I’m fascinated with mean people.
Not “Hitler mean.” Or “12th century Inquisition mean” or “Mother Teresa ‘suffer-before-you-die’ mean.”
I mean … like “Jeffrey Ross mean.” Ross makes a living by being mean. He’s the Roastmaster General at the New York Friar’s Club. His working life is a constant stream of verbal catharsis.
Ross is known to the masses for his work on Comedy Central roasts. For 5-8 minutes he picks off D-list celebrities like a spoken sniper. He calls people fat, talentless and takes jabs at their personal downfalls and mistakes.
And he laughs. His sparring partners laugh. The audience laughs. We all laugh.
But, why? Isn’t this cruel? Why does cruel feel so good?
The simple answer is that Ross and the rest of the “roasters” say things we are all thinking but have the self-awareness to reserve saying. (This is a “social norm.” It’s also a norm worth breaking.) As the adage goes, “It’s funny because it’s true.”
This logic seems applicable for Ross. He is a proxy for American culture. We love making fun of actors and the TV shows they’re in. Who wouldn’t want to make inappropriate sex jokes about the character Danny Tanner from “Full House?” And the audience, well, shit, they’re three drinks deep and will go along with just about anything.
But what about the person being “roasted?”
They’re (mostly) comedians. They can “take a joke.” But does something manifest itself in Lisa Lampanelli’s mind when she gets her umpteenth fat joke lobbed her way? (She always has the same reaction: She tilts her head as far back as it goes and guffaws.)
For starters, a lot of what the roasters say is true. Lampanelli is a hefty woman. It’s not as if they’re taking swings at a vulnerable anorexic. “It’s all for fun” is a platitude that can only go so far.
Maybe Lampanelli is that strong, though. I hope she is. She claps and enjoys herself and can certainly bring the pain when needed to. Self image and awareness is crucial for a comedian. They’re naturally observant people. They’re comfortable in their own skin
It takes a special person to sit on stage in front of a crowd and have every nuance and idiosyncrasy about you exploited for entertainment. Could you handle it?
Get to the point, dude.
This post isn’t exclusively about roasts. It’s more of a buffer to explain this blog. Hell, to explain me. For a couple years I’ve toiled with the idea of a blog. I always had ideas for posts, but they came and went. I could never narrow my focus as to what I wanted the blog to be.
I’m not inventing the wheel. But I want to be a spoke that stands out on the wheel.
I’m lucky enough to have found, understood and embraced my writing style. It has gotten me into trouble … but it has also won me awards.
When in college, I wrote columns for the school paper. This is usually pretty easy to do because any idea works for a “college” audience. Nowhere in life (probably) will you work for a publication that is catered to a more diverse crowd. When writing, I always tried to answer the question, “What are we doing, and why do I think we’re doing it?” It has been my most useful approach to writing for an audience.
I would love it if the comments section became popular on this site. A big part of why I want to approach this is to create conversation amongst others. I, by no means, have all the insight to the world.
I want it to be fun. This isn’t a serious psychological journal that gauges the breadth and depth of an inane topic. (You’re thinking of Malcolm Gladwell’s goals.)
I want this blog to make people laugh. It’s my opinion about our society. It’s political. It’s sociological. It’s pop culture. It’s why-the-fuck-are-we-doing-this?
It’s a roast of our culture, our world.
And it’s not rated “G.”