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Comedy Central Roasts Should Burn



“Roasting” is a time-honored showbiz tradition, in which a guest is “honored” by fellow performers who direct good-natured mockery at the guest and make light-hearted jokes at his or her expense. The custom became widely known outside of professional comedy and performance circles in the 1960s, when Dean Martin served as the “roastmaster” in a series of celebrity roasts. These programs assembled groups of truly talented performers, and featured giants of comedy using humor that could be appreciated by everyone.


How times have changed.


In recent years, the Comedy Central cable network revived the custom of the “celebrity roast.” Unfortunately, its annual roasts have featured none of the genuine wit and humor of those of the past…not to mention the fact that today’s roasts hardly feature “giants” of comedy. “Midgets of comedy,” perhaps, or maybe even “flyspecks.” And in place of humor, the cable network’s roasts rely instead on profanity and offensive comments.


It must be admitted that in the past, some “roasts” featured raunchy material. Comedy legends like Bob Hope, Milton Berle and others were every bit as capable of using off-color humor as today’s comedians, and many did during the infamous Friar’s Club roasts of decades past -- but with an important caveat: they did so always, and only, behind closed doors. “Working blue” was considered a game of one-upsmanship, to be engaged in with fellow comics and showbiz professionals; but comedians then respected the mass audience, and recognized that it was undesirable to subject audiences to humor which many would find off-putting or offensive. Even more importantly, comedians then knew – and demonstrated – that it is possible to entertain audiences and make people laugh without depending on offensive language or disgusting scenarios.


Judging by the content of their acts, most comedians today are either insufficiently intelligent to craft genuine humor free from offensive imagery, or else are simply too lazy to do so. After all, why work at thinking of a clever, witty or ironic remark, when one can simply spew a string of four-letter words, homophobic slurs and crude references to scatology and genitalia?


This has been the tack taken by Comedy Central’s roasts. From its first roast of Denis Leary in 2003, through Jeff Foxworthy in 2004, Pamela Anderson in 2005, William Shatner in 2006 (charmingly advertised with the tagline, “The Shat hits the fan!”), and last year’s roast of VH1 sex-reality franchise Flava Flav, the Comedy Central roasts have been uniformly devoid of wit. Instead, they have subjected audiences to gross-out “comedy” of which even drunken fraternity boys would be ashamed. 


And on Sunday, August 17th, Comedy Central insulted audiences anew with its Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget. First shown at 10:00 p.m. ET (only 9:00 p.m. in the Central and Mountain time zones), and shown twice more immediately thereafter, played incessantly on Comedy Central in the week since (and undoubtedly for weeks to come), and featured on the network’s website, this festering pustule on the corpus of comedy contaminated Comedy Central and everyone who watched it.


Attempting to enumerate the offenses in the Bob Saget roast is like handing someone an icepick and telling them to demolish a glacier. Where does one begin?


Perhaps with the show’s opening, during which “roastmaster” John Stamos said, “Let’s get this train wreck started.”


Stamos kicked off the festivities by putting viewers on notice of the raunch to come with a reference to his own and Bob Saget’s role on the family-friendly comedy Full House: “If you younger viewers are tuning in to watch Uncle Jesse help Danny Tanner find a tender way to solve one of Michelle's problems, go (bleeped f***) yourself!”


After this tender opening, a rap song (prominently featuring the lyrics "I got a (bleeped c***) like a donkey, hard as rock") played over clips from Saget’s various roles on film and TV. Multiple clips showed Saget preparing to snort cocaine, exposing himself and hitting on young women, juxtaposed with footage of the pre-teen girls from Full House, implying child molestation. This classy clip combination concluded with a clip of Saget saying, "So they're all (bleeped f******) each other, right? All of a sudden the kid can't take it, diarrhea starts squirting out of his a**. It’s like a hemorrhaging s*** a**." (The “s-word” was unbleeped throughout the special.)



Following the rancid rap, a door opened and two young women emerged, straightening their clothing and implying that they had been having sex. The young women were followed first by an elderly woman fixing her hair, then by a goat. Then Saget emerged, pulling up his zipper and telling the goat to "Call me." Less than five minutes in, and Comedy Central has already given the viewer jokes about drug use, excrement, child molestation and bestiality. What a laugh riot!


It really is pointless to attempt to list in detail everything misbegotten and offensive in this special… But so that readers get a true feel for the full extent of the program’s vile “humor,” here are just a few examples of the milder content:

  • John Stamos: “Bob, I was with you for 192 episodes of Full House, and I can honestly say you don't have a funny bone in your body. Unless of course you count the one time you sat on Dave Coulier's (bleeped c***). And by ‘sat on,’ I mean hungrily backed into. And by ‘one time,’ I mean eight seasons. You know, the whole time Bob and I were doing Full House, he was also hosting America's Funniest Home Videos. He did that show for so long, he can't get a boner unless a six year old boy whacks his b**** with a whiffle bat. What a tough gig that must have been. His entire job consisted of saying "take a look at this." Which is what he used to say to Mary-Kate Olsen in her dressing room.”

(Note: during the run of Full House, Mary-Kate Olsen aged from two to nine years old.)

  • Greg Giraldo on Jon Lovitz:”You've been more voracious than Jon Lovitz at an all the (bleeped d*ck) you can eat buffet. You (bleeped f******) gay Weeble! There hasn't been a more effeminate Jew in the closet since Anne Frank!”

  • Jon Lovitz on Bob Saget :”Bob is so gay, his a****** is no longer a hole, but a smile. Bob's so gay when he plays cards a full house is two (bleeped d****) in the mouth and three in the butt. Bob is so gay, he wanted to rename his show 1 Vs. 100 to ‘Stick it in my jellyfish a** till it bleeds, catch the drippings in a cup, pour them back into me intravenously Vs. 100'.”

  • Cloris Leachman: “I was classically trained in live theater. I improvised! No script, no director, just me…and the donkey! Five sold-out shows a night for six years, until the donkey died of exhaustion. Then I was finally ready for Hollywood. What have you nothings done? ‘My YouTube video has 400 hits!’ (Bleepd f***) a donkey, then talk to me!”

  • Gilbert Gottfried: “A lot of you are saying, ‘Why should we pick Bob Saget, who

  • raped and killed a girl in 1990? Should we even waste two seconds on Bob Saget, who raped and killed a girl in 1990?’ Well first of all, it’s not true! It's not true that Bob Saget raped and killed a girl in 1990. So if you have any proof that Bob Saget raped and killed a girl in 1990, stop gossiping and go right to the police with it!”

Child molestation. Oral sex. The Holocaust. Anal sex. Bestiality. Rape. In what universe are these subjects even marginally funny?


Yet these are the subjects that Comedy Central not only thinks are funny; not only thinks are suitable to be rebroadcast dozens of times and available anytime on its website; but also thinks every cable subscriber should pay for. The most perceptive comment of the evening was made by comedian Jim Norton, when he said, “It really is out of love that we s*** on each other.”


That, indeed, is what Comedy Central is doing:  defecating on everyone who subscribes to cable and satellite TV. Because no matter how repulsed viewers may be by the content of the roast – even if they never watch Comedy Central – if they subscribe to cable, they paid for it.


TV Trends: This column was compiled from reports by the Parents Television Council’s Analysis staff.


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