The Comedy Roast

Celebrating a Celebrity with Insulting Humor

Comedy Central Roast Of Justin Bieber - Arrivals
Anders Holm, Justin Bieber and Blake Anderson attend the Comedy Central Roast Of Justin Bieber. Jason LaVeris/Getty Images

A comedy roast is an event in which one particular guest is joked about and made fun of by his or her peers, usually in front of an audience. The roasters are typically assembled on a "dais" — a raised platform or stage — where they remain for the length of the roast.

The host of a roast is called the "roastmaster," who does jokes at the opening and then introduces each guest. The roasters then take turns doing jokes about the guest of honor, as well as the other comedians on the dais. A roast usually ends with the guest of honor ( roastee) getting the opportunity for a rebuttal against all of the insults hurled at him or her in the course of the evening.

Roasts are traditionally comprised of insult comedy and are known to be very vulgar, but still, it is largely considered a great honor to be roasted — especially when A-list comedians are on the bill.

The First Roast

Roasts first began as a tradition of the New York Friar's Club, where they were held in private as far back as the 1920s, though the first public roast featured Maurice Chevalier in 1949. Over time, the popularity of these roasts diminished in the spotlight of New York culture but still existed in smaller forms of private parties — often those hosted by rich celebrities and politicians. It wasn't until the 1970s that these celebrity roasts achieved mainstream popularity again when Dean Martin began hosting televised versions of the comedic grilling.

Premiering in 1974 to round out the last episodes of Martin's variety show "The Dean Martin Show" and continued into NBC's "The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts" series later that same year, airing once every couple of months until 1979. Bette Davis, Muhammed Ali, Lucille Ball, Ronald Reagan, Frank Sinatra, and even Martin himself appeared throughout the show's run to be the roastee.

Comedy Central Roasts

In the 2000s, Comedy Central revived the roast format by holding annually televised roasts, with guests including Bob Saget, William Shatner, Pamela Anderson, and Larry the Cable Guy. Larry was an especially good sport at his roast, weathering a barrage of insults and jokes at the expense of his career and success.

Comedy Central now releases one to three of these celebrity roasts every year, focusing on the biggest jokes of Hollywood — or at least those who can take a comedic hit in stride. Though sometimes this isn't the case such as Donald Trumps 2011 roast, wherein the now-president seemed to get increasingly irate and uncomfortable throughout the whole experience. 

On the flip side of that, Justin Bieber was said to be so cordial and lighthearted when he was getting absolutely destroyed in his roast that Comedy Central invited him back multiple times as a roaster and roastee. Check out Comedy Central's website to see who the next roast will be — it's sure to be hilarious!