Punchline Mag analysis: Do modern comedy roasts need more class?

By | June 6, 2011 at 12:38 pm | 2 comments | Opinion | Tags: , , , , , , ,

As we reported exclusively last week, Comedy Central’s plans for a roast of Kid Rock this summer were cancelled. So, one can’t help but wonder which pop culture icon Comedy Central will lay their sights on next. People so enjoyed the likes of Anthony Jeselnik (see below), Gilbert Gottfried and Whitney Cummings taking down The Donald a notch. Who wouldn’t want to see a similar thrashing, leveled at, say, Lady Gaga or every one of the Kardashians.

What many people forget about comedy roasts is that, despite their no-subject-goes-untouched approach, they were originally done in honor or respect real respect not the contemporary feigned type — of someone. With the New York Friars Club and Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts, there was a certain level of appreciation for the guest of honor. Everyone involved knew and liked each other and most of those being roasted in that era had some semblance of being able to fire back insults.

The Comedy Central roasts go straight for the subject’s throat. Roasters take on the likes of Pamela Anderson, Flava Flav and David Hasselhoff. And let’s face it, the roasting isn’t done out of honor for the person so much as it is to verbally burn someone that’s genuinely hated by a lot of people. And most of the roasters don’t personally know the roastee. During the Hasselhoff roast, for example, comedian Jeffrey Ross got Jerry Springer riled up after a dark, yet well written Holocaust joke about Springer’s survivor parents.

Springer eventually calmed down. But the more important point here is that roasts aren’t what they used to be and subsequently they have become an acceptable platform, whether or not the actual person deserves it or not, for unbridled hate. Ross has even further commented in interviews that he’d rather take on less obvious figures for roasts like Quentin Tarantino.

So, what do you think a roast should be? What type of person should be roasted? Should it be similar to a hate-filled comment thread on YouTube or should a roast be a more classy affair?

About the Author

Jake Kroeger

Jake Kroeger has dedicated his life, for better or probably worse, to comedy. Starting and continually running the Comedy Bureau, a voice for LA comedy, by himself, he also writes and performs stand-up comedy in LA and watches more live comedy than is probably humanly tolerable. He's been a daily contributor to Punchline Magazine, now Laughspin.com because he loves and believes in comedy so much. Said of Kroeger, "...without his dangerously insane, unhealthy work ethic, certain comics would not have any press at all."

  • http://www.eddierhodescomedy.com eddiercomedy

    I fully agree with this article. Personally, I feel like the shows are lacking because in some ways Comedy Central doesn’t know what is funny anymore.
    They see public figures getting attention on TV and feel like they need to be apart of the popularity but while doing this they’re jumping into a pile of garbage that these people bring with them. Nick Di Paolo was talking in his interview with Punchline Magazine about how comedians will get a half hour special these days without the experience to back it up and in some ways I think this is the same thing. Most of the roasts are for peopele who are gimic famous for doing something that has made them the butt
    (bud, whatever)of a joke and even the valid comedian roasts are tainted by people who shouldn’t be there. These were made BY FRIENDS FOR FRIENDS as you wrote above. We all know Donald Trump has no real friends, I mean honestly! but even if he did I doubt any of them are funny. In some ways it seems they’re just trying to keep the channel favorite comics employed in some way even if it doesn’t make any sense to anybody.

    I think there needs to a reimagining of the whole channel and return to the comedy basics. Keep the news comedy and cartoons and remove all of the regurgitation from other channels. Maybe even with less emphasis on comedians from the coasts, I have seen amazingly funny people from the middle of america that have to relocate to a coast only to be discovered by lazy agent/talent scout. Because the power is not with the touring comedian who is blowing comedy rooms away but with the coorporations saying hey we need our own version of Zach Galifianakis or insert the “it” person of the moment.

    Anthony Jeselnik has a lot of talent and I feel like they are just wasting it by putting him in this circus. Also it seems pretty obvious to me that they were only trying to fill Greg Giraldo’s shoes and this is who they picked to do it. Someone with a “like” sense of humor. Which worked well in this case but is still not making too much of an effort.

    Roasts need to be reduced in size and returned to people who know eachother. It would be nice to see honest funny stories from people that have experienced a relationship with one another.The best experiences are real ones. There is plenty of talent out there to use and not have to rely on uber famous rich comedians. I’m not saying they can’t be involved just not depended on, let’s be honest how many Lisa Lampanelli jokes do we need? Who knows maybe you would get new stars from an organic encounter? just a thought. I guess in the end it’s all about ratings and numbers, so maybe this number just needs to watch less TV…

  • http://www.twitter.com/dmsjr_writer Don

    The first art of the roast is finding the right honoree. The person who is the subject of the roast needs to be completely comfortable with what is going to happen. I think it’s hard to say that roasts were more respectful at the Friar’s or Dean Martin events. Those events worked because the roastee, usually another comic, took it all in stride.

    Compare the Comedy Central roasts of Donald Trump and Bob Saget. Trump sat there stoically, getting dumped on all in the name of charity. Saget thoroughly enjoyed his roast which contributed to the atmosphere.

    Recently I’ve watched clips from Dean Martin roasts and a roast of Richard Pryor (after the cancellation of his TV show.) There isn’t much difference. The roasters who know the subject well offered platitudes and comics who thanked the roastee for allowing them to be there. But people like Don Rickles and Pat McCormick and Paul Mooney tore into the dais and honoree brutally and with hilarious results.

    In short, I’d have to say this about the success of any roast: It’s not only how it’s given, it’s also how it’s taken.

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