If you’re a viewer of Comedy Central, you know that they do occasional “roasts” of celebrities. These are in the tradition of the old Friars Club Roasts. These Roasts centered around one person who was being “roasted,” such as Johnny Carson, Richard Pryor, Humphrey Bogart, Lucille Ball and Billy Crystal. The other guests told jokes and insulted the Roastee. All in good fun, of course. The jokes were much tamer back then, too. This little clip of Groucho Marx at the roast of Johnny Carson in 1968 (younger readers, ask your parents who these great funny men are) gives you a good idea of what those old shows were like:
When Comedy Central revived the tradition in 1998 — as licensees of the Friars Club shows — the format stayed the same as the original Roasts. The Roastmaster was different each time and usually a close friend of the Roastee. When Comedy Central began to produce its own Roasts in 2003, the jokes got much racier. The first Roast they did was for Dennis Leary and, while it updated the jokes (and got a bit more nasty), the basic premise remained the same. Other celebrities Roasted since then have included Pamela Anderson, Charlie Sheen, Rosanne Barr and even Donald Trump (in 2011).
The latest celebrity to get Roasted is Rob Lowe. His Roast was taped on Saturday night at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City for broadcast on Labor Day, September 5th. Lowe went into the Roast with the attitude that nothing was off-limits (not even that infamous sex tape). As he told Dan Snierson of Entertainment Weekly in the September 2nd issue, “You can’t be a pussy about this. It has to be a free-fire zone.” That, Lowe said, is “the fun of it.”
Let it never be said that anyone was a “pussy” on Saturday night. Among the celebs on the dais were Roastmaster David Spade, SNL’s Pete Davidson, Jewel, Peyton Manning, Rob Riggle and one last-minute addition… Ann Coulter (cue Sesame Street’s “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others”). What does Ann Coulter have to do with Rob Lowe? Nothing. For some reason, Comedy Central wanted to let her come on to hawk her new book about Donald Trump. I did check and Viacom (CC’s parent company) does not own the publisher of said book, which makes it even more puzzling.
Maybe Ann didn’t realize what she was letting herself in for. Because it’s not just the Roastee who gets riffed on. Everyone on the dais will be the butt of at least one joke from each of the other Roasters. Ann should have known that for her to open herself up to barbs among a bunch of mostly liberal comedians was to invite some real calumny. And the Roasters — as well as the Roastee, who gets his turn at the end — did not hold back. These are some of the best quips, with the caveat that they are not PC and are pretty mean-spirited:
David Spade: “Ann hopes the Republicans can hold onto the House so she can still haunt it.”
Nikki Glaser: “The only person you will ever make happy is the Mexican who digs your grave.”
Peyton Manning: “I’m not the only athlete up here. As you know, earlier this year, Ann Coulter won the Kentucky Derby.” (Note: I took this to be a reference to Ann’s long face, not her looks in general.)
Pete Davidson: “If you are here, Ann, who is scaring the crows away from our crops?”
Rob Riggle: “If Ann Coulter is here, someone must have said her name three times. Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!”
Rob Lowe: “After seeing your set tonight, we’ve seen the first bombing you can’t blame on a Muslim.”
Several of the jokes were leaning a bit more to the misogynistic side for my taste. Jeff Ross made a remark about Ann’s still being single, as if she couldn’t be doing that on purpose. News Flash, Ross: women don’t have to get married.
But the worst “joke” came from Jimmy Carr, a relatively unknown (in America) British comic. He called Ann “repugnant” — which I’m down with — and went on to call her a “bitch.” A bitch? Please. You say it like it’s a bad thing. So far, so not very harsh. But Carr’s suggestion that Coulter could still “change” by killing herself went to an uncomfortable place. For me, at any rate.
Listen, I despise Ann Coulter with the blazing passion of a million suns. Hell, I usually refer to her as “Coultergeist.” But I would never, even in jest, suggest she kill herself. That’s a line I simply will not cross. Shame on Jimmy Carr for going to this length for a laugh.
Granted, Ann Coulter wasn’t very welcome at this event. She was booed by the audience when she was introduced and her jokes bombed like a B52. She has no connection to Lowe in any capacity, even Jewel and Peyton Manning have loose ties to him. But, when Coulter came up to the dais, she was right out in the open with her reason for being there, even though she said so jokingly:
“I’m only here for all the love and respect I have for Rob Lowe and all of the talented performers tonight. It has nothing to do with the book I published four days ago.”
Ann Coulter will probably go running to her pals on the right at World Net Daily, Breitbart and The Daily Caller to carp about how poorly she was treated. Fox News is already leading with Carr’s line. But, as they fairly (!!) note, Coulter said before going in that her “whole career has been an Ann Coulter roast.” I’m betting she didn’t expect this level of vitriol. I wonder what excuse she will use when she complains about her treatment?
Jewel summed up my feelings about the whole thing perfectly:
“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.”
Just so. I love seeing Ann Coulter get burned by some of the best. I love that she really didn’t know what she was getting herself into, despite her bravado. I love that she’s been taken down about a dozen pegs. I can’t wait to see the show next week.
Featured Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images