Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Saw The Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe And Yeah, Ann Coulter Was There For Some Reason

I love the Comedy Central Roasts. I love Roasts in general. To many, they are pointless. And when your highest rated, most viewed roast of all time is Charlie Sheen's, then I guess you have a point. But regardless, it's a nice opportunity to see some more obscure comics get a moment to shine, it's a chance to see funny people shit on a celebrity you have a good chance of not liking (James Franco, Justin Bieber, Flava Flav, Larry The Cable Guy, etc.) and it's fun. I love seeing who they got to do the roast, who's going to have the best roast and the worst, and who's going to have the meanest, sharpest joke? To me, it's not enough to just be mean, how do you make it funny? How do you make people feel that perfect mix of pain from the truth exaggerated, while also the relief of the laughter and the realization that it's actually not so bad?

Jonah Hill said of the jokes at the Franco roast directed at him, (I paraphrase): "I had everything said to me I was always afraid of having said to me growing up, of being bullied and humiliated. And I survived them. I even laughed at them." That's what a roast should be. All in good fun. It's why the roasts work especially well when it's friends and comedians. The Saget roast comes to mind. Even the Bieber roast is excellent. The Sheen roast is amazing. The Shatner roast works because of these things. Some are not as successful. Larry the Cable Guy. Hasselhoff. If it's too mean, or it's too distant, it fails. The subReddit /r/RoastMe highlights this. All the insults directed at complete strangers are creative, but they're also generic and bland. When the graduating class got up to be roasted every year in the theater department at SDSU, it was a delightful mix of creatively funny, cringeworthy, awkward, and hilarious, because pretty much everyone knew each other, and the roast was quite literally billed as, "Here's all the shit we say to each other about you behind your back that you're afraid we talk about behind your back, to your face."

