There are probably very few, if any, moments that a comedian could experience what would be more humiliating than bombing at a roast. The point of the occasion is to be hilariously mean, so if you manage to fail at that, you’re going to look stupid. Of course, some comedians intentionally bomb, but you have to be even funnier to pull that off. Bottom line: If you’re serving on a dais (or Comedy Knockout), you better be funny and mean.
But despite that obvious statement, there have been plenty of times when a celebrity is being roasted or a famous guest is seated on the main stage, and they just don’t seem to get the jokes. Nothing is more awkward than a celebrity trying to pretend that he or she can take the joke (the comedians aren’t really being mean, after all) only to sit there with stupid looks on their faces, because the offensive comic crossed an imaginary line. It’s these people who ruin otherwise fun, celebratory nights, and they’re often far more memorable than the comics who make us cry from laughter. Some offenses are mild, while others are, well, prepare to cringe.
The night Chevy Chase realized no one liked him
Chevy Chase’s first roast, in 1990, was a star-studded affair, boasting some of the biggest A-listers in show business. His second time, though… well, it’s widely considered to be the worst roast of all-time. As the story goes, Chase was miserable at his 2002 roast because none of his famous friends showed up to take him down. Instead, he was mocked by Lisa Lampanelli and Greg Giraldo, and a number of other comics he’d never even met. Of the event, he famously said: “That hurt.” And he definitely meant it, because the story of what happened after the roast makes this the most depressing roast of all-time, too.
Courtney Love would like all of the attention, please
“How is it that Courtney Love looks worse than Kurt Cobain?” Jeff Ross stole the show at Pam Anderson’s roast with this brutal insult directed at the Hole singer. She clearly didn’t like the joke at all, or she was just pandering for attention. It’s seriously hard to tell because Love interrupted so much of the event that it became a massive distraction. At one point during Ross’ set, he had to stop because she was just talking to people. But credit to the man known as the Roastmaster General, as his “Pamela Manderson” remark proved he’s the best at righting the ship.
Steven Seagal should have never been roasted
Speaking of Ross… if you want a great roast story that reveals how much it means to some people to be on the scorching end of a joke, read Ross’ account of his hilarious Bea Arthur joke. Now, if you want the complete opposite of that, we go all the way back to the first time Ross performed at a roast. It was Steven Seagal’s roast in 1995, a roast for an actor who famously has a terrible knack for comedy. Ross introduced himself with the above joke and later revealed, “Steven Seagal just started scowling at me. But the audience was roaring with laughter and so I was like, this is definitely my thing, man, I love this.”
Steve-O shouldn’t sit on the stove if he doesn’t want to be burned
Amy Schumer was hardly the household name that she is today when she took the stage to attack the Warlock, Charlie Sheen. But she was by far the most talked about roaster of the night, as she came out swinging at a stunned Patrice O’Neal and then made headlines for days over her joke about Steve-O and his friend Ryan Dunn, who had recently died in a car accident. Steve-O’s reaction was flat out disbelief, and the joke inspired many people to ask if there’s such a thing as “too far” at roasts. The answer, at least in Schumer’s opinion, is hell no.
Jamie Foxx ruined Doug Williams’ night (and maybe his career)
Who is Doug Williams? He’s obviously not a household name, a huge stand-up star, or a box office dominating comedic actor. It’s possible that he has Jamie Foxx to blame for that. Williams tried to make a name for himself at a roast for Emmitt Smith in 2003, but Foxx wasn’t having it. The way Foxx tells it, he was just busting the guy’s balls and roasting the roaster. What really happened was Williams was unprepared, told some bad jokes, and then paid the price for making one of those bad jokes about Foxx. While Williams took all the damage, it’s still Foxx who came away looking like the humorless one.
Ted Danson answers an age-old question
Should you wear blackface? No! You’d think that a white actor would be able to ask that question of himself and come up with that answer, but it’s 2016 and people are still doing it, just as Ted Danson did at Whoopi Goldberg’s roast in 1993. Granted, Danson claimed that Goldberg dared him, and the actress – also his girlfriend at the time – defended him at the end of the show, but people were still furious. Danson will always be lucky that there was no video of his performance, but Roger Ebert’s recap of the event still paints quite the awkward picture.
The legend of the Gilbert Gottfried joke that made Shecky Greene quit
Shecky Greene is considered by many to be a comedy legend, but he apparently has a strong sense of what falls outside the bounds of good taste. At a 2014 Friars Club event honoring his friends, Freddie Roman and Stewie Stone, Greene walked out of the show long before he was supposed to make the closing remarks. It turned out that he was disgusted by a joke that Gilbert Gottfried made during his set, and it was so filthy and vulgar – “I was in the navy and… I never heard that kind of language,” Greene later said – that the then-88-year-old Greene wanted to fight Gottfried. Instead, he walked out, went home, and tore up his Friars Club membership card. So, what was the joke? Well, it had to do with hemorrhoids, and it allegedly made people vomit. But Gottfried, ever the artist, refuses to ever tell the joke again, because he simply loves the legend that was created.
Want to see some of today’s most talented up-and-coming comics bring the funny? Check out truTV’s ‘Comedy Knockout‘ Thursdays at 10:30/9:30c.