Comedian Jeff Ross is known as the Roastmaster General. He’s roasted everyone from Joan Rivers to Donald Trump to, most recently, Justin Bieber.
However, the roastees on his latest Comedy Central special may surprise you. “Jeff Ross Roasts Prisoners: Live at Brazos County Jail” premieres at 11 p.m. Saturday on the network. (An extended, uncensored version also will be available via digital formats.)
Ross will recount some of his jailhouse experiences during his show at Amos’ Southend Wednesday.
“Jeff Ross Roasts Prisoners” is not your typical comedy special. The 75-minute program documents his experience talking to, eating meals with and playing basketball with the inmates, as well as performing stand-up.
“I wanted to do something different, something dangerous, go somewhere other comics don’t go and do something purposeful with my comedy,” says Ross, who spent three days in Bryan, Texas, with prisoners who were awaiting trial at the maximum security jail.
Although he was aware of the state’s liberal use of the death penalty, that wasn’t why he chose that particular facility.
“They chose me. I asked hundreds (of jails around the country) and that was the only one that said yes,” he says. “They saw it as an opportunity to get good behavior. The inmates had to behave for a month to get into the show. It worked. It was helpful and inspirational for the guards and criminals.”
The experience opened Ross’ eyes to problems facing U.S. prisons.
“That was a by-product. I really went into it not knowing a lot. As I was doing it, I started to learn what prison reform was,” says Ross, who could relate to some of the men he met. “Once you go in, it’s tough to come out. They’re just like us. Everyone except the Nazis seem like normal people. They were desperate, messed up and need a second chance.”
He lets the story tell itself, for the most part.
“I’m not a politician,” he says. “I really made this about the people and I wanted to show these people need more attention than we give them. I wanted to show the human side of jail we don’t see. Maybe scare Comedy Central viewers. ‘Don’t be a fool, stay in school,’” he adds, quoting one of the prisoners.
Despite the heavy subject matter, he promises that the special and his stand-up show in Charlotte “won’t be a buzzkill.” Ross is even bringing his guitar, and teases: “I think my show is going to be more different than it’s ever been.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday.
WHERE: Amos’ Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St.
DETAILS: 704-377-6874; www.amossouthend.com.