How did everyone at the latest outing?
Ranking The Roasters at the Lowe Roast

1.) Jimmy Carr
British stand-up comic Jimmy Carr is my favorite. A roast is right up his alley. I originally was introduced to him as the host of Distraction, a game show where normal contestants attempted to answer relatively easy questions while dealing with annoying or painful tasks. Carr was so fast with his put-downs and condescensions that I was convinced post-production was shaving off seconds in between contestants responding and Jimmy responding. This skeptical pattern of thinking has followed, to where there are now compilations of Jimmy online dealing with hecklers, and I'm half-convinced Jimmy plants them himself. But the man is just an incredible wit, and years of experience dealing with crowds of the U.K. who are notably tougher and less forgiving than American audiences. He's a frequent guest on Britain's various panel shows (even hosting a couple himself) and he gets to shine because while maybe not always being the smartest in the room, he's the one you don't want to mess with. As soon as Carr takes the stage at the Lowe roast, everyone has to up their game considerably. Carr is unabashedly, unashamedly unafraid, and unwavering in his delivery, even as he delivers his line of the night, directly into the eyes of his target:
"Ann [Coulter] is one of the most repugnant, hateful, hatchet-face bitches alive. It's not too late to change, Ann. You could kill yourself."
2.) Jewel 
A couple of musicians have entered the foray of roasts before. Some are masterful (Snoop Dogg), and some are trainwrecks (Courtney Love and Tommy Lee). But Jewel would also have the distinction of being the only musician to actually deliver some of her roast in music. She was an unexpected gift of the evening. I feared her trying to save some sort of grace and dignity by avoiding going too far, but she instead delivered a laid back, very dry, almost too understated series of jokes aimed at everyone on the panel, saving the ballad for the man of the hour. Jewel's the closest we get to a non-comedian celebrity on this dais, so she's up there with similar acts from previous roasts: Gary Busey, Martha Stewart, and Kate Walsh who proved quite good, and Hulk Hogan, Mike Tyson, and Toby Keith, who turned out quite badly. Jewel gets the two spot for being a complete surprise from out of left field, for making me feel pretty confident that of the non-comics she wrote most of her own material for the night, and because she also delivered what I think is line of the night:
"I do want to say, as a feminist, that I can't support everything that's been said tonight. But as someone who hates Ann Coulter, I'm delighted."
3.) Pete Davidson
Davidson has the unenviable job of being in the Greg Giraldo position, so named because Giraldo would often go first, and I think he's forgotten in how good he was on his own, and also in setting the tone for the evening. Davidson isn't quite the pace-setter here, but he is definitely an improvement from the Bieber roast. He's more confident here, and finds a groove, not unlike Anthony Jeselnik, though he does more moments of intensity. I think he's solid throughout, but his ending falters a little bit, fading off rather than ending with a bang. But Davidson's young, and if he enjoys it, I hope he stays on for the coming years. I'm pretty sure they're going to keep him in that spot, and if can really own it, he'll be untouchable. Going first means you can find kick-ass ways of taking all the best lines. Davidson's creative enough and smart enough to do that. His point of view, his approach, hasn't quite come across yet. Giraldo was a master of hyperbole, and also throwing out the joke held in worst taste by absolutely everyone. Davidson gets close with a joke like that of his own, to which the audience groans dissatisfied, and Davidson tells them to fuck off. It's perfect. I feel like this line is one of the ones that'll get cut from the re-broadcasts, so I want to preserve it here, Davidson's quote of his roast:
"Ann Coulter and no black people? What are we roasting? A cross?"
4.) Jeff Ross
Ross of course, the Roastmaster General, was solid as always. What I love about Ross is his variation of delivery. He breaks up the rhythm of his jokes so well, one minute telling a longer joke, the next a couple one-liners in a row, then a surprise double joke, a joke seemingly directed at one person then swerved at another, and similarly a joke seemingly aimed at an obvious punchline about a person only to swerve to a less obvious one. Ross is a master. He's done this at the more recent roasts, where he dresses as someone unconnected to the roast itself, but in the news at large. It started out as more grounded in the roasts, at Trump's he did his hair similarly, at Hasselhoff's he wore a speedo. But then at Sheen's he went as Muammar Gaddafi, at Roseanne's he was Joe Paterno. For Lowe's he came as Prince. But to his credit, he incorporated it much better this time around. A great musical tribute to the Prince, while also a great dressing down of Rob Lowe. It was a welcome remix of Ross' usual brand of meanness. An absolutely solid closer, Ross brings stability to the dais. I'm having a hard time settling on a single quote from his fantastic roast, so I'll just throw the dart and pick this one:
"The truth is, Rob, roasting you wasn't easy. I mean, what can I really say about you that hasn't already been said in court by three nannies, a chef and an underage girl from Atlanta?"
5.) Rob Riggle
