Stand-up comic Jeffrey Ross, better known as that guy you vaguely remember seeing on Conan, has a reputation for being mean. It’s earned him the title of “The Roastmaster General” at the Friar’s Club (a sample joke from Pamela Anderson’s: “I’m not saying Pam’s vagina is as big as the Lincoln Tunnel. I’m saying it’s bigger. It opened wider than Revenge of the Sith. You’ve gotta go to Mapquest to find her G-spot. Is it true they give free donkey rides to the bottom?”). And now that reputation has earned him the Simon Cowell spot on the judging panel for ABC’s new talent contest, The Next Best Thing: Who Is the Greatest Celebrity Impersonator? We ran into Ross at Maxim’s Hot 100 party at the Hotel Gansevoort last night and got him to give us the scoop on the show and answer the question liberal America has been asking: Is George Bush smarter than a fifth-grader?
So are you stealing Simon Cowell's thunder being a roasting judge on a reality-show competition?
I'm actually much nicer than Simon Cowell. And better-looking and much more talented. I'm the new Simon Cowell.
What makes you different from a Simon Cowell impersonator?
He's just mean; I'm going to be funny and mean at the same time. We have a Simon Cowell impersonator who takes a good ear-beating from me. He has Simon's small boobs and his demeanor. I will say in Simon's defense that he does have good teeth for a British guy.
Who are some of the memorable impersonators you judged?
We have three Tina Turners that are so amazing you think they are Tina Turner, so we had to have a Tina Turner–off to figure out which one would go to the finals.
Did you hear about Ike Turner's drug bust?
I believe that Ike is probably made out of drugs at this point.
The show is a great platform for you to roast everyone. Has anyone gotten really angry with you?
One Kenny Chesney wanted to beat me up, and a John Wayne was pretty pissed off. They had to escort me out of the casino at the Palms. Then there were two Elvis impersonators who wanted to beat the hell out of me. It is a pretty surreal gig. I once asked a George Bush impersonator, "Sir, everyone in America wants to know, are you smarter than a fifth-grader?" And he said, "Uh, no."
Who is funnier than you these days?
Dave Chappelle and my Uncle Murray. It was Murray's 85th birthday last week, and I realized he is the funniest guy in the world. Just watching him eat a piece of pound cake is funnier than anything you will see in a movie. Crumbs fly out of his mouth while he makes fun of members of the family. —Shira Levine