Why Mindy Kaling hates televised roasts and why we disagree with her

By | October 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm | 9 comments | feature slider, Opinion | Tags: , , , ,

In Mindy Kaling’s new book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) — in stores Nov. 1 — The Office co-star, writer, director and producer comes out hard against the concept of televised roasts. And although she doesn’t mention the network by name, her target is clearly Comedy Central since it, to my knowledge, is the only network televising roasts these days. And they do so for good reason– a lot of people watch them.

And while I feel the same as the 32-year-old Kaling — that is, roasts are far from my favorite form of comedy — I can’t say I agree with the reasoning she lays out in her chapter, simply titled “Roasts Are Terrible.” Nor am I behind the way she paints the comedian roasters (vicious) or the celebrities being roasted (victims).

Kaling writes, “When I see comedians roasting their victims, and viciously making light of their flaws, I want to put my hand on, say, David Hasselhoff’s shoulder and say, ‘David, it gets better.’ If this isn’t a hate crime, then what is it?”

Hasselhoff, Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen and the rest of the past-roasted names are not victims. These celebs are willing participants who get paid handsomely– in dollars and in a shit ton of publicity. And I realize Kaling is being hyperbolic (I hope) when she invokes the It Gets Better campaign to create a punch line about how roast jokes can be as psychologically damaging as, say, being relentlessly harassed for your sexual preference, but it still feels overly dramatic. That’s just my opinion.

But it’s what Kaling says about the roasters to which I take most offense.

“Do they call up their parents excitedly, like, “Look Ma! I made it! I’m eviscerating Pamela Anderson on television tonight for having STDs!” she writes, adding later in the chapter, “I’m sad that a legitimate rung on the ladder of making it in comedy is writing hateful stuff about total strangers.”

Before I go on, let me get this out of the way: I’m a fan of The Office and I consider myself a fan of Kaling’s. We’ve plugged her book here and here already. I hope it sells well. Honestly, I do. But holy shit, can the above few lines be any more condescending?

Yeah, I bet some of the comics tell their families to tune in to their roast appearances. Others don’t. They’re comedians. They’re onstage every night saying and doing things they don’t want their parents to hear or see. That’s their lives. Their parents probably get it to some extent. Am I to believe every one of Kaling’s paid gigs has been 100 percent creatively fulfilling, honorable and/or something she’s been proud to have her parents tell their friends about? And yes, Mindy, — like it or not — it is a rung on the ladder. It’s a television gig. It might not be as precious and as critically popular as, say, The Office, but it’s a gig– a high profile one. And it gives a lot of tremendously talented comedians — Anthony Jeselnik, Amy Schumer, Patrice Oneal, just to name a trio from the most recent Comedy Central Roast — the exposure they need so that they can maybe bump up their asking price on the road and make a decent living. Not every comedian is pulling down eighth season network television show money every week.

The strangest part of the chapter is when she calls out Jeffrey Ross, who has literally written the book on roasting, for wasting his talent. “Jeff Ross is one of the most gifted living comedians, in my estimation, and he does roasts all the time, which is incredibly frustrating,” she writes. Who knew Mindy Kaling had such an emotional investment in Jeff’s career? She continues: “… He should not be roasting cast members of Jersey Shore. Watching Jeff do roasts is like watching Andy Roddick destroy at Ping-Pong in your grandfather’s basement.” Wow.

So, I put it to you, Laughspinners. Do you agree with Kaling’s opinions on roasts and the comedians who participate in them? Would these views seem different coming from a more-experienced comedian with a traditional stand-up comedy background, like Louis C.K., Janeane Garofalo or Margaret Cho? Sound off in the comments section!

About the Author

Dylan P. Gadino

Dylan is the founder and editor in chief of Laughspin. He launched Punchline Magazine in 2005 (which became Laughspin in the summer of 2011) with childhood friend Bill Bergmann. Dylan lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and two sons. He hopes the Shire is real.

  • http://twitter.com/ChristianLeeLiv Christian Lee

    Much like when it’s on your table, a Roast is a matter of taste. If you don’t want to partake, move along to the next dish.

  • http://twitter.com/ChristianLeeLiv Christian Lee

    Much like when it’s on your table, a Roast is a matter of taste. If you don’t want to partake, move along to the next dish.

  • http://twitter.com/ChadRiden Chad Riden

    What I find most frustrating about the Comedy Central roasts are the non-comics on the dais. If you want an excuse to trash some Jersey Shore doofus (or Mike Tyson or whoever non-comic it will be next time), put him in the front row.. but don’t let him speak. These shows are gonna get ratings with or without the cheap pr-move bookings. Putting non-comics on the same stage as Jeff Ross (and the rest of the seasoned comics) to fumble through a set of jokes somebody else wrote for them just so they can bomb and be trashed by everyone else takes valuable screen time away from actual comics who would have done a much better job. 

  • Dan L

    Maybe I’d feel differently if I liked “The Office” and maybe I’d feel differently if I’d ever heard of this woman before, but the only outrage I can muster is, “whatever.” Sure, she’s wrong and condescending, but in the world of stand up comedy she’s an absolute nobody. So…whatever.

  • cgtravers

    I don’t know why we have a national spotlight trained on Mindy Kaling in the first place. She is the weakest link in The Office – other than B. J. Novak – and every other word she utters is “like.” Did you see her appearance on The Daily Show with John Stewart? There were so many “likes” I had to turn it off. (John looked more than embarrassed.) She’s written a book, yes, but does not appear to have read one. How can this be? It’s always the least spectacular who say “like” every other word AND MINDY KALING IS NO MORE THAN VIN ORDINAIRE. She utters sentences that have 6 or 7 “likes” in them! Like, Really? OMG! She is yet another example of the idiocy of television and just how far down we have slid as a culture.

    • Hitherehithereheythere

      You idiot. You do realize Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak are part of the writing team. AND Mindy directed a couple of the funniest Office episodes.

  • cgtravers

    I don’t know why we have a national spotlight trained on Mindy Kaling in the first place. She is the weakest link in The Office – other than B. J. Novak – and every other word she utters is “like.” Did you see her appearance on The Daily Show with John Stewart? There were so many “likes” I had to turn it off. (John looked more than embarrassed.) She’s written a book, yes, but does not appear to have read one. How can this be? It’s always the least spectacular who say “like” every other word AND MINDY KALING IS NO MORE THAN VIN ORDINAIRE. She utters sentences that have 6 or 7 “likes” in them! Like, Really? OMG! She is yet another example of the idiocy of television and just how far down we have slid as a culture.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hunter-Boyette/29717101 Hunter Boyette

    The only reason I don’t like roasts is because I don’t think they’re funny.

  • Anonymous

    that last line probably could have gotten a decent laugh at a roast.