The March 30th roast of Justin Bieber was part of a great tradition of roasting celebrities on the Comedy Central stage. The hour long specials consist of roasters - usually comedians and other celebrities - taking turns bashing, ridiculing, and generally having a good time making fun of the roastee. Originally, celebrity roasts consisted less of one-liners and more of friendly sentiments. Early roasts, which were begun by the Friars' Club in 1904, weren't televised until the late 1960's. The tradition went mainstream in the 1970s, beginning with the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast.
Comedy Central took over roasting after its split from the Friar's club in 2002. Since then, Comedy Central roasts have become less about honoring fellow actors/comedians, and more about ridiculing celebrities who are already in the publicity toilet. Roasters are also more diverse than they once were, including celebrities such as Snoop Dogg and the Situation, both of whom are nowhere close to being professional comedians.
Despite the cut throat nature of celebrity roasts, people still enjoy watching their favorite stars deliver one-liners aimed at cutting through otherwise untouchable celebs. Of a long line of celebrities taking their seat in the roasting chair, some have been more painful - and correspondingly hilarious - than others. These are ten that have truly gone down in comedy history.
10 Larry the Cable Guy
The Warner Bros. lot was filled with comedians such as Lisa Lampanelli, Jeff Foxworthy, Greg Giraldo, and Jeffrey Ross on March 1, 2009 for the roast of Larry the Cable Guy. The honoree was dressed in his best cut-off t-shirt and jeans as he sat politely listening to fellow celebrities poke fun at everything from his lack luster acting to his comedic sets. The jokes were not nearly as dirty as the roast of say, Pamela Anderson, but they were still funny enough to keep the audience laughing hard.
9 James Franco
After James Franco's less than stellar performance at the 2013 Oscars, he was sure to get more than a few harsh jabs at his September Comedy Central Roast of James Franco. Led by Seth Rogen, roasters included Jonah Hill, Sarah Silverman, Andy Samberg and Bill Hader.
8 Pamela Anderson
Back in 2005, Pamela Anderson was still somewhat of a well known celebrity. She was also the perfect target considering her sexually charged film career and her less than stellar intelligence. It of course was no shock that the entirety of the roast with littered with explicitly sexual jokes from roasters Jeff Ross, Nick DiPaolo, Bea Arthur, and Sarah Silverman.
7 Hugh Hefner
For a man who has made his entire celebrity of selling sex, getting old does not come easily. But it does create a lot of material for comedians. There is no more of an easier target than Hugh Hefner.
6 Joan Rivers
The late Joan Rivers was considered a comedic legend, so it's no surprise that during her Comedy Central roast, Rivers gave the very best comedic performance of the entire hour-long special.
5 William Shatner
4 Charlie Sheen
Throughout his acting career Charlie Sheen has had his fair share of public meltdowns. He has also given comics more than enough ammunition to fill an hour long roast. And the comedians and talent that took the stage made use of every embarrassment Sheen so willingly gave them. Jeff Ross, Mike Tyson, and Patrice O'Neal took the stage along with Sheen in 2011.
3 Johnny Carson
After the country suffered through tragedies like the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, the airing of the Friar's Club Roast of Johnny Carson was a breath of fresh comedic air. And this roast was more than just foul mouthed jokes and quick one-liners.
2 Don Rickles
1 Frank Sinatra
The roast of Frank Sinatra really embodies what the original celebrity roasts were meant to be. In a cloud of cigar smoke, the roasters lined the stage, their drinks in hand while they paid tribute to Sinatra. Celebrities such as Dean Martin, Don Rickles, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Stewart, Orson Welles, Gene Kelly and Peter Falk came out to honor their longtime friend. The roasters took full use of Sinatra's multiple divorces, mob ties, many female companions, constant chattering, and all around swaggering lifestyle. Peter Falk added the finishing touch to the roast with his portrayal of Detective Lt Columbo.
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