Today is the Comedy Central Roast. And the ground chuck being served up this year is none other than Academy Award nominee (for Lead Actor in 127 Hours) Mr. James Franco. Even though those doing the roasting often take as much heat as the roastee, Franco's friends have still lined up for the opportunity to turn up the heat on this eccentric Hollywood star. Now why would someone of Franco's stature agree to be the butt of everyone's jokes? Well, despite Comedy Central's rocky history when it comes to choosing roastees (come on, they roasted Flavor Flav!), roasts themselves have a more illustrious history.
The concept isn't a new one. The Friars Club dates their first to a 1949 celebration of Maurice Chevalier. But though they're said to have vaudevillian roots, the modern style is based on the televised roasts hosted by Dean Martin, dating back to his variety show in 1974. His roast episodes were so popular that, after the variety show was cancelled, NBC created a regular series called The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast to keep the tradition going. Roastees were examples of the best in their fields and included George Burns, Jimmy Stewart, Betty White, Frank Sinatra, and Muhammad Ali to name a few.
In 1998 Comedy Central's televised roasts began, partnered with the famous Friars. They sought to carry on the roasting tradition of beating the crap out of your guest of honor (with words) while always revealing an underlying respect (and jealousy) for their accomplishments that makes it all worthwhile. When that contract expired, the channel continued the tradition on their own. Since the initial roast of Drew Carey, Comedy Central has roasted Jerry Stiller, Rob Reiner, Hugh Hefner, Chevy Chase, Denis Leary (the first without the Friars Club), Jeff Foxworthy, Pamela Anderson, William Shatner, Flavor Flav, Bob Saget, Larry the Cable Guy, Joan Rivers, David Hasselhoff, Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen, Roseanne Barr, and now James Franco.
Since the type of evening the roast will be is one hundred percent contingent on the quality of the roastee (if you missed it, Pamela Anderson's anatomy made up the content of almost every joke for the night), the Franco roast should be more well-rounded. After all, this is the man who's got a regular column in Playboy, has published a collection of short stories, has received multiple degrees attended UCLA, Columbia, NYU, Yale, Rhode Island School of Design, Brooklyn College, Warren Wilson College (many at the same time), taught at USC, UCLA, CalArts and NYU, produced and directed a documentary, all while acting in blockbuster films, barely seen indies, the soap opera General Hospital, random web series, and a slew of guest shots on TV. And that's just in the last five years!
So what should you expect Monday night? Well, Seth Rogen has been named roast master, which, considering the long standing history between the two (both launched their careers on Freaks and Geeks and star in this summer's This is the End), makes perfect sense. And in what's become one of the longer lists of (higher quality) roasters for a Comedy Central Roast, the following comedians and actors are scheduled to join Rogen on the dais:
So, will James Franco live to regret his decision to be roasted? If his diverse career choices are any indication, no one has more of a sense of humor about themselves than Franco. It seems unlikely regret is something he indulges in.
But should you watch? As mentioned, roasts are never a classy evening, so those with sensitive constitutions should switch over to the 1983 film War Games on G4, starting at the same time. Actually, considering what's going on in the news today... maybe just go with the national parks special on PBS. If you think you can take it, this is more than likely a roast worth your time. Since the majority of the roasters are top notch comedians who actually have a personal relationship with this particular slice of beef, versus the hired guns sometimes called in for previous roastings (again, see Flavor Flav), this should be a great night of good, dirty, lovingly inappropriate fun.
The roast was held at Culver Studios in Los Angeles on August 18 and is set to air today, Monday, September 2, at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT, ending at the odd time of 11:41 p.m.
For more on the roast, including some sample video, click HERE.
Still not sure? For a taste of what to expect, try out this "Best of" from the 2011 Charlie Sheen roast. (Again, remember the source.)