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This story first appeared in the June 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
“I’ve roasted Charlie Sheen and Justin Bieber, two notorious figures,” boasts comedian Jeff Ross, who says he craved a “more dangerous and provocative” target for his next Comedy Central Roast. “So naturally I thought — criminals!” Easier said than done, however, as the insult comic’s offer to perform behind bars was turned down by more than 150 prisons.
Out of desperation, Ross ran an ad in American Jails magazine, which was spotted by Wayne Dicky, administrator of Brazos County Jail in Bryan, Texas, who saw an incentive for good behavior: One month of playing by the rules earned inmates a spot in the audience at one of Ross’ shows (two for male prisoners, one for women). Ross, who has performed for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, says zinging a roomful of violent criminals was far scarier. “I went after the Nazis first,” he recalls. “I wished them a Happy Hanukkah.” The special premieres June 13.
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