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(T)rump Roast

What do Pamela Anderson, David Hasselhoff and Donald Trump have in common?

A. They are dumb blondes…even if it’s fake blond.

B. Their 15 minutes expired 15 years ago.

C. They are more famous for being famous than for actual worthy accomplishments.

D. They are how low the bar has sunk for “celebrities” at Comedy Central Roasts.

E. All of the above.

Which doesn’t mean that I’m not tuning in to watch; when truly funny people like Anthony Jeselnik and Whitney Cummings are going to savage easy targets, I’m game. But not only has the roastee gone down hill, but the dais now features the brain-dead (The Situation) and the living dead (Larry King) where giants one sat. Sadly, ace roaster Greg Giraldo is no longer with us, but where is Nick DiPaolo? Where is Colin Quinn? Where is Norm MacDonald? Where is…oh wait, I know where Gilbert Gottfried is

Maybe they were busy. Maybe they didn’t want to go slumming. But here’s how The Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump did go…

I think Seth MacFarlane is a perfect host; he’s got a great voice and really knows how to deliver a joke. Even if they’re ones he didn’t write, like perhaps “If his plan is to fire everyone he’s two years too late” or “He has such a big ego, when he bangs a supermodel he closes his eyes and imagines he’s jerking off.” With David Feldman and Jesse Joyce writing copy, at least there were good zingers for those qualified to deliver them. He’s also unafraid to go there, like feigning retardation while talking to the Jersey Shore mook.

Of course that was half the problem – the dais. Larry King was horrible, stumbling through lines he looked like he was seeing for the first time, and giggling at every one with that pedophile heh-heh-heh that is beyond creepy. “Lisa Lumpa Jelly“, he snarked…wow. But he seemed like Rodney Dangerfield next to the Ab Man (I’m not typing his name again), who was so inept that the crowd either booed or sat in total silence until Jeffrey Ross had to go up to the podium and beg for mercy. Granted, he’s not a comedian…but then why the fuck is he up there trying to be one? Is he banging Trump’s daughter? The Proactiv commercial during the break was funnier.

Marlee Matlin played the role of the proper girl who gets filthy-mouthed for the event; this is now a staple of every roast. And she was a good sport, and funny – using an interpreter to speak for her (when the camera picked him up earlier, I thought he was a Barack Obama look-alike who was going to engage in a skit with Trump!). But when he quit in mock exasperation, Gilbert Gottfried came out to take his place and got a huge ovation before tearing the room a new one. Obviously filmed before the Tsunami Twitter incident, Gilbert proved that nothing was ever sacred by saying Trump had defiled New York so much he is known as the “twentieth terrorist“.

Lisa Lampanelli’s “I love the brothers” routine is beyond tired but she did get off a couple of good lines. To Trump about his hair: “What do you have to say to a barber to get that haircut? I fucked your daughter?Snoop Dogg, always cool, got off a keeper when he riffed on Trump running for President by saying if he won it wouldn’t be the first time he kicked a black family out of their house. More consistently solid was Whitney Cummings, who peppered the stage with jabs on her first few jokes but then finished in a flurry of uppercuts and right crosses. By comparison, she had the biggest balls on the stage.

The clear winners of the evening were Jeffrey Ross and Anthony Jeselnik. Great to see Ross absolutely kill; he had the line of the night (to Trump: “Are you having a good time? Yeah? Tell your face…“). And Jeselnik deadpanned his way through one winner after another, from the simply clever (“the sense of humor to embarrass yourself on Saturday Night Live…and the casino business“) to the brilliantly subversive (“Marlee Matlin…are you even listening to me?”).

Theer were a few heartfelt mentions about Greg Giraldo, and he was sorely missed, although Jeselnik scored well enough to be considered for the role of roast assassinOr maybe they can feature Jesse Joyce, Giraldo’s writing partner and a hilarious dude in his own right (who also wrote some of the better lines on this show). Get some fresh blood up on the dais – quick thinkers with a ruthless streak like Joe DeRosa, Joe Materese and Kurt Metzger. You are filming this in New York, right? I hear some comics hang out there.

