Warning: This post contains strong language and jokes that will likely be offensive to some people. If that will bother you, don't read it. If you do read it, don't complain about it.
One of the cool things about having a relatively popular blog is that I'm now occasionally being sent books and DVDs to review. This is doubly cool when it's something that I really enjoy, and I really love roasts. No, not the culinary variety, the "let's get together and insult someone for an hour" type. It's one of my favorite forms of comedy and always has been. And one of the best things that has happened in the world of comedy over the last decade or so is the number of younger comics who have gotten involved with the Friar's Club.
The Friar's Club, for those who don't know, is a nearly century-old entertainer's group based in New York. In the early days, the leaders of the club included men like George M. Cohan, Will Rogers and Irving Berlin. From the very beginning, they were known for their dinners honoring famous entertainers with backhanded compliments. The Friar's Club was the home of all the great comedians from the Vaudeville age to the 60s. And today it has made a real comeback with the infusion of new blood, particularly among the many great New York comics working today. And the celebrity roast has made a comeback along with it.
Comedy Central has aired many celebrity roasts over the last few years. Many brave souls have suffered the slings and arrows including Hugh Hefner, Jerry Stiller, Chevy Chase and Drew Carey. But the latest to be victimized is none other than Pamela Anderson, and that roast has now been released on DVD. The producers were kind enough to send me a copy to review. I had seen it on Comedy Central, but it was heavily censored. It's much funnier uncensored, as this DVD obviously is. I'll try to give you a sense of this roast below the fold, but be warned: this is really strong stuff and not for the easily offended.
The new batch of roasts has introduced a whole new group of great comics to the world - Nick DiPaolo, Greg Geraldo, Sarah Silverman and many others. But the undisputed king of the insult comics today is Jeffrey Ross. Roasts are a perfect setup for his brutal sense of humor, especially one like this: the only reason Pamela Anderson decided to do the roast was because Comedy Central gave a big donation to PETA, her favorite charity. And you knew the comics were going to go right after that tender spot.
Ross walked out on stage in a fur coat, prompting Courtney Love (who is apparently friends with Anderson and was there just to make it an even more target-rich environment) to throw water at him. He released the tension by announcing, "Oh relax, it's not real fur - we shaved Bea Arthur's back." For some reason, Ross has made Bea Arthur his personal punching bag at these roasts. At one of the early ones, upon noticing that Dr. Ruth was on the dais, he proclaimed, "I wouldn't fuck her with Bea Arthur's dick." Riffing on that same theme during the Pamela Anderson roast he said, "I wouldn't fuck Bea Arthur's dick with Andy Dick's pussy." Crude? Yes. But very, very funny. He also wondered out loud how it was possible that Courtney Love could look worse than Kurt Cobain. And when he spotted Anna Nicole Smith in the audience he remarked, "Hey, we should roast her next year. We could do all the same jokes - plus fat jokes."
If any of the new comics comes close to Ross in this area it's Nick DiPaolo, a comedian whose political incorrectness can be a bit jarring at times (but I think it's hysterical). His brings a quintessential New York and Italian attitude to the proceedings. Lisa Lampinelli is his female counterpart, an outrageously filthy comic who doesn't care who she offends. When she notes that because Anderson had dated Tommy Lee, the lead singer of Poison and Scott Baio, her life story should be a VH1 special called "I fucked the 80s", you can't help but laugh.
This is probably the funniest of all the roasts that have been done in the last few years, funnier even than the Hugh Hefner roast - although if they ever put out an uncensored version of that roast on DVD that includes Gilbert Gottfried's amazing performance of the Aristocrats joke, that might well top this one (and yes, that's a hint to the producers of this DVD that if they have that one, I want it. Like now). For those, like me, who like their comedy like a Somalian warlord (dark and vicious), this is a must have DVD for your collection.
Huh. I guess I don't get it.
1. Wouldn't a roast be funnier if the target of the roast weren't such an incredibly easy mark? And aren't they supposed to be comedians themselves?
2. Dark and vicious can certainly be funny, when it's clever. But fat jokes and "I wouldn't fuck X with X's dick" jokes are neither dark, vicious, nor clever...they're just slightly mean and terribly cliche'. IMO.
Ah, well....maybe it's better when you can actually see it.
The targets don't have to be comedians. Over the years they've roasted people from virtually all walks of life, even people not well known to the public like agents. As for the jokes...I just disagree. But that's how it goes with a sense of humor. It's not a mathematical formula, it's just a sense of what each person finds funny. And I laughed out loud many times sitting by myself watching this.
I saw it on Comedy Central. It was hilarious. I'm sure to get the DVD. There was this physically big female commedian -- I can't think of her name right now -- who was really funny. She was really hard on Andy Dick.
And the fact that Bea Arthur was there in the audience was great.
Bea is such a handsome woman!
