Comedian Jeff Ross, known best for televised roasts of celebrities, is spending this week in Brownsville. On Saturday, he’ll perform a free show at the city’s Hope Park, called “Jeff Ross Live From The Border Fence“. Daniel Flores, a reporter for the McAllen Monitor, says that reactions to the comedy special in McAllen and Brownsville are mixed.
“Some people think that we need comedy and we need this sort of exposure to talk about the event, ” Flores says. “And some people don’t think an outsider is capable of giving the issue the nuance it deserves.”
Flores says that Jeff Ross defends his comedy special as an opportunity to provide a fresh point of view.
“Ross would say that he’s attempting to humanize the issue,” Flores says. “His week here will be to explore the different perspectives of immigration. The reality behind the rhetoric.”
Flores says that some remain skeptical of his intentions because of the timing of his visit. This week, President Trump is expected to ask Congress to allocate funds in the budget towards construction of the border wall.
“Some people feel that he’s using the issue and the wall itself as a prop. There isn’t really a better time than this week,” Flores says. “It’s going to be in the national news so he picked a really good week to do this.”
Flores says that an early version of the title of the event, “Jeff Ross Roasts Immigrants”, gave many people a bad impression from the start.
Flores says that those defending him say that changing the name of special to “Jeff Ross Live From The Border Wall”, shows that he’s listening, just as he said he would while visiting for the week leading up to the special.
“[Ross] draws the comparison between the refugee crisis now and even with Syria to the Holocaust,” Flores says. “He says he feels that it feels familiar – us rejecting immigrants and not humanizing the issue.”
Flores says that while Ross’s intention is to humanize the issue, many are wary of those who visit the valley and only see a single issue.
“[U.S. House] Speaker Paul Ryan was down here not too long ago and he sped down the river looking at potential sites for the wall,” Flores says. “Politicians have come to the community and just seen one aspect of it.”
Flores says that the reception of the performance will depend on how Ross and those editing the special treat the issue.
“If he relies on stereotypes, it will reduce the community to one issue and it might empower people who don’t understand the issue or already have some sort of negative stance,” he says.
Flores says that anticipation of the event continues to be met with mixed reactions as many view the complicated topic as difficult territory for a comedian to approach with appropriate sensitivity.
“Is the community the butt of the joke? Is he laughing at us or with us? Or should we even be laughing,” Flores says.
Written by Emma Whalen.