On August 12, Roseanne Barr will be the next celebrity to be insulted, ridiculed, and made fun of by her peers for the annual Comedy Central Roast. This is a big event for Comedy Central, who puts on these roasts every year and always seems to get the best celebrities for the occasion (or the ones we have just been wanting to insult). Last years The Roast of Charlie Sheen came at the perfect time in the middle of his very public meltdown. The same of David Hasselhoff after his embarrassing viral video in 2010.
Though Comedy Central is probably the best known for celebrity roasting today (and from my research the easiest for public access), it is far from the original. The New York Friars Club, which originated back in 1910, is most famous for the annual roasting of its members. Having a designated club and considering all their jokes and pot shots, it wasn’t long until they began making the roasts an annual tradition. And a tradition it is!
A typical roast consists of a celebrity as the focus of the evening with an emcee, usually a close associate, leading the way. The emcee then introudces a group of the guest of honor’s peers to crack jokes and insult him or her and of course each other. No one is left behind. The first to be roasted was Maurice Chevalier in 1949. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the roasts were televised, first by the Kraft Music Hall and then by the Dean Martin Show.
Comedy Central picked up were the Dean Martin Show left off and televised the Friars Roast from 1998 to 2001. After their five year agreement ended, Comedy Central decided to do their own roasts within the same tradition as the Friars Club. The first to be roasted was Dennis Leary, and soon, celebrities like Pamela Anderson, William Shatner, and Bob Saget followed. However, unlike the Friars Club, Comedy Central brings more insult to the tradition with comedians like Lisa Lampanelli, Seth MacFarlane, the late Greg Giraldo, and roastmaster Jeffrey Ross (who has also participated in the Friars Club roastings).
In creating a less formal environment, Comedy Central is transforming the traditional roast to more pop culture comedy. Common jokes on the new roasts include sexual orientation, potty humor, and common to many comedians and celebrities- the rehab stints. Comparing the evolution of the roast also correlates with the way humor is changing within pop culture. Whether the event is considered to be more crass or more liberating in content, it’s all up to the viewer’s perception.
The best part of any roast happens at the end of the actual roasting where the roaster and roastees have a heart felt moment. It’s like making fun of a good friend, which lessens the blow of the jokes. It also reminds the audience that the person being roasted is a good sport and is doing this for their audience. This is a part of the give and take of comedy; being able to make a joke and take a joke.
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About the Author: Currently working on my B.A in Film Studies at CSU Sacramento full time, working part time, and playing the rest of the time. Began my love of comedy with Gene Wilder, and haven't looked back. Tweet me @steviewho