Every year, Comedy Central puts together a dais of comedians and has-beens to make fun of one another and destroy a special guest. The roasts are brutal dissections of a star’s’ career, punctuated with dirty language and poor taste, inspired by the traditional roasts at the New York Friars Club.
Events from the roasts have become of the stuff of legend. At Hugh Hefner’s roast, comedian Gilbert Gottfried told the “aristocrats” joke previously only shared between comedians. His sharing of the joke was so infamous, it spawned a documentary film about the history of “The Aristocrats”. Flava Flav’s roast remind people that Flava Flav existed and that giant clocks shouldn’t be worn as statement jewelry. Even Republican presidential candidate Donald Drumpf has been roasted.
In anticipation of this year’s roast of Rob Lowe, we here at Fandom have put together a list of some of the best Comedy Central roasts. Warning: Roasts are vulgar affairs, so reader discretion is advised.
To many of us, Bob Saget is America’s TV dad. As the patriarch of the Tanner clan on the long-running Full House, he taught Millennials all about caring, sharing, and family values. He also made us laugh at wholesome fun as the host of America’s Funniest Home Videos. His stand-up, however, is as far from wholesome as Norm MacDonald is from being funny. Saget’s stand-up is absolutely foul, and he has a reputation as one of the most potty-mouthed comedians in Hollywood. His career was ripe for a roast, and after the previous year’s less-than-stellar roast of Flava-Flav, Comedy Central pulled out all the stops. Saget got lambasted by some of the greatest roasters in the series’ history, including Greg Giraldo, Jeffrey Ross, and Brian Posehn. Hosted by fellow Full House alum (and total dreamboat) John Stamos, Saget’s roast was pure, filthy joy.
Greg Giraldo sets the bar high for the evening. His jokes fit the tradition of roasting, going beyond the limits of good taste while still being funny. Part of what makes roasts so fun is the ability to laugh at things that are otherwise taboo. His joke about Jon Lovitz, in which he said “there hasn’t been this much Jew in a closet since Anne Frank” is both tasteless and hilarious. He tells Saget that “Charlie Sheen looks at you and feels good about himself”, though Sheen would feel the sting himself a few years later.
The real standout is The Mary Tyler Moore show actress Cloris Leachman, who throws shade better than any other geriatric Academy Award winner could. She starts her set by saying that she’s “not here to roast Bob Saget”, but instead she’s here to “f**k John Stamos”. She then proceeds to make fun of everyone on stage with vulgarity and hilarity.
Jon Lovitz does all of his jokes in a song format, which falls as flat as his notes. The usually funny Jeffrey Ross makes nothing but jokes about Saget dating underaged women, and what starts as something funny ends up being derivative. The worst of the worst, however, is Norm MacDonald, who stiffly reads his jokes from cards. Whether he was doing some kind of schtick or not is anyone’s guess, but the only funny thing about MacDonald being there is that everyone else could verbally destroy him.
Giraldo and Leachman definitely take the prize for being the funniest roasters. Saget is great in his rebuttal as well and deserves a nod for actually being funny. [Danielle Ryan]
This is the most “inside” of the roasts. It’s basically the Apatow Frat Pack with a few scattered professionals in between. Andy Samberg. Bill Hader. Aziz Ansari. Jonah Hill. Sarah Silverman. Roastmaster Seth Rogen. Comedians Natasha Leggero and Jeffrey Ross round it out. James Franco’s almost above parody due to the diverse and scatterbrained body of work he’s accumulated. He’s also not as easy to pick apart due to the fact that the “real” James Franco is a bit of a mystery. As a result, the affair makes fun of his work choices and sexuality.
Sarah Silverman on Jonah Hill’s size:
“Right before the show started Seth rolled a gigantic fattie. Because that was the only way we could get Jonah Hill onto the stage.”
Natasha Leggero on Aziz Ansari:
“Aziz is only in showbiz because he’s too ugly to be a genie.”
Jeffrey Ross on Jonah Hill’s weight:
“Jonah almost couldn’t make it tonight. He had trouble finding a tuxedo that changed sizes every three hours.”
Rogen goes give much effort. Nick Kroll doesn’t bring a ton to the table. Sadly, James Franco’s big finale comes off weak. The whole affair doesn’t have the zing that some roasts do, partially because the majority of the dais are all cut from the same cloth.
