Four comedy roasts from my career in showbiz, including Mrs. Piggy, Adolph Hitler, Kenny Rogers and The Almighty.
Nearly every comedian has faced a room where he falters and cannot win back the crowd. Yet comedy roasts are unique because they offer comedians the opportunity to truly drive a crowd apoplectic. Unfortunately, I seem to be a master at the above.
Here are accounts of four comedy roasts from my fourteen year career in showbiz.
A large gala filled with Muppets dressed in tuxedos and ballroom gowns heavy on frills, lace and flowers. Started out by taking a few stabs at Kermit, Crazy Harry, and, most of all, the irksome Great Gonzo. Soon I went in for the jugular by deriding Henson’s early creation, Rowlf, a piano-playing anthropomorphic dog. Howls of protest followed from the back of the room that I recognized, instantly, were voiced by Bert and Ernie.
Of course I suggested Bert spend a few weeks fondling Ernie’s rubber ducky, a nice pun, I thought, since Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman had recently implied the two of them were gay.
Unfortunately, as there were many left-leaning Muppets in the crowd, my politically-incorrect joke got more howls of disapproval. Sensing impending doom, I quickly recovered by praising Big Bird’s yellow bonnet as well as making obscure references to the incredible classiness of Gonzo’s main squeeze, Camilla The Chicken.
Next I really got in trouble. Having settled the crowd, I decided to mock the Cookie Monster by beating myself until blue in the face and singing, “F is for Fatty, So Planet Fitness Is Not For Me!”
Soon Timmy Monster, Thog, and Sweetums became so incensed that I would parody a creature who was already a parody that they charged the stage. Bedlam followed: nearly seventy-five Muppets from Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock and Muppet Babies assaulted me in a dreadful rage.
If it weren’t for Oscar the Grouch and Yoda, who calmed the crowd by doing impressions of each other, I am fairly certain I wouldn’t have survived. The roast ended by me stabbing Mrs. Piggy, putting her on a spittle, and serving her up to the group as a peace offering.
The Roast of Kenny Rogers
After listening to The Roast of Miss Piggy on National Public Radio, Greg Oswald, Kenny Rogers’s agent at William Morris, contacted me to partake in a Roast of Kenny Rogers sponsored by his label, United Artists.
Many modern greats were on the dais: Gilbert Gottfried, Jeffrey Ross, Liza Lapanelli, yours truly (okay, I’m not great, but they included me for some demented reason). Each roaster did fairly well, although none were able to get Kenny to so much as smirk. This frustrated me to no end, so I decided to lay it on thick.
Started by suggesting that Kenny put less time into gambling and more into pleasing his wives so that he wouldn’t have to get divorced more than Larry King. I then mocked his horrible fast-food chain, Kenny Roger’s Roasters, thanking the Lord that it was pedaled to Nathan’s—a brand that has soul (unlike Kenny who also lacked genitalia). Finally, I suggested Kenny’s cowboy attired would look perfect on a float at the gay pride parade.
None of this went over particularly well. It was fine for upper echelon comedians to poke fun at him. But not an unknown wiseass who learned his trade in the basement of a Hawaiian-themed Mexican Restaurant run by hardcore sociopaths.
Kenny kept heckling me. To allay matters, I went into my very light riff on “Through The Years,” called “Spew The Beers.” My miserable butchering of his heartfelt song provoked groans. Unfortunately, I mistakenly believed these groans of enjoyment.
What followed was a parody of “Lucille,” called “Grope And Feel,” that pissed off Kenny to the point where he knocked over a table. I later learned he was sensitive about sexual harassment (since he’d faced charges in the past). Certainly, that night at least, he was not at all the studious card player with an ageless wisdom he played on his TV series “The Gambler.”
It wasn’t long before he fell onto the stage clutching his chest. A cry went up for a doctor. By the time the doctor arrived Kenny shouted “April Fool’s!”
He then grabbed the microphone and delivered fifteen minutes of scathing insults entirely focused on yours truly. The crowd ate it up.
