By Amadeo Fusca--
Growing up, the Dean Martin roasts (and later the Comedy Central/Friars Club roasts) constantly played in my household. I grew up with them, and I also grew up in a family that had a very broad sense of humor. We loved to laugh and any topic was fair game. But more importantly, I always dreamed of being a part of a roast someday.
So, imagine my feeling in 2013 when I saw a posting on Backstage.com for the Friars Club 'So You Think You Can Roast?' competition to be one of the named roasters of actor/comedian Jack Black. I felt like fate had tapped me on the shoulder; a feeling of joy and excitement coursed through my veins like a jolt of lightning. I get to be part of a roast competition?! I already felt like a winner.
Though I hadn’t considered myself a stand up comedian at the time, I’d studied acting since the age of 13 and have performed, auditioned and studied in almost all genres. I entered the competition passionately and fearlessly, striving to be unique amongst the other participants in order to leave my mark.
Preparation was key. I collaborated with my childhood friend Mike Smith, and my brothers Damiano and Vincent to put together some excellent source material. I rehearsed my sets constantly, with every joke memorized but also including backup jokes (in case something bombed! or if a similar joke was used by another roaster) and staying loose to allow for improvisation.
After the initial tryouts, where we got to choose roasting a celebrity of our choice for two minutes in front of a panel of judges (I chose Owen Wilson) the field of 60 was narrowed down to 12, where we had two rounds of roasting real-life people (Ricky Schroeder and Dennis Rodman). This was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I wasn’t going to treat it lightly. This was my chance to prove I belong on that stage. I felt good about the material I was going to use, I had an entourage of friends and family in attendance to support me, and damn did I look good in my three piece suit!
At the Ricky Schroeder Roast, I took a chance and performed an impersonation of Gilbert Gottfried, while he was there feet away from me as one of the judges. It was a decision I had contemplated for weeks, but was being edged on by my brothers to follow through with. In the end I did the impression, and I have to say it was by far the best part of my set and maybe the best moment of the night. When I moved on to the Dennis Rodman Roast, I was introduced as Kim Jong Un, being piggybacked in off of my security's back chanting 'Dennis I miss you!' while waving an American flag. It was those kind of risks I took, that by the end, I was fortunate enough to be named the winner of the competition.
Performing at the Jack Black roast alongside some of the world’s best comedians was surreal. Though I knew I was roasting with the big players now, I tried my best to maintain my own presence while still enjoying myself. Everybody was incredibly nice, and I felt like my set had some really good moments. There were some deeper digs I left off the final script that in retrospect I really wish I had used, but in the end I got some really good reactions from a great deal of my material.
By doing this roast, my lifelong dream came true, but I’d love even more to do it again. Still, I was fortunate enough to perform at these three roasts, and am eternally thankful to the Friars Club for granting me the opportunity. And don’t worry, I’ll be back one day, ready to to take more risks than ever and bring the house down again.
Amadeo Fusca currently performs on the Upright Citizens Brigade Sketch Comedy Team Dangerous Woman monthly on Maude Night at UCB Theatre. TV and Film credits include Marvel's Daredevil, Boardwalk Empire, A New York Heartbeat and As the World Turns. www.amadeofusca.com