Open Mic

Notes on Comedy Central's Rollicking Rivers Roast

Hillary Atkin Posted August 10, 2009 at 3:43 PM

Ah, the good old days … drinking, smoking and telling dirty, filthy jokes at the Friars Club—all in service of roasting the top comics of their time. Minus the smoking and drinking but with plenty of bleeped out vulgarity, Comedy Central is continuing the tradition with probably the best televised bake-off yet: its roast of Joan Rivers.

If you missed it last night, don’t worry, you’ll have many other opportunities to catch an hour and 40 minutes of pretty hilarious proceedings—hilarious if you like a few inappropriate jokes about the recent deaths of David Carradine and Michael Jackson, along with a huge dose of lewd descriptions of sex acts, mostly of the homosexual variety. This brand of humor is obviously not for the feint of heart—or for those without a vibrant sense of humor about their sexuality and/or ethnicity, age or religion.

Roast mistress Kathy Griffin, herself the butt of many plastic surgery jokes, looked sparkly and new in a black sequined getup and launched things by saying that when she is the biggest star in the room, you know you're f-ed. She then introduced the woman she called a "legendary bitch," Joan Rivers, who brought out a batch of multi-ethnic kids from what she said was Brad and Angelina's yard sale—and sent them off to make jewelry. It was all downhill from there—in an LOL kind of way, of course.

Taped before rollicking crowd on a soundstage at CBS Radford, the dais of roasters included comedy legend Carl Reiner, Howard Stern sidekick Robin Quivers, actor Brad Garrett, Gilbert Gottfried, Greg Giraldo, Jeffrey Ross, Mario Cantone, Tom Arnold and newcomer Whitney Cummings—who almost stole the show with her rat-tat-tat series of disses. (“Joan, I loved you in ‘The Wrestler.’)

And speaking of blood sport, the comedians went pretty easy on the other legend in their midst, Carl Reiner, only subjecting him to some old-age jokes and a couple of jabs about how he never did anything to top "The Dick Van Dyke Show." For his part, the 86-year-old Reiner made good sport of saying a few words that would have been unthinkable in those days of yore—and still have to be bleeped in this day and age.

Brad Garrett and Tom Arnold suffered through the inevitable savagery for their links to Ray Romano and Roseanne, respectively. And how can anyone make child molestation funny? Everyone who's ever listened to her knows that Robin Quivers has spoken quite often and openly about being molested by her father. To make this funny … well, trust me, people were rolling on the floor.

Jeff Ross joked that Rivers was so old that she was on both Craig's list and Schindler's list. And forget about f-ing Matt Damon, she was f-ing Charlie Chaplin. Things got really down and dirty when he suggested that Kanye West’s mom had a better plastic surgeon than Joan Rivers. Ouch.

The 76-year-old Rivers gamely sat through their sets, which did tend to hew to those few predictable themes—her face and sex acts, not necessarily in that order—until it was her turn to completely destroy them … and that she did. After all, the woman has more than 40 years experience of bringing down the house.