Photo: Jason Merritt/FilmMagic (Getty).
Over the years, Comedy Central has given television one night where all the rules go out the window and top comics and celebrities deliver some of the most shocking and flat out mean jokes you’ll hear on basic cable. While most of the quips are directed at the “star” of the show — with a few minor jabs taken at the rest of the roster of presenters — more often than not, someone else besides the number one target takes the brunt of the abuse. For instance, this year’s roast of actor Rob Lowe saw
Ann Coulter, who inexplicably participated in the event despite not having a funny bone in her body, being ripped apart so harshly by nearly everyone that it’s a wonder she didn’t burst into tears multiple times during the show.
However, at the end of the day, no matter how raunchy, outrageous, and even downright offensive the jokes get, it’s all in the name of laughter and good fun. That’s not to say there haven’t been both high- and lowlights since the tradition began back in 2003 with the Comedy Central Roast of Denis Leary. In fact, here’s a look at each of them, as well as a ranking to determine which one was the best of all time.
Ranking The Comedy Central Roasts
The only question that remains now is, “who’s left to roast?” Sound off in the comments who you believe would make for the next great roastee. And as always, feel free to critique our ranking, as well. This is comedy, after all. Just because we say something is the funniest, that doesn’t mean you can’t disagree. You’d be wrong if you did, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.
Ranking The Comedy Central Roasts
16. Denis Leary
There’s nothing particularly notable about the Denis Leary roast, which makes sense, considering Leary is the least interesting person to ever be roasted on the show. The line-up is incredibly bland and it feels more like a group of guys nudging elbows at each other than an actual roast. If you’re wondering why roast-staple Greg Giraldo wasn’t involved, it’s probably because he
completely destroyed Leary on Tough Crowd shortly before this. Plus, Leary has been accused of stealing jokes and copying Bill Hicks’ entire persona for years, so that doesn’t help either. Photo: Scott Gries (Getty).
15. Roseanne Barr
Everything about the Roseanne roast just felt a little off. It felt like a roast for the sake of a roast. Instead of surrounding the legendary comic with hot comedic acts we got Wayne Brady, Seth Green, Katey Sagal, Ellen Barkin, and Carrie Fisher. There were some good moments here and there, but unfortunately, they’re just too
few and far between. Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic (Getty).
14. Jeff Foxworthy
The problem with roasting someone like Jeff Foxworthy is that he’s such a likable guy, so the jokes feel way
too mean, and not in a fun way. You need someone that has skeletons in the closet and would be enjoyable seeing brought down a few notches. Plus, there’s a George W. Bush impersonator. So it’s at that level of comedy, unfortunately. Photo: Harold Cook/FilmMagic (Getty).
13. David Hasselhoff
Similar to the Roseanne Barr roast, there were just too many friends of the star instead of stronger comics.
Whitney Cummings and Greg Giraldo are brilliant, but unfortunately you have to endure Hulk Hogan, Jerry Springer, George Hamilton, and Pamela Anderson to get to them. There are plenty of jokes about Hasselhoff eating that burger off the floor, if you’re interested. Photo: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times (Getty).
12. Rob Lowe
As therapeutic as it is hearing Ann Coulter getting mocked, the Rob Lowe roast wasn’t quite as amazing as it seemed to be on paper. Nikki Glaser, Jimmy Carr, and Pete Davidson were very refreshing, but there’s only so much you can take of Rob Riggle screaming and jokes about Ralph Macchio or Jewel’s teeth.
Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic (Getty).
11. James Franco
There are plenty of great moments in the Franco roast, but the entire thing just feels sort of bizarre. Almost every other person that’s been roasted has been a celebrity that’s moved from A-list to infamous, but Franco did it at the peak of his career. It’s like he asked for a roast for his birthday party. That being said,
Aziz Ansari and Nick Kroll are especially great in it. Photo: Lester Cohen/WireImage (Getty).
10. Flavor Flav
There was certainly a lot of material to work with as Flavor Flav sat in the hot seat, but the roasters were very hit or miss. Staples like Patton Oswalt, Jeff Ross, and
Greg Giraldo delivered some fantastic moments and Snoop Dogg shocked everyone by actually being really funny. Meanwhile, Carrot Top was there for some reason. You take the good with the bad, I suppose. Photo: Jason Merritt/FilmMagic (Getty).
9. Joan Rivers
For the most part, the Joan Rivers roast is somewhat
average, but the shining star was definitely Whitney Cummings again, whose set thrust her into the spotlight and launched her career to whole new levels. Rivers was certainly best roaster to ever be roasted, so her closing set was by far the highlight of the night. Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic (Getty).
8. William Shatner
This may have been the best Greg Giraldo roast performance of all time, and that’s seriously saying something. A few of Shatner’s celebrity friends had sets that didn’t exactly set the crowd ablaze, but Betty White made up for it with her first
NSFW performance that seemed to have revitalized her career and turn her into the "anything goes" grandma we have today. Photo: Jason Merritt/FilmMagic (Getty).
7. Hugh Hefner
The Hefner roast gave us one of the best roastmasters of all time in
Jimmy Kimmel. And