That was Lisa Lampinelli. I have her CD, which is about as politically incorrect as you can possibly get. She does what Lenny Bruce used to do, just goes right at the racial and ethnic stereotypes rather than dancing around them. And actually, Bea Arthur's performance at this roast was great. She's always in the audience but rarely speaks, but at this one she got up and read from Anderson's book and it was absolutely hysterical.
The other great line that I forgot to mention was from Sarah Silverman, who I think is easily one of the top 5 comics working today. And it wasn't about Pam, it was about Jimmy Kimmel, her boyfriend who was hosting. She said, "You know how a certain smell can just take you back to a different place and time by sparking a memory? Jimmy's balls smell exactly like my grandma's house - Benson and Hedges ultra lights and brisket. Or maybe, I don't know, maybe all this time my grandma's house has smelled like Jimmy's balls. Maybe that's how you know it's the one." Pure genius.
I have to admit I don't see the humor.
Is it crude? Sure.
Offensive? Hardly. Just puerile.
But then I've never thought stand ups particularly funny.
Their "humor" such as it is is often too obvious and self-conscious to be anything other than painful to watch. This would also explain why Curb Your Enthusiasm is rather soporific.
Well, Ed, I gotta admit, I'm going to go buy this thing.
I mean, I'm a bit apprehensive since the producers sent it to you knowing you'd find it funny, clip a few jokes and sell a few copies.
But I'm in.
That's damn funny stuff.
As for the crudeness of the humor, and the vulgarities, I am proud to say I have been recognized, most recently by one of my employees, "as the most politically incorrect flaming liberal I ever met."
So if the producers of the DVD are reading over your post and the comments, yeah, guys, it was good move sending Ed a copy. Sold my sorry ass one.
Now where do I order?
One last final comment...
Any chance they'd do a roast of Jerry Falwell? Nah, that's the thing about right wing nuts like Falwell, Robertson, Schlafly and their crowd. No sense of humor.
I'll bet Bea Arthur was laughing her tukis off at the jokes at her expense. I find it impossible to believe people like Falwell could ever do the same.
They're far too busy trying to take away gay people's rights, or force their religion down the throats of school children.
Still, a Fedwell... excuse... Fatwell... sorry, Falwell roast could be amusing.
You can get it at Costco. M'Lady gave me a copy for Valentine's Day. Love that woman, I do.
She was really hard on Andy Dick.
Jon, you naughty boy . . .
If there was a roast of Penn Jillette, I would definitely watch it.
I've really liked Sarah Silverman since Mr Show, how was her bit?
Lisa Lampinelli was on Howard Stern's show a couple of weeks ago talking about this roast. It was an interesting look behind the scenes at the kind of preparation a good roast comic has to do to get ready. She said she spent about three months working up good jokes and doing research. She brought seven pages of material to the event, and was frantically striking out and re-editing while other comedians were doing their schtick as she didn't want to cover the same stuff. By the time her turn came around she was down to five pages, and ended up going through only three, tossing some out even as she got ready to use them.
She said roasts are a very delicate act, because you have to walk the line between poking pretty vicious humor at the subject with their willingness to laugh at him or her self. She said it was particularly difficult with Pamela Anderson because Pamela's so genuinely nice -- she even sent all the comics flowers and a thank-you card afterwards! According to Lisa, Pamela only got misty-eyed during one bit, when a male comedian used the "C" word to describe her. Lisa got so pissed off she crossed out some marginal stuff she herself had written because, dammit, Pamela Anderson is definitely NOT a "C"!
Also, the subject can declare certain subjects off-limits. Anderson had two, but I can only remember one. She said the incident at Tommy Lee's pool where the young child died was completely inappropriate and no one was allowed to comment on that.
Anyway, I always thought these things were pretty off-the-cuff and spontaneous, but a lot of work goes into the performance, at least for the people who are good at it. There's a relatively small contingent of "A-List Roast" comedians apparently.
Yeah, the list of really good roast comics is fairly short and I mentioned most of them. Dom Irrera is extremely funny. Dennis Leary has been roasted, but I don't know if he's taken part in the roasting. He'd be very good at it. I'd love to see some of the earlier New York comics get into it. Guys like Geraldo and Ross and DiPaolo are sort of the current generation. The group that came before them - Seinfeld, Larry Miller, Paul Provenza, Paul Reiser, Richard Belzer - would be fun to watch doing roasts too.
This doesn't relate to the roast, but since you're talking comedians in this post and I keep forgetting to ask you this question, I'll post it here.
I found that my tastes in comedians lines up to yours pretty nicely, although granted there are some differences. One of favorite contemporary comedians is Patton Oswalt, and I'm curious as to your thoughts.
I think Patton Oswalt is very funny. So is Zack Galifinakis, his buddy.
Sarah Silverman's funny on Crank-yankers. I swear to God if they gave me a chance I could rule on that show.
In the Truth-is-Stranger-than-Fiction dept:
I heard on "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" this weekend that Pamela is campaigning to keep KFC from giving chickens hormones that promote Chicken Breast enhancement.
She must feel the chicken's pain.