Bill Hader. His schtick was fun but watching him lose his crap at the jokes is a hundred time better. He is having so much fun. Jeffrey Ross is always great. Silverman kills it. Andy Samberg’s weird schtick started off awkward and just got better and better. [Nick Nunziata]
After his public meltdown and subsequent “comedy” tour, Charlie Sheen was ripe for roasting. In a way, Sheen is an atypical choice for something like this because his career isn’t built on a house of cards. For a stretch, he was a legitimate A-lister. Of course, hookers, drugs, and public squabbles changed the conversation and as Slash ripped on a guitar Sheen took the stage to take his medicine. It’s a great roast.
Seth MacFarlane, to the man of the hour:
“You claim to have tiger blood but with all the porn stars you’ve banged it’s probably just Tiger Woods’ blood.”
Jeffrey Ross, about Mr. Sheen:
“Charlie Sheen is to stand-up as Larry Flynt is to standing up.”
Anthony Jeselnik, to Charlie:
“Every moment of your life looks like the the first two minutes of Law & Order: SVU.”
Low Points: Kate Walsh looked great but her reading her jokes came off weak. Plus, there really wasn’t much reasoning for her being on the dais at all. Jon Lovitz was uncomfortably bad and his style comes off ancient compared to the rest of the comedians. Steve-O is an odd fit and his attempts to parlay his Jackass persona onstage is embarrassing.
Winners: Patrice O’Neal performing last is perfect as it gives him a chance to call everyone else out. It’s horrible that he died not too long after. Roasts aren’t the best venue for his material but he rocks it. Anthony Jeselnik only did two roasts, but he owns them. Amy Schumer was the target of a lot of obscurity jokes. Charlie Sheen. [Nick Nunziata]
The Roast of William Shatner was the first roast to land an Emmy nomination. Looking back at the roast on its 10th anniversary, it’s kinda sad. Artie Lange and George Takei were coasting high on Howard Stern’s fresh arrival at Sirius. Farrah Fawcett and Greg Giraldo were still among the living. Plus, Leonard Nimoy helped to introduce Shatner during an opening segment. If that wasn’t bad, David Carradine was in the audience getting camera time as he laughed at every joke. Outside of the wave of death and failure, there were jokes, and Andy Dick played a homosexual love child of Spock and Kirk.
Patton Oswalt and Jason Alexander got to land some choice jokes. Plus, George Takei finally got to put Shatner in his place. This special felt like the roast had finally found its feet after two spotty events in 2003 and 2005. New talents were being discovered, old talents were getting to rebrand themselves, and America learned to love Betty White again. But, that’s not what sets this roast apart. This is the roast where the roast subject wanted in on the fun. While Fawcett and others stumbled, Shatner waited for his rebuttal and then absolutely killed it.
Fawcett really stumbled and mumbled, her niceness overriding her ability to make fun of people. Andy Dick kept licking people and hamming it up for the camera while managing to completely unfunny.
Shatner. The entire night built towards Shatner getting a chance to save face and steal the show. It was an exercise in pure ego that made me smile. Very few actors can pull off something that reads as pure awfulness. But, Shatner can do that and then ask you why you’re upset. Is there something to Takei’s fun anger? Maybe. I just enjoy events where the subject wants any attention and doesn’t care about anything negative. [Troy Anderson]
If Bob Saget was America’s sweetheart television dad, Roseanne was the country’s meanest mom. As the star of her show Roseanne for nine years, the comedian showed everyone that TV moms didn’t have to be like Mrs. Brady. Her roast stood out because it featured a majority of female roasters in what’s normally a testosterone-driven event. The evening featured a number of surprises, including an appearance by Roseanne’s ex-husband Tom Arnold. She also chose to end the show by correctly singing the last two lines of The Star Spangled Banner. (In 1990, she infamously did a terrible job of performing America’s national anthem at a Padres’ baseball game.) The roast had its ups and downs, like any, but it proved that women could be just as crude as their male counterparts. It also featured then-mostly-unknown Amy Schumer, who has gone on to be one of the funniest comedians around.
It’s hard to tell exactly who had the funniest bits, as a lot of what was said never made it to air. Out of the jokes that made it, Katey Sagal‘s were the most consistently funny. As a fellow TV mom, she was able to skewer Roseanne with aplomb. Amy Schumer’s opening set was also fantastic. She even took a crack at beloved Star Wars star Carrie Fisher, saying, “Carrie, you’ve cut more lines than a crippled kid at Disney Land.”
Jeffery Ross, dressed as disgraced Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, made a joke about the Aurora theater shootings. Apparently, he forgot the “time” part of tragedy + time = comedy. Known crazy lady Fisher had a few zingers but seemed sort of lost. Roastmaster Jane Lynch had a lot of potential but didn’t do much, though that may be a result of Comedy Central’s heavy cuts.
