Comedy Central’s taping of the Roast of Roseanne on Saturday night was a relatively tame affair – except for the appearance by the self-proclaimed king of roasts, Jeffrey Ross.
The comedian, who has now appeared in 10 of Comedy Central’s roasts and who is currently the Roastmaster General at the New York Friar’s Club, clearly stepped into the Hollywood Palladium with intent to push the envelope on Saturday, and if the audience’s reaction is any indication, he succeeded.
Before the taping started, the crowd gathered for dinner in the Hollywood venue was abuzz with Ross’ red carpet appearance. In a reference to one of the country’s biggest scandals of 2011, Ross had come dressed as the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, flanked by two adolescent-looking boys, who wore nothing but football helmets and towels tied around their waists.
The entourage didn’t appear during the taping, but Ross did wear his Paterno outfit for the show. Once Ross took to the podium, he turned to red-haired fellow roaster Seth Green. “Congratulations,” Ross said to Green. “This is actually a really big night for you. You haven’t gotten this much attention since you shot all those people in Aurora.”
The joke was met with a resounding ohhhhh from the audience, but Ross wasn’t finished. “I’m kidding!” he said. “You’re not like James Holmes. At least he’s doing something in a movie theater that people remember.” That was met with continuing sounds of mouth-gaped shock, along with a mix of boo’s and a scattering of slow applause. (Click here for EW’s full on-the-scene report from the entire roast.)
Ross follows actor-comedian Dane Cook’s recent jokes about the July 20 shooting at an Aurora, Colo. midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Cook later apologized, saying, “I made a bad judgment call with my material last night & regret making a joke at such a sensitive time.”
Backstage after the taping, Barr was clear with reporters about what she thought of Ross’ ill-received jokes.
“That crossed the line,” she said. “But comedy is about moving the line… And where is the line in a country that has freedom of speech? Maybe there isn’t one.”
Barr also commented on the recent trend of comedians apologizing for their offensive jokes. “You do take a risk to say anything these days,” she said. “Yeah, there are people that are just short of stalkers, waiting for you to f— up so they can do their self-righteous thing. Comics are the bravest of the brave. A lot of comics who do cross-the-line stuff — there’s a lot to be scared about… We’re certainly not gonna f—ing shut up. We’re not gonna go that way.”
An edited version of the Comedy Central Roast of Roseanne will air on Comedy Central on Sunday, Aug. 12, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.