News / TV

Comedy Central’s Roasts as a Stand-Up Springboard to Stardom

Is comedy’s Roast Era over? Or just in time-out like much everything else thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic? We’ll have to wait to find out.

But as Diallo Riddle pointed out in the first episode of Comedy Central’s Hall of Flame: Top 100 Comedy Central Roast Moments, which aired Monday night, what would a roast even look and sound like in 2021? Comedy Central hasn’t hosted and aired a roast since 2019 (Alec Baldwin), and The Friars Club, which brought roasts to Comedy Central back in 1998, has remained closed for repairs since shortly before the pandemic.

You can watch Episode 1 of Comedy Central’s Hall of Flame uncensored online.

And on Paramount+, you can watch a collection of episodes labeled Best of the Comedy Central Roast.

When I think of modern-day roasts, I cannot help but think about the late, great Greg Giraldo. As Mark Normand said in Comedy Central’s roast countdown, Giraldo had all of the best moments. Regardless of however and wherever Comedy Central decided to rank Giraldo (he so far has placed in the No. 94 slot, within 100-81). It’s sad that Giraldo never got his due mainstream success outside of the roasts, but nevertheless a testament to his greatness in them that some mainstream media put “insult comic” in headlines for his 2010 obituary.

Despite not doing more for Giraldo, the roasts did make a star out of Lisa Lampanelli, and allowed Jeff Ross to parlay his “Roastmaster General” branding into a talk show (The Burn, 2012-13), four specials (Jeff Ross Roasts America, Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals, Jeff Ross Roasts Cops, Jeff Ross Roasts The Border), a competition series (Roast Battle) and two more specials for Netflix (Bumping Mics with Dave Attell, and Historical Roasts).

Over the past decade or so, though, Comedy Central has used the roasts as a springboard for introducing and cultivating stand-ups on the brink of stardom.

Whitney Cummings performed on the roasts of Joan Rivers (2009), David Hasselhoff (2010) and Donald Trump (2011), before starring in her own NBC sitcom, Whitney, later in 2011, and also co-creating Two Broke Girls for CBS that year.

Anthony Jeselnik first performed on the Trump roast, then subsequently Charlie Sheen (2011), and Roseanne Barr (2012), before landing his own Comedy Central show, The Jeselnik Offensive, in 2013.

When Cummings left for TV sitcoms, Amy Schumer arrived for the roasts of Sheen and Barr, before the launch of Inside Amy Schumer on the network in 2013.

To replace Schumer on the dais, Comedy Central tapped Natasha Leggero for the roast of James Franco (2013) and Justin Bieber (2015). Leggero’s Another Period got picked up in 2015 and ran for three seasons on CC.

Nikki Glaser picked up the slack thereafter, appearing on the dais for the roasts of Rob Lowe (2016), Bruce Willis (2018) and Baldwin (2019). Her own CC series, Not Safe with Nikki Glaser, just so happened to debut in 2016, too! 🙂

So it makes perfect sense to have Glaser hosting Hall of Flame this week!

Where we go from here, who knows? But it’ll be interesting to see what comes next.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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