Thursday, August 5, 2010

Prohibited Bonfire on the Beach

Comedy Central is roasting David Hasselhoff. This is the tenth independent roast Comedy Central has done since their five year contract with the Friars' Club ended with the roast of Chevy Chase.

I love a good roast. The jokes, the camaraderie and friendship on display, and also the respect and love for an elder statesman. In my mind roasts, and especially the Friars Club roasts, have been a way to honor one of Hollywood's own. It's like an informal Academy Lifetime Achievement Award given by a group of friends. It's always seemed like a party a thrown by the best clique. Not just Hollywood insiders, but the cool kids. The misfits and comedians. The drunks and sluts. The minorities and poor kids. It's not an award for a specific piece of work, but rather a celebration of a person beloved by their peers.

And Comedy Central chose David Hasselhoff.

There is no love or respect there. No celebration of an esteemed colleague's career.

Assuming they are willing, Comedy Central has tons of celebrities to choose from. Why not roast Mel Brooks? The man has won an Oscar, 2 Emmys, 3 Tonys, 3 Grammys and something called a "Laurence Olivier Award." He has written and directed some of the best comedies on film (some real dogs too, but those are forgiven).

They could have roasted him, but instead got The Hoff.

Comedy Central has made some good choices for honorees in the past. Joan Rivers. Great choice. That's the kind of person you roast. She's 77 years old. She's been in the industry since the early Fifties. She knows everyone. Hell, Johnny Carson stopped speaking to her. If you're famous enough to have Johnny stop speaking to you, you're doing all right. And Comedy Central roasted her. Good pick.

This is what Joan Rivers actually looks like now.

And maybe they can't all be home runs. Even the venerable Friars' Club has had the occasional iffy choice. One recalls the roast of Steven Seagal in 1995.

Pamela Anderson. OK, I can kind of let this one slide. She's been in a bunch of stuff. She probably knows everyone. She's probably like the village kit car in

(Really a Fiero with a bunch of plastic shoved in it)

And it seems like there is probably a lot of good will toward her. That's key. The good will is missing from a roast of the Hoff.

He was Michael Knight and Mitch Buchannon. He is a pop star in Germany. He's not a guy that gets one of show biz's greatest honors. That is really the problem with the Comedy Central roasts. Sure, they're funny and vulgar, and sometimes have some warmth to them. But they really just serve as a venue for comedians that are well-liked by comedians to get together and make fun of a celebrity. There's nothing wrong with that. I like watching people take the piss out of Flavor Flav as much as the next guy. Hell, I have never even seen the Dog Whisperer and have absolutely no feeling about him, but I'd watch some funny people make clever jokes at Cesar Milan's expense. But it's not what I think a roast should be.

That seems to be the trend of the Comedy Central roasts. Larry the Cable Guy? Sure he's successful and a friend of Foxworthy's, but him? I'm sure that roasters like Warren Sapp, Nick Dipaolo, and Gary Busey really respect and admire Larry's work. That actually may be right. It's a total guess, they might actually love his schtick. But I bet the cool kids don't respect him. Or think he's funny. Or think of him at all, except as a reference for America's shitty taste. They are really just picking well known people to lambast. Before I looked into it, I honestly thought they had roasted Kid Rock. Was he on the Pam Anderson one?

(Look at that fucked-up eye)

One of the fundamental problems with roasting The Hoff is that he's not really in on it. Sure, he knows he's a joke, and he plays up to it. Sure, he knows he's an internet-drunk-cheeseburger-video-meme thing. He knows Americans don't respect his music career. But much like ICP, he doesn't really get it. Deep down he thinks he's cool and people, I don't know, respect? him. For Christ's sake, one of the terms of his divorce was that he retains rights to both "The Hoff" and "Don't hassle the Hoff."

[Note: It's tough to tell how much Shatner really gets it, or if he just "gets it" but there does seem to be real affection and regard for him.]

And who are these people? Sure there are going to be plenty of German teens and Baywatch co-stars, but it's not that amusing to watch Yasmine Bleeth slaughter a joke that was penned for her by a staff writer from 2 1/2 Men. The people ripping him apart will be the same stable of reliable wits CC always goes to. These people aren't his friends. They aren't going to destroy him with comedy and then go party with him next weekend and invite him over for barbeques. These are professional comedians that think he's a joke and are being paid to say shitty things to his face. That's really it. "Comedy Central Makes Fun of David Hasselhoff to his Face." Again, I'm mostly OK with that, but it's not what I think a roast should be.

[Full disclosure, of all these roasts I have mentioned about I have only seen the Bob Saget and the Bill Shatner in their entirety and bits of many others (both CC and FC). This is mostly just about what I feel a roast should be.]

This post was inspired in part by a conversation I had with the enthusiast.

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