Riggle's always felt like a mixed bag to me. I have adored him on everything he's on, but I fail to remember any particular notable piece. On SNL, he was a lot of generic setup characters, on Daily Show, he was a credible enough correspondent, but nothing too stand-out. I actually think he's a great fit for these roasts if he decides to do them. The dais needs more stability and since Lisa Lampanelli hasn't made a return, I wouldn't be opposed to the set being anchored by Davidson, Ross, and Riggle somewhere in the middle. The angle to Riggle's roast was similar to something Andy Samberg did at the Franco roast, though Riggle managed to add a bit of a twist, in that the roast lines themselves were also quite good. So I give him props for doing great, but I rank him lower for doing a bit we've seen before. Riggle's a smart man though, and I have a feeling that if he does another, he'll switch it up, and bring more of a "skit" feeling to each of his roasts. Riggle's a favorite, I wish he'd had a more memorable showing.
"Rob, in both your sex tapes, you appeared with two other people. Good God, man. You can't even carry a sex tape. You're like the me of sex tapes. Self-deprecating! Beat you to the punch!"
6.) Nikki Glaser
It's unfortunate that Glaser was so immediately compared to, and will be continually compared to, Amy Schumer. Schumer and Glaser are very different stylistically, and this comparison, combined with the fact that her roast showed only a glimpse of what she can do, ranks her lower. People didn't warm to Whitney Cummings but she was unapologetic in her two roast appearances. Natasha Leggero, who many might not have known before her appearance at the Franco roast (though people were catching on by the Bieber roast) was a surprise to those people. Schumer also did similarly in her two appearances. Her Roseanne roast is one of my favorite segments from these, ever. Glaser came in with the same fire and drive as her other female roasters, but I think she lacked a point of view. I hope she does another, because I'm a huge fan of Glaser as a stand-up and as a show host, so if there is to be a more permanent female presence on the roasts, my vote is for Glaser. Originally, my pick for line of the roast was this one:
"[Peyton], you're like the Tom Brady of being in commercials. Like, the greatest."
But I also have to shout out to this one, which is even more of an insight into how sharp Glaser is, to the man of the hour:
"God, I had such a crush on you when I was a little girl. If only I'd known that's when I had my best shot."
7.) Peyton Manning
I've mentioned some other athletes who've made appearances on the roasts as well: Warren Sapp, Shaquille O'Neal, and the aforementioned Hogan and Tyson. Manning is miles away the best to appear as a roaster. I actually shit on Tyson more than I should have earlier, he does a good job at the Sheen roast. Out of the other four, he's definitely the best. But Manning has incredibly good comic timing for not being a comic. I'm doubtful he wrote his own material (though I'm pretty sure both O'Neal and Tyson wrote most, if not all, their own stuff) but he was pitch perfect in his delivery. I rank it lower simply because the other roasters before him are hilarious, and the top of Manning's roast is dedicated to this Tweet Lowe sent out years ago about Manning retiring. There isn't much of a payoff to the story, but the rest of his set is solid. Props to Manning for being a good sport for all the jokes directed at him as well.
"Rob Lowe, the only thing you are consistently on is Twitter, which is surprising because you have never been able to master one character, let alone 140."
8.) Ralph Macchio
You know, everyone's talking always talking about how good Lowe looks for his age, but I gotta say, Ralph Macchio is no slouch either! For that matter, neither is David Spade! He looked great. Anyway, Macchio is in the rather unfortunate spot of "faded star" for these roasts: Maureen McCormick at the Larry the Cable Guy roast, Brigitte Nielsen at the Flava Flav roast, Tom Arnold at the Rivers roast (you could also argue Brad Garrett at that point), Hogan, George Hamilton, Pam Anderson at the Hasselhoff roast, Farrah Fawcett at the Shatner roast... But some of these at least have an emotional connection to the guest of honor, and so too does Macchio with Lowe. It's actually how I was introduced to them and the entire Brat Pack, when I saw The Outsiders as a kid. They were a talented group of guys. Macchio hasn't lost any of his swagger, still amazing on the mic and rockin' some good looks like I said. I rank him low because he doesn't really do much roasting. It's a very touching and honest tribute to Lowe and his friendship with the guy, avoiding becoming too real but does bring up the interesting question of complicated friendships with people who become more successful in something you both started doing. And it has a solid ending as well. Macchio's job was to humanize Rob Lowe, to show that someone on the dais has an emotional connection to Rob, and in that he succeeds. I couldn't really pick a good line from his roast, so I'll shout out to a line used by David Spade to talk about him:
"You might know Ralph from The Karate Kid. If you don't know him from that, you don't know him."
9.) Ann Coulter
And dead last, to the surprise of absolutely no one in the universe, we have the spawn of Satan herself. There's now been some reports surfacing that Coulter didn't understand what a roast was when she was asked to do it. I doubt the veracity of that claim, simply on the basis that that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. It's either a joke, or it seems to be much more in line with the other story from Coulter's camp, that she was edited to look like she bombed at the roast. I also don't believe that, because I listened to her roast, and she doesn't know how to do it.

