Thursday, 22 September 2011

Comedy Central's Roast of Charlie Sheen

“Charlie, you’re the black sheep of a family that produced three Mighty Ducks movies.” – Jeff Ross

I’ve always been a little surprised at how long they string these roasts out for, surely there are only so many jokes you can tell about the same person.

Okay Charlie Sheen, given the year he’s had, is a goldmine of material, but it seems the roasters here felt the same as I do about this type of performance as the majority of them spent much of the time taking shots at either rather than the “rock star from Mars” sat front and centre.

Family Guy mastermind Seth MacFarlane hosted proceedings and did a good job, his jokes, whilst close to the bone, were very funny and were just on the right side of offensive. Making jokes about the various presenters/performers and the variable success rate of said jokes is how I usually grade big show hosts and MacFarlane definitely fared well on that front, as you would expect given the nature of the show he was presiding over.

The Family Guy supremo also took his various abuse well, as did everyone on that stage to be fair – you have to really to be part of it and come away with your respect still in one piece, and came out with a lot of credit, and for the most part his dignity intact.

The roasters themselves were, in no particular order: Jon Lovitz, Kate Walsh, Jeff Ross, Mike Tyson, Steve-O, Patrice O’Neal, William Shatner, Anthony Jeselnik and Amy Schumer.

Lovitz, who took to the stage first was disappointingly lacklustre, although I did appreciate the fact that he didn’t seem to have anything overly prepared and actually knew Sheen so spent most of the time just waxing lyrical about his friend.

Mike Tyson babbled incoherently for five minutes and generally just looked confused about what was going on. Steve-O and Kate Walsh did fine to say that they aren’t comedians, but neither was especially funny.

Patrice O’Neal who went last, I had been expecting to really hit it out of the park after being forced to take quite a bit of abuse all night without the chance to retaliate, but he too was actually a little disappointing when he finally got his chance. Although he does get points for not spending the whole of his section getting revenge on those before him who’d took shots at him, as I would have tried to do in his position.

Comedians who I’m not familiar with, Jeselnik and Schumer, were probably the most controversial performers with some quite strong and shocking material. Schumer in particular had some really over the top material, including a gag about Jackass star Ryan Dunn who died this year that seemed to shock Steve-O silent, and this is a man who we’ve seen drink horse semen.

I’m a great believer in nothing being too sacred when it comes to comedy and that without freedom of speech we have nothing, but even I thought Schumer went too far with some of her stuff. I can’t fault her for having the metaphoric balls to say what most people probably wouldn’t have had the stomach to say but there is a line and she did go over it quite a few times.

It must be hard being the relative unknown on a show like this so maybe she felt the need to really make a name for herself by being controversial, and she certainly succeeded if that was the case. You can’t be easily offended at a roast though so some of the reaction to her jokes has been way over the top.

Yes, she was out of line and it stopped being funny it was that offensive, but without people to really push boundaries like that we’d have a world of Michael McIntyres and no one wants to live in that world.

Performers of the night though were The Shat and Jeff Ross; the latter bizarrely dressed like Colonel Gaddafi for some reason. Shatner, a roast veteran himself, made a mockery of his eighty years on this, or some other, planet by showing more energy and exuberance than half of the other performers combined and his mix of one-liners and anecdotes about his career and the similarities, or lack thereof, to Sheen’s career was really great to listen to.

Ross on the other hand, delivered nothing more really than a string of brilliant one-liners, but easily had the best gags of the night. Ross had supported Sheen on his much maligned comedy tour earlier this year and you could tell there was some genuine affection there.

After taking the jibes in good humour all night it was finally time for “The Warlock” to speak and Sheen really put his tormentors in their places with a brilliantly observed rambling monologue that he undoubtedly didn’t write but was still uproariously funny.

Perhaps my favourite moment of the night came at the end though as Steve-O, for a second time, tried to get a black eye from Iron Mike my diving in to his fist. After failing the first time, second time was sort of the charm as the Jackass man broke his nose on Tyson’s fist. As blood streamed out of his nose, Shatner simply stood dumbfounded shaking his head disapprovingly and saying “Steve-O, Steve-O” over and over again, as Tyson left the stage apologising to Sheen who reassured the former champ “it wasn’t your fault” – a bizarre end to a bizarre night.

Overall I can’t say I laughed as much as I did at the only other one of these roasts I’d stuck with to the bitter end which was the Denis Leary instalment a while back, but that roast was aided greatly by the fact that the majority of the roasters were comedians Leary had worked with over the years so there was a great deal of familiarity and although there were some shocking jokes you got the sense that they were all done with great love and affection.

With the exception of a couple here, it certainly seemed the roasters didn’t know Sheen that well and a lot of the gags therefore felt mean for the sake of being mean.

All that said though I came away with a slight aching in my chest from laughing throughout so there are certainly worse ways one could spend ninety minutes of one’s time.

If anyone has followed Sheen’s antics this year and has more than a passing interest in the man himself I recommend checking out a repeat of the roast if you can catch it, but be prepared to leave your moral compass at the door.

No matter how offensive people may have found parts of Comedy Central’s Roast of Charlie Sheen it was still infinitely funnier than the Two and a Half Men that premiered that same night.


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