Sagal definitely won the night, showing off her comedy chops after years of seriousness as Gemma on Sons of Anarchy. Schumer was also a standout. Following the roast, her career took off. [Danielle Ryan]
In 2010, Comedy Central recruited an all-star cast to Roast David Hasselhoff. Seth MacFarlane took the helm as Roast Master. MacFarlane and the other roasters commonly referred to the guest of honor as “The Hoff”. Hasselhoff had just ended his tenure as a judge on America’s Got Talent. The roast was particularly timely as his reality series, The Hasselhoffs, was about to debut on A&E. Roasters spent much of their time lamenting how Hasselhoff could have so much wealth, fame, and success despite having very little talent. Norm MacDonald’s famous saying that “Germans love David Hasselhoff” was often referenced. The roasters for “The Hoff” included Hulk Hogan, Pamela Anderson, and Jerry Springer. The usual suspects of Lisa Lampanelli, Jeffrey Ross, and Greg Giraldo took their turns as well. Sadly, this was Giraldo’s last roast as he would pass away a month later.
First of all, MacFarlane appeared well suited (and a little overqualified) for the role of Roast Master and he helped drive the show. Whitney Cummings was in rare form, taking aim at Hasselhoff and Baywatch co-star Anderson with several top-tier zingers. Finally, the return of William Daniels as the voice of Knight Rider‘s KITT was very nostalgic.
The lowlights from the show included the closing number with Hasselhoff singing (that’s being generous) “This is the Moment”. Springer seemed out of place in a roast environment without midgets or KKK members and, as a result failed to deliver. Furthermore, Hulk Hogan failed to connect with the audience despite decent material.
Whitney Cummings killed it. She was so over the top she had to apologize to Anderson for the excessive beat-down. Her best roast joke for Hasselhoff was:
“I actually tried to buy one of your songs on Amazon.com, and it said, ‘Users who bought this item also bought a shotgun.”
Back when Donald Drumpf wasn’t one of the scariest and most dangerous people on the planet Comedy Central chose to have a little fun at his expense. Of course, the reality is probably that Drumpf instigated the whole thing to drum up publicity for his ill-fated 2012 presidential campaign. The dais featured the usual assortment of comedians plus a few curveballs. Deaf actress Marlee Matlin, TV icon Larry King, and the mysteriously successful Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino qualify s curveballs. As expected, the affair was bloated, loud, and obnoxious. Just like its subject.
Snoop Dogg on Drumpf moving into the White House:
“It wouldn’t be the first time you pushed a black family out their home.”
“The only difference between you and Michael Douglas from the movie Wall Street, is that no one is going to be sad when you get cancer.”
“The second-worst tragedy ever to hit New York City.”
Luckily Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino’s fifteen minutes of fame expired in fourteen because his appearance here is very difficult to watch. It’s uncomfortable, unfunny, and sorta sad. It’s a shame he didn’t go first, because watching the other roasters pile on would have been something to see.
Anthony Jeselnik, who is always a delightfully mean and acute critic of celebrity. Marlee Matlin, always classy but willing to dumb down for the affair. Seth MacFarlane, who is really built for this and loves it when roasters shred him. [Nick Nunziata]
Justin Bieber is a polarizing entertainer, to say the least. Considering how young he is it’s surprising to see him the target of a Comedy Central roast. With that said, his body of work and offscreen shenanigans makes him an ideal target. Apparently, he wanted this as a birthday present but not many punches were pulled regardless. Kevin Hart hosts while the dais features an assortment of interesting members of music, comedy, and beyond. Shaquille O’Neal. Ludacris. Natasha Leggero. Jeffrey Ross. Martha Stewart. SNL’s Pete Davidson. Chris D’Elia. An interesting bunch.
Pete Davidson, poking fun at Shaq’s size:
“Shaq, thanks for taking a break from throwing barrels at Super Mario.”
Natasha Leggero to Bieber:
“It sees like only yesterday you were discovered on YouTube. Time flies when you’re a piece of s**t.”
Jeffrey Ross to Snoop:
“You like a retired WNBA player.”
Ludacris isn’t really built for this kind of material. Kevin Hart got super offended whenever ISIS was mentioned, which was odd at a roast where September 11th was a common target.
Nearly everyone was funny but the surprises were Martha Stewart and her prison shanking story and the Biebs himself. Not only does the little guy takes his medicine well, he also dishes some good jabs of his own. Then he has the surprising class to make a heartfelt promise to the audience to be a better person. It may not end up being accurate but it caps the night well. [Nick Nunziata]