Wait a minute.

Maybe she doesn't know what a roast is.

Regardless, it's being called the worst roast performance ever, and it's hard not to agree. Coulter is mean and witless, she plugs her book as the only reason she's there, and she bombs as expected. Everyone ends up taking more shots at her than they do at Lowe, most likely because as comedians, they're just as "what the fuck is she doing here" as we are, and it's hard for them to let go of anything WTF-worthy in the moment. Everyone keeps looking back at her throughout as more and more gets piled on, in a sort of "I wonder what she's thinking right now" or a "God, is this really happening" kind of way. At one point, can't remember what joke it was, but Jeff Ross turns back to her, and it's the only time she actually speaks up, but I can't make out what she says. I'm pretty sure it's, "I'm not laughing." I don't know. It's very strange. It's a surreal moment in roast lore now. The huge bomb of The Situation Mike Sorrentino at the Trump roast is the only comparison. People will say Coulter's was far worse. That may be my only point of disagreement, though.

Let me be clear: I think Coulter is a despicable human being. On the most surface level, she is not a comedian and has absolutely no business here. I also don't feel bad for any of the jokes made at her expense throughout the evening. Regardless of how sincere the comics themselves feel about what they said, 1) I think she deserves it for the vitriol she's spewed over the years, and 2) they were jokes. But one thing I've read since the roast aired was that Coulter also wrote everything she said herself. And I gotta say, in a room where you know you're going to be the most hated, most reviled human being, in a forum you know absolutely nothing about, doing something you've supposedly never heard of, that's some balls. I can assure you 100% that The Situation Sorrentino did not write a single word of his material, and I'm frankly surprised he could read any of it, because I was convinced he was illiterate. Sorrentino had all the same disadvantages as Coulter, but bombed with material tailor-made for him. He failed so badly that Jeff Ross goes and saves him. Anthony Jeselnik says in interviews that he was the comic following Sorrentino and they had to take a break to regain control of the room. We all knew Coulter was going to be bad. And no one was going to give her the benefit of the doubt. So all that said, to go out there, rejecting the writers' lines for ones you wrote yourself takes some amazing guts or amazing self-delusion. Either way, is it still the worst roast of the night? You bet your ass.
The science is solid.

Host: David Spade
Spade lookin' sharp and killin' it all night long as the host. He was on point and kept an amazing forward momentum to the proceedings. I was worried he'd venture too far into his bitter and acerbic, but he kept it just light enough so as not to be a complete dick. Spade's best when he toes that line, and you can see it here. He proved his abilities without question. Seth MacFarlane may always be the most solid choice, but considering how close Spade and Lowe are, I'm glad Spade was here for this, and I'm so happy to see we got the best of him for the evening. There were so many good lines. I know I highlighted one earlier directed at Macchio, here are a couple others:
"Is Pete white? Is he black? Ann Coulter needs to know so she can decide if she hates him."
At Rob himself:
"Rob came up at a time when a sex tape could really ruin your career. But Rob had to do it the hard way: with his acting." 
"Rob was in Austin Powers 16 years ago. Can you believe it's 16? Or as he calls it, 18."
Man of the Hour: Rob Lowe
As per tradition, Lowe gets his rebuttal at the end of the evening. It's tough, because by then all the good lines are taken, and it's rare that the honoree is all that good at comedy. The best rebuttals over the years are from actual comedians, particularly stand-ups: watch Bob Saget's, Roseanne's, and my favorite Joan Rivers' for reference. Lowe is no stranger to comedy though, so his delivery is perfect, and it's hard to hate any joke that comes out of that handsome face.

I mentioned that I'm sure Manning was highly written for and Jewel wasn't, and I'm sure Lowe falls somewhere in the middle. There are writers for these roasts, and it's obvious when someone is delivering scripted lines or their own attempts. Lowe leans more to the former, but manages it with grace. His line of the night is of course at the expense of Coulter:
 "Ann, after your set tonight, we've all witnessed the first bombing that you can't blame on a Muslim."