Roasts are entirely crude, inappropriate, over-the-top affairs, full of jokes which can range from blisteringly cruel stings to good-natured jabs. They can be offensive to the point of making most people uncomfortable. This includes everyone who participates in the roast, all of whom end up being co-victims of the trash talk. In fact, roasts are just a bunch of really funny and/or rude people sitting around and saying really awful things about each other and every one of them loves it. So it’s sort of like family.
In the end, though, all the cursing and ridicule conceal a genuine appreciation and celebration of the one being roasted. And there is no female comedian — scratch that, no comedian — more worthy of a roast than Roseanne Barr, who was awarded the honor last night on Comedy Central.
Roseanne was one of the most revolutionary ladies to ever be on TV, if not the most revolutionary. She represented both women and the working class in a way that has yet to be rivaled. Her show was more brave, more honest, more real, and accordingly more funny than anything that has come before or since. She incites a lot of passionate emotion in folks — you love her or hate her — but everyone can probably agree on one thing: Roseanne isn’t afraid to say whatever the hell she wants. She is loudly and unapologetically herself. And in my book, there is nothing better or more important than that.
And lest we not forget — she was also responsible for the first lesbian kiss on TV.
But back to the roast. If Roseanne herself isn’t enough, guess who the roast master was? The one, the only Jane Lynch. And guess what song played as the introductory credits rolled at the beginning of the show? Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl.” This roast was already perfect.
In her first few minutes on stage, Jane Lynch makes a joke about the stage being full of more old hens than a Chick-Fil-A. Which then allows her to say: “Oh, and that reminds me — fuck Chik-Fil-A.”
See? This is why roasts are fun.
As the show went on for an hour and a half, I won’t take you through every joke, but here were a few highlights:
I have to be honest and say that I previously had no idea who Amy Schumer was. She was the first to come to the mic after Jane and my first thought was, “Hm, I hope this girl is going to be able to do Roseanne justice.” And then as soon as she started giving everyone on the stage shit, I was laughing out loud. Girl is seriously funny. When Roseanne was complaining about all the second-rate people they got to come to this gig later in the show, she described working with Meryl Streep, who has three Oscars. She then turned to Amy and said, “And you only got fourth on Last Comic Standing.” Amy then turned to the crowd and waved, saying sincerely, “Thank you for your votes.” Her comic timing is perfect. And guess what? She’s on tour. Do you like smart ladies and do you like to laugh? Go see her.
Carrie Fisher, most famous for her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars along with many other writing accomplishments, was amazing not just for how much she made fun of herself but how much she called out the other comedians on their lack of creativity in their jokes. By the time she got up to the mic, there had already been a ton of jokes about Seth Green being short and Wayne Brady not being black enough, along with endless cracks at old women and menopause. She calls out the repetitiveness, saying “Oh, let’s do another period joke. White joke, short joke, old woman joke ha, ha, ha! Hilarious!” Oh snap, Carrie Fisher.
One of my other favorite parts of the whole evening was when she identified herself as being mentally ill, and Roseanne, who has also publicly discussed her struggles with mental illness, clapped and whooped. Solidarity: it is a beautiful thing.
So Jeff Ross is a pretty crude guy, as evidenced by the fact that he was dressed up as Joe Paterno for this event. And some of his jokes did in fact make me pretty uncomfortable, but I’m mentioning him just for the serious note he included at the end of his bit when he addressed Roseanne and the freedom of speech that comedy so gloriously celebrates. He says, “At a time when so many comedians are doubting what they do, and some are even starting to apologize for their jokes, you are a hero, a martyr, and a friend.” Word to that, Jeff.
Remember when I said that roasts could go over-the-top? So Gilbert Gottfried spent the first five minutes of his monologue talking about how he had to scream to be heard because the mic was covered in the pubic hair that flies out of Jane Lynch’s mouth whenever she talks. So this is entirely gross, but he kept going on and on about it in such ridiculous detail that everyone on stage and in the audience was practically falling out of their seats by the end of the it. And I guess I am pretty gross, too, but I like watching people practically fall out of their seats in laughter.
Roseanne herself, being one classy bitch.
My favorite thing throughout the roasters doing their thing was when they hugged Roseanne and thanked her in turn, and she would say, “Thank you! Thank you for being here!” in this very genuinely thankful way. She overall had this wise, kind glint to her sassiness, like a comforting grandma, and she laughed her perfectly obnoxious laugh at every joke.
And then she got up herself and declared herself “the baddest, meanest bitch on Earth. Thank you.” And I wanted to cheer. She continued, “And that is the reason that I am running for President of these Goddamn United States of America.” Because in case you didn’t know, she is. If you’re a fan of radical politics and are not following her on Twitter (@TheRealRoseanne), you should be. Following Roseanne on Twitter is pretty much a show in itself.
The most surprising point of the whole night was Tom Arnold showing up to what appeared to be the genuine surprise of everyone. If what he said was true, it was the first time he and Roseanne had been in the same room in 18 years. He gave a bunch of cutting, roast-y jokes about their intense history, ending it with a heartfelt notion of gratitude. Being the classy bitch that she is, she took the whole event in stride, thanking him for coming when she got up to give her speech. “It was very brave, and he was very funny.” Of course, she then added: “But Jesus Christ, how many fucking jobs do I have to get for that guy?”
Not shockingly, she continued to dish out some of the best shade, often in the simplest yet most perfect ways. Ellen Barkin, a star of Ryan Murphy’s upcoming The New Normal, was another roaster and another highlight of the evening. After Roseanne gave her praises to Jane Lynch, she turned to Ellen to say, “Ellen Barkin! I thought you were dead!”
The one thing that bothered me all night was how every single roaster made a joke about Roseanne’s weight, which, of course, was to be expected. Roseanne is no stranger to these jokes, and she even seems to welcome them. It just got boring after a while. Like, really? Another fat joke? I mean, Roseanne most recently had a reality show on Lifetime about harvesting macadamia nuts in Hawaii called Roseanne’s Nuts. You couldn’t get anything out of that?
And on top of that, the jokes didn’t even seem relevant, because Roseanne looked divine. She had sparkles in her hair, a majestic silver coat, and a pair of mighty smart glasses. She is also rocking that gray hair like no other. The woman looks amazing, and as confident and strong as ever. She is an American hero.
In the end, while roasts can offend, they also revel in the idea of never taking ourselves too seriously. Jeff Ross noted at the beginning of his speech that comedy comes from pain, which is why Roseanne has always been so good at it. To turn pain into comedy is a gift, and this roast was a great reminder of how lucky we’ve all been to have Roseanne’s gift in our lives. If you were too busy watching the Olympics Closing Ceremony last night to catch the roast, I completely understand. But keep an eye out for a rerun. Roseanne herself put it perfectly at the end of the night: “There’s nothing better than a good laugh—nothing on earth.”