If you like The Comedy Central Roasts, then you’ll love The Burn. Even if you don’t, you’ll probably enjoy the show. With Roastmaster General Jeff Ross at the helm, The Burn takes the snarky “week in review” clip show to a whole new level.
The show opens with Ross skewering choice news stories from the previous week with his typical no-holds-barred style. In the “Rapid Fire” segment, Ross picks one story for a lightning round of riffs, throwing out one-liner after one-liner spanning the gamut from razor-sharp clever to obvious groaners, almost like a mini comedy lesson in all the ways something can be roasted.
Then the show presents a “dais” of Ross and three stand-up comedians to roast more news items, teed up by Jeff’s sidekick/cousin Ed. Episode one features Amy Schumer, Ralphie May and JB Smoove throwing out some great zingers at the stories, Ross’s low-budget set and at each other.
This was surprisingly the weakest segment of the first episode. It’s hard to tell if it was editing or reality, but there didn’t seem to be much chemistry or flow among the group. I was lucky enough to be onset for the taping of episode two with Gilbert Gottfried, Marc Maron and Russell Peters, who found a great flow and rhythm during this segment, so we’ll see if that translates to the finished product.
In episode one, Jeff featured three pre-taped segments. In the recurring “Friendly Fire” Ross takes a small digital camera to a celebrity pal’s house to bust each other’s balls in a more casual setting. “Public Enemies” will also run throughout the series and shows Ross taking the “roaster coaster” (a souped up Segway) out to roast groups of annoying people like meter maids and the paparazzi.
One of the highlights of episode one is the one-off home video of Ross roasting his uncle, “Mean” Murray. The Mean Murray segment is fantastic and proves why Ross’s motto, “I only roast the ones I love,” is so important. Since we can assume Ross doesn’t have an unlimited number of crotchety old uncles (though if he did, that would explain a lot about where his sense of humor comes from), future episodes will feature different segments. Episode two gives us “Speaker’s Corner” which gave Gottfried the floor for a laugh-so-hard-you’ll-cry three minute rant. I know you’re thinking Gottfried would be amazing in this environment and you’re wrong. He’s phenomenal. It’s even better than you’re imagining.
The show ends with a segment called “Too Soon?” gently roasting a recently departed celebrity. Like the Mean Murray segment, this really reveals how much heart is behind Ross’ sharp tongue.
That heart was evident on the set as well, in a lot of things that will never make it to air. The interplay between Ross and the dais during setups and re-shoots was sharp and funny and warm, not cruel. And Maron’s attitude verged on glee – he was beaming as he watched and needled warm up comedian Brody Stevens, cracked himself up making inside jokes about writer Tony Hinchcliffe’s former employment as a door guy at The Comedy Store and pulled an amazing Gilbert Gottfried impression out of his back pocket during some last minute re-shoots.
With elements that will feel familiar to fans of the Roasts, Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn and Best Week Ever, The Burn is a great showcase for Jeff Ross and the comedians he brings to the dais. Comedy fans will love it and so will people who just enjoy making fun of stuff. But of course some people will inevitably think this whole show is crossing the line.
What about you? Do you think The Burn is a pleasant kind of pain or a festering sore?
About the Author: Amy Hawthorne is an LA-based stand-up and writer and the founder of ComedyGroupie.com. She is convinced that the food industry is being unduly influenced by Big Avocado.