Today is the #BieberRoast ! Now, for those who don’t know what a roast is/are unknowly missing out on one of comedy’s longest tradidtions; a roast is when a group of funny folks collect to tease a good sport. These jokes range from good natured ribbing to near fatal comedic attacks veiled with a shrug and a wink to the audience. The subject of the roast is made to sit upon a throne through this event with a smile on their face and laughter in their throat. But what happens when a joke goes horribly wrong? When it cuts too close to the not so funny bone? The roast is tricky territory, so I am here to share some etiquette tips to help you stop a joke from going too far.
The roast evening has a classic format: MC introduces the Roastee, tells the audience to tip their waitress*, then proceeds to introduce each presenter, until they have all roasted, then the MC invites the well roasted Roastee to roast the presenters. Simple enough right? The hard part is: How do I tease someone, in front of their friends and family without really hurting anybody’s feelings? How indeed. As an occasional funny girl, I’ve told a few (MANY) bad jokes ‘cue the crickets and tumbleweeds’, but there are a few simple rules that might save you from my fate.
How To Roast
- Know your subject, know your audience. Knowledge truly is power. It will also inform the type of jokes you can get away with. If great-aunt Helga is overtly sensitive about her viking heritage, then pillaging jokes may be too invasive.
- Don’t steal thunder. If you have heard another presenter tell a “classic-Roastee” story to uproarious reception at many a social event, know they are going to whip out that whale tale, hoping for a similar response. You’d be a special kinda jerk if you stole it. Plus stealing jokes, who does that? I mean c’mon, you’re better than that.
- Jokes should be short, but not sweet. A short zinger is better than a long story with only one funny moment. A quick sting isn’t as personal as a detailed/boring/drawn out/graphic tale of woe.
- Avoid repetition. It’s repetitive. People don’t want to hear a joke again and again. Repeat after me: If someone has told your joke, you should cut it out. (Unless of course, your joke is SO funny the world would suffer from not hearing it.)
- Avoid jokes about those “off limit” topics. Typically, things that cannot be changed; like the Roastee’s mother is dead or his son was born with 3 legs…well, that last one would be hard not to roast, but you get the idea.
- Roast jokes are always better when they aim up. Instead of simply pointing out the negative, put a positive spin on it: “It’s tough being bald, but at least you’re saving money on shampoo.”
- Play on words. Be clever. ‘Nuff said.
- Avoid collateral damage. Often the Roastees inner circle can be hit with joke shrapnel, and they are not your target. Keep your jokes specific to the Roastee, unless his 16 ex-wives are all there…it would be hard to avoid ALL of them.
- The best jokes are based in truth, especially if it’s a truth known to the entire audience. Who knew honesty can be hilarious? Honestly?
- Be a good listener, and laugh at the other presenter’s jokes. The more people engaged and laughing the less pressure on the Roastee. Plus you can’t avoid repetition, if you don’t know what’s been said.
- Roast the other presenters. They are fair game, but follow the same rules. This also gives the Roastee a sense of “We’re all in this together”, even though we all know why we’re in this.
Other than those 11 hints, there so many other possibilities for how to tell a joke without hurting anyone. But my suggestions boil down to this: Be careful. Careful is a great word. I find myself in trouble when I am not “taking care”. When I let my jokester-brain take over is when I break every one of my good-clean-funny suggestions. If I were careful I wouldn’t have to apologize for my jokes half as much as I do, but that’s another blog entry entirely. Good luck Bieber! I hope you get evenly roasted on all sides, cuz there’s nothing worse than awkward tan lines.
* 15% or $2 for the first drink, $1/drink after but that’s a story for another day.