By the time it was over, this legendary country singer with dozens of Grammys, CMA’s, ACM’s, and a lifetime achievement award, made me shake with embarrassment. Never had I been so humiliated. Then he threw me to the ground and kicked me in the gut as the audience roared again.
The Roast of Adolph Hitler
Many years ago, while doing bar shows out of Bayonne, New Jersey, my buddy Joey T. introduced me to Arson, a comedian with a truly abominable stage name. Herbert Walker, as his mother named him, insisted his little pocket-sized music box was a time machine.
I didn’t believe a word, but humored him as he described how spinning the music box could transport you to any time period you desired. I paid him his fee, insisted I wanted to gig for a friendly audience, and, after he hypnotized me, I magically appeared in a small chamber where Goebbels, Himmler and the Führer played Gin Rummy. It was difficult to stand straight, so awed was I to by their presence.
Hitler told me he knew I was Jewish, and that, though he hated my kind, he had to admit we made the best comedians. He also mentioned he had a sturdy constitution that made it possible for him to handle any barb thrown his way. Since all his top officials ever did was compliment him he was desperate for the scum of the Earth to roast him mercilessly.
Of course, at first, I refused. I had been to one too many Holocaust museums to ever consider becoming a pile of ash in an exhibit in my own era.
But he told me my fate would be far worse if I did nothing, and, eventually, through bribery and mental manipulation (I was forced to watch Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph Of The Will forty-five times in a row), got me to let loose.
Started by taking jabs at his rather crooked mustache. Said it resembled an annoying little squirrel turd and then went in for the idiotic accent he laid on thick with all those autistic hand gestures.
Next suggested the only thing more impotent than a German Zeppelin was his performance in bed with Eva Braun. Rapidly I added that his decision to stop using bullets in Auschwitz and start using steam showers proved he was cheaper than the Jews he exterminated en masse. Finally, I implied he dug bestiality—for he seemed way too infatuated with his dog Blondie (the most Aryan creature of all).
When I was finished, the Führer stood, clasped my hand, and, joy radiating from his face, kicked me in the balls. Goebbels shoved a gun up my nostril and Himmler punched me so hard I fell over and could not breathe. Arson wound the music box, returning me to the park bench.
“Worth it?” he asked.
“I requested a friendly audience,” I replied.
“My bad. Still perfecting it.”
“Perfecting it? It was worse than a firehouse gig in Wayne, New Jersey!”
The Roast of The Almighty
I’ve read countless treatises on near-death-experiences. Still, I never lent them much credence until I fell off a stool and landed on my neck. The pain singed through me. When I opened my eyes a man in white pajamas floated above.
Soothing elevator music rose from beneath the clouds. Angel wings fluttered majestically. A cherub jammed out on the harp.
When I looked up again the man in white pajamas stood next to The Easter Bunny, the Toothfairy, and other creatures I thought were imaginary until that very moment. He told me I had five minutes to roast him and claimed he was timing me on his iPhone X (gold model of course).
Began by suggesting nothing was more annoying than his booming, authoritative voice. A storm ensued, but I told myself to hang in there even if he rained plagues on me.
Next I attacked his hoity-toity miracles, suggesting David Copperfield put him to shame. A lightning bolt crashed into my leg, throbbing pain radiating down to my toes. No worries. I’d dealt with tougher crowds.
Next I called him a third-rate, self-infatuated messiah. How else could you explain the despicable suffering humanity was forced to endure? At this I was thrown into a maelstrom, my clothes torn to shreds, arms pinned to the Tree of Life.
I spit muddy leaves out and called him an overrated hypocrite who clearly had a kiddie porn fetish (hence, its popularity on the internet).
I thought it was over for me. That he would end me for this last zinger. But, surprisingly, he sent me back to Earth.
No torture was worse, he said, than continuing to perform my lousy standup routine for disinterested crowds and comedy roasts. Finally, he suggested, as my parents have for years, that I smarten up and go to law school.