For the 30 year old and under crowd, you may think of Comedy Central when you hear about a Comedy Celebrity Roast. A Comedy Roast being where a celebrity allows themselves to be ridiculed, embarrassed, and just basically made fun of by another celebrity peer or comedian. At the expense of the celebrity being “roasted”, the audience gets a great laugh. Between 1998 and 2002, Comedy Central produced and televised an annual show at the New York Friars’ Club. Such celebrities as Drew Carrey, Jerry Stiler, Rob Reiner, and Chevy Chase we roasted. Although this particular roast show no longer airs, Comedy Central continues to bring celebrity roasts to the mainstream. But Comedy Central did not start these hilarious roasts. So, where did this all begin?
Celebrity Roasts actually date back to the 1920’s, most of which were also held at the New York Friar’s Club. But it wasn’t until Dean Martin’s show Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts began to air on network television, that the mainstream really got a taste of it…
The Dean Martin Show was one of the most successful and popular shows in American history. But even popular shows begin to decline and that started to happen for Dean Martin in 1973. In an effort to boost ratings a new feature of the show called “Man of the Week Celebrity Roast” was added to the show. Martin would have a celebrity guest seated at a banquet table, who would then be ridiculed, chided, and insulted about their career by fellow celebrities. It worked. The audience loved it. Instead of signing a new contract for The Dean Martin Show, they started “Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts”.
The “roasts” were widely popular and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts ran on NBC from 1974-1984, with a series of 54 specials and shows.
Time Life Music has brought back all the hilarity of these roasts on the 6 DVD set compilation Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. Watch the who’s who in the hot seat like Jimmy Stewart, Sammy Davis JR, Jack Benny, Michael London, Kirk Douglas, Joan Collins, he even roasted George Washington!
I am one the young crowd who was not around when Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts aired and I have not gotten a chance to see it. I definitely will be getting this for my dad, however, because he loved Dean Martin. Watched his variety show when he was young and then the Roasts as well and has long spoken of how funny this show was. I’m excited to see it as well. To go back to a time when comedy didn’t rely quite so much on vulgarity to be funny.
Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts is a great way for those of us who are young to look back in history and see some of the beginnings of comedy. And a great way for those who grew up watching Dean Martin and the Celebrity Roasts to relive those fond memories.