On The Late Show with David Letterman last month, Roseanne Barr said of her upcoming roast that hosting network Comedy Central “told me they’re trying to do a whole new classy thing like the old Dean Martin roasts.” EW was on the scene for the taping of the Comedy Central Roast of Roseanne Saturday night at the Hollywood Palladium, and while it might be a bit of a stretch to label it “classy,” with one notable exception, the event was definitely tamer than more recent roasts. (It’s set to air on Sunday, Aug. 12.)
The network’s last roast was for Charlie Sheen, who was fresh off of his Unforgettable Meltdown of 2011. It is a tough act to follow. During Barr’s rebuttal at the end of her roast, she pointed out that Comedy Central, who invited her to an event in her honor, needed to “get a f—ing dictionary and look up the word ‘honor.’” But her roast was probably the closest a roast can be to feeling like a true honor.
Sheen was a much easier target with a wealth of shenanigans to poke fun at. For Barr, there’s fat jokes, jokes about how she’s a has-been and… that’s about it. There was a brief mention of her short-lived reality show Roseanne’s Nuts, surprisingly little attention on her National Anthem fiasco, and her run for presidency was more revered than mocked. Aside from that, there were the on-going jokes about how many menopausal women had been packed onto the stage – Barr was accompanied by roasters Carrie Fisher, Katey Sagal, Ellen Barkin, and roastmaster Jane Lynch.
The other roasters for the night were Seth Green, Wayne Brady, longtime roasters Gilbert Gottfried and Jeffrey Ross, along with stand-up comedians Amy Schumer and Anthony Jeselnik, who got plenty of jabs that were a variation on “Who invited these D-listers?”
Originality wasn’t exactly present in the Palladium. “I didn’t hear anything that I hadn’t heard before about myself,” said Green, who got rampaged with jokes about his short stature. Fisher endured plenty of drug addict jokes. Barkin weathered jabs at her cougar tendencies. Brady was needled for not being “black enough.”
With all the repeating of the same insults with different words, the event felt lacking in anything deeply shocking or offensive (with the exception of Ross). But it may have also been because the event was also marked by a pervading love for Barr.
“Everything that Roseanne has done has inspired reverence or respect or pioneering of human spirit,” Green also said after the show. “For as much as everybody can s— on her about her appearance or her incredibly public disagreements with people, it’s so different than Charlie who is a lightning rod for a unique kind of trouble. I think everyone who was on this stage was so heavily influenced by Roseanne at a young age that getting to honor her even in a scathing way is a privilege.”
Even Barr’s ex-husband, Tom Arnold, with whom she had a famously ugly split, was more heart-warming than insolent in his surprise appearance. (He claimed that the two of them hadn’t been in the same room for 18 years, though Barr admitted to reporters after the show that her apparent surprise when he walked onstage was feigned — they did talk about his appearance ahead of time.) Referencing Barr’s first TV appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Arnold said, “You got validation from the king that could never be taken away from you. Roseanne, you were my Johnny Carson,” which provoked a big awwww from the audience.
The event was very reminiscent of the motto of the New York Friar’s Club, where Ross is the Roastmaster General: “We only roast the ones we love.” Still, amid all the celebration of the “domestic goddess,” there were some jokes that definitely stung. Here are the meanest jokes (that we can print) from each roaster directed at the event’s guest of, well, honor. (Click here to read EW’s report on comedian Jeffrey Ross’ attempt at jokes about the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and the Aurora, Colo. movie theater shootings.)
“I was surprised you were running for president. I just think a lot of people just couldn’t picture you, like, running.” –Amy Schumer
“The thing with Roseanne is she has enough money not to work. But she still does a TV show every few years to punish the rest of us. You’ve even had two reality shows, which is a lot for someone who is completely out of touch with reality.” –Seth Green
“It’s great to see Roseanne back in the spotlight. Technically, it’s two spotlights, but you get the idea.” –Katey Sagal
“Folks, in case you don’t know where Hawaii is, it’s just off the coast of Roseanne. [To Roseanne] It means you’re fat.” –Jeffrey Ross
“Roseanne, it’s been said that you stole Sam Kinison’s style: you’re fat, loud and you died in the ’90s. But, Roseanne, you had to overcome a lot to make it in Hollywood, and that’s why I love you — bad marriages, mental illness, plus, you look like Roseanne. You’re oversized, beat up, and you reek of marijuana. You’re kind of like Willie Nelson’s tour bus. Except people still wanna ride that.” –Wayne Brady
“You’re a follower of the Kabbalah — how embarrassing for you — which is a form of Jewish mysticism. You know what else would be a form of Jewish mysticism? Hollywood giving you another show.” –Carrie Fisher
“Roseanne, what does it say about you that when you accused your father of incest, there was an outpouring of sympathy for your father.” –Anthony Jeselnik
“You totally changed the way men do not give a f— about women’s opinions.” –Ellen Barkin
“Tonight, it’s our chance to end the reign of Rozilla forever. Everyone, grab your torches and lead her to the pit. She’ll think it’s a barbecue!” –Gilbert Gottfried (in a running joke depicting Barr as the giant beast Rozilla)
“Rosie, this is true — she actually had ‘Property of Tom Arnold’ tattooed on her hip, which made me the fourth largest property owner in California.” –Tom Arnold
Comedy Central will air an edited version of the Roast of Roseanne on Sunday, Aug. 12 at 10 p.m. PT/ET.
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