a really good group of comics that I am happy were able to do the roast. There are a few guys I wish could have been a part of it but the lineup I have is going to be fun to watch. I have a wide range of guys that are going to be ruthless to some nice fellows. I tried to book some females on the show but they all turned me down due to some sort of pending legal action against me. Women, am I right? Folks? Hello? I’m looking forward to getting after Jim Petersen, only because he was a big influence on me at the start of my comedy career and I will always appreciate the help he gave me along the way, but he deserves to be beaten down with words. Also, I invited a long time friend of mine, Dan Ludgate, to roast me. He knows me better than anyone roasting me. We lived together for a year and had a little bit of a falling out, mostly due to me being an asshole. He’s very creative and funny so I’m guessing he is going to use that night as a way to get back at me for some of the shit I’ve put him through.
RM: Last Monday you jokingly posted “It’s a good thing I don’t have feelings” while sharing the event link on Facebook. Is it even possible for an individual to become really successful in the stand-up comedy industry nowadays if they are a little too thin-skinned or over-sensitive about what another comic might say on stage? Have you ever heard somebody you’re working with do a bit and thought to yourself “This is just way over the line and I’m not cool with it”; and do you ever find yourself asking that question internally while you’re developing new material of your own?
BRB: I could talk about this for hours. I have personally never been offended at anything someone on stage has said, but that being said, that doesn’t mean it was funny. I don’t agree with censorship and I think it’s getting a little ridiculous nowadays with how hyper sensitive this country is becoming. The majority of the people don’t get easily offended, but the media loves to blow EVERYTHING out of proportion and make people feel that they SHOULD be offended. And if people do get offended, so what? Are we really going to live in a kindergarten sized world where I have to worry about everyone’s feelings? And this is comedy. Everyone needs to relax. Sure, people are allowed to be offended and be sensitive, but where do we draw the line? I did a show in Des Moines and said ‘nigga’ on stage right in front of a black guy. The crowd gasped/laughed and guess what? He laughed too, because it was funny. Did the world end? Did a race riot start? No. There’s a difference between using a word and calling someone a word. But I get, it people are conditioned to be offended at every little thing. That is not the life I want to live.
I don’t consider myself an offensive comedian or even that dirty, really. My writing process usually consists of me thinking something is funny, trying it out and if the crowd thinks it’s funny I keep working on it. If they don’t find it funny, and I’m passionate about it, then I keep trying to reshape it until I either find the funny or I get lazy and let it go. When I stopped caring about trying to get laid after every show, I stopped trying to please the whole audience, which made me a better comic. Now I just need new material…
RM: Speaking of hypersensitivity, comedy seems to be in this really weird place right now where roast jokes are more brutal than ever, but political correctness as a topic of conversation litters the blogosphere at every corner. How is it possible for those two things to exist at the same time without destroying each other; and how did stand-up comedy go from being the one art form where you could literally say anything to being so over-analyzed in a period of under forty years?
BRB: I kind of touched on this in the last answer, but this is a great question. I think people love watching someone else get roasted or made fun of, but when it affects them, that’s when they get uptight and hypersensitive. We live in a world of entitlement and everyone thinking their fucking opinion matters because they have Twitter followers and a Facebook page. People want it both ways and that’s not the way it works. I have always hated political correctness. I remember in elementary school, my family had moved and I had to take a different bus home so I was trying to figure out which bus that was. I asked the principal and he pointed at the bus and I said, “The one with the old guy?” and he gave me a stern look and said “No, Bob, the chronologically challenged gentleman.” I laughed, he didn’t. I love when people say to me, “You can’t say that. You’re not allowed to say that.” Says who? Who is saying I am not allowed to use certain words? It’s getting ridiculous and the PC Police and media are winning. The more I respond to these questions, the more I sound like a disgruntled Vietnam Veteran.
RM: Alright, let’s switch gears and play “Fuck, Kill, Marry” for a second…The three individuals on the list are James Draper, Donny Townsend, and Andrew King. Who would you fuck, who would you kill, and who would you marry if sexual preference wasn’t a part of the equation? Why did you select each fate for each comic; and if you had the opportunity to do two of these things to one of these guys at the same time who would it be and why would you do it?
BRB: I would fuck Donny Townsend, because he just plain doesn’t age and he’s a beautiful chronologically challenged gentleman. I’d marry James Draper, because I think he’d appreciate it more than the rest. He’s decent looking, he’d be fun to bring to social events, we have stuff in common. I’m better looking than him and he’s fat, so it’s not like he’d cheat on me. I’d kill Andrew King, because I’m becoming jealous of his success. Fuck that guy.
RM: What venue outside of the greater Quad Cities area has been your favorite to perform at thus far in your career; and what is so special about that room which allows you to feel so comfortable and attain control of the crowd with greater ease?
BRB: My heart will always belong to The Mill, in Iowa City. I was able to start a monthly comedy show there that is still running four years later. I am proud that I was able to leave some sort of footprint in the Iowa City comedy scene and I had the opportunity to work with some great comics that came through there. I’ve worked with different bookers and club owners and they were always professional and followed through with their word. That afforded me the opportunity to open for Tig Notaro and Janeane Garafalo at a sold out Englert Theatre. I remember when I moved to Iowa City I had just started comedy and I looked at that theatre and set a goal to do comedy there and it actually happened.
RM: If you had the opportunity to go back to the first time you ever did comedy and do one thing differently, what would it be and why?
BRB: I would’ve started sooner, that’s the only thing I would change. I thought my first time went well. I was happy to have a comedian there actually give me good advice after my first set. Chris Schlichting recorded my first set (without even knowing me or me asking him) and put it on a DVD for me. He told me, “It’s five minutes man, you don’t need to bring a written out set on stage with you. If you can’t remember five minutes then what are you doing?” He also told me to tone down the language. He said if I ever wanted to make money doing this I had to work cleaner. He was right. It’s easier to write dirty than clean. He’s been a great guy to have in my corner along the way. He should be famous by now. He gave me money and t-shirts to say that.
RM: I’ve been to a show of yours where a couple of your family members were in the audience…Do any of them plan on coming to the roast; and do you feel as if they are more critical of your material than the other members of the crowd given the fact that they’ve known you longer than the rest of the patrons?
BRB: My family is strange. My sister is currently not speaking to me, my dad doesn’t stay up past 8pm and the rest of my family is sort of spread out. I think my aunt and uncle might come to the roast, but I’m not sure. My dad and sister were pretty supportive and critical at the same time. I think it comes from love but we have a blunt way of putting things. I think I’m the most normal person in my family and that’s not how things are supposed to be. I have a lot of untapped material involving my family that I plan to start implementing.
RM: What are you looking forward to more than anything else at this show?
BRB: I’m looking forward to being surrounded by people that I’ve known and loved for years, whether it be old friends or the comedians I’ve come up with. My favorite place to be is on stage and I love being made fun of. The Speakeasy is the first place I was ever paid to do standup and I absolutely love the room. It’s well run and the staff is incredible. The owner and I have a great relationship and he supports local comedy. I’m just looking forward to having a whole night about me! IT’S ALL ABOUT ME!
RM: Anything else you’d like to say before we throw you in the oven?
BRB: I would like to thank everyone who has supported my comedy from the beginning until now. I love performing and making people laugh and there are a lot of people who have gone out of their way to support me. I have a lot of exciting things in the works and I hope everyone stays tuned because it’s only getting better from here.
Bobby on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bobby.r.bunch
Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/433842233464368/
James Draper on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jamesdrapercomedian
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