Hopefully this will wind up on DVD where some of the funnier or more cringe-worthy elements can be seen in all their glory. Most of the shows have been available, with few exceptions – the Joan Rivers set is a notable omission. Too bad – there were some tremendous punches thrown at her, and she returned hellfire. Much more impressive than Trump reading the teleprompter.

And to borrow a line from Mr. Ross…”Greg Giraldo, roast in peace.”

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Stand Up Wit… Greg Giraldo

giraldo-roast

I’m not a big fan of Larry the Cable Guy– I don’t dislike him, I just don’t find his shtick hilariously funny – but if Comedy Central is going to roast someone, I’m watching. The Comedy Central roasts are modeled after the classic Friar’s Club events as well as the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts – as ribald (or more) as the former and as accessible as the latter. And although the honorees are fairly easy targets (Pamela Anderson, William Shatner, Flavor Flav, etc.) there are always a decent array of comedians taking their shots and a few performances that have you falling out of your chair. The roaster’s basic job is to take the podium, insult everyone else on the dais and finish by skewering the honoree. Few are better at this than Greg Giraldo

Giraldo is a law school graduate, which shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with his acerbic and cerebral wit. I never saw his short-lived television series Common Law, but I’ve seen enough projects centered around edgy comics  to know that network television in 1996 could never have handled what Giraldo was probably hoping to dish out. Outside of a couple of sound bytes (probably from his Howard Stern appearances) my first immersion into Giraldoworld was probably Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, the late, great comic round table that aired on Comedy Central for two seasons. Quinn’s format was loose, a hot topic free-for-all where the bad jokes aired right alongside the good ones. Giraldo was among the most frequent guest panelists along with Jim Norton, Nick DiPaolo and Patrice O’Neal.

Tough Crowd was crude, rude and loud, and the comics often talked over and ganged up on one another; definitely not a show for everyone. But it was clear that Giraldo was fearless and funny, and had the show not been abruptly cancelled, it might have become his springboard to fame. After initially promoting the program, Comedy Central turned its back on it; one wonders what would have happened had the network spent even a fraction of the dollars it threw at Dave Chappelle, and later, Carlos Mencia. Giraldo was eventually offered his own show which didn’t make it to air, and later hosted Friday Night Stand-Up (later Stand-Up Nation) which allowed him to get a few short bits in-between recorded broadcasts of comedy specials on Comedy Central. These days you’ll find him guesting on the aforementioned roasts, appearing as (irony alert) a lawyer on Root of All Evil, or a popular guest on the late night talk show circuit. His two half-hour comedy specials are must-sees and air frequently on cable.

Giraldo continues to be one of the most underrated comics in the business; despite his success on television and as a live performer, he doesn’t get the respect or the high profile he deserves. I don’t understand why – he’s hysterically funny, smart as a whip and lightning fast on his feet.  Late in 2006 he finally released his first comedy CD titled Good Day To Cross A River. The hilarious live show features many of his best classic bits along with a slew of (then) newer material. It’s a perfect testament to his performance style; sharp social observance (Bruce, Carlin) tempered more by incredulous exasperation than anger (Lewis Black without the foaming mouth). I highly recommend that you buy a copy of this…you’ll be quoting lines from this album for a long time.

And Greg, it’s time for a new one!

"You ain't from around here, are ya boy?"

"You ain't from around here, are ya boy?"

Giraldo roasting Cheech and Chong (along with TCM‘s Robert Osbourne and Tommy Chong’s wife). “Cheech met Chong in Canada where Cheech went to avoid the draft. Wow…you’re the first Mexican ever to leave the country illegally….”

Giraldo dissects Larry the Cable Guy. “You’ve been inside more farm animals than Purina!”

The classic LazyBoy collaboration, “Underwear Goes Inside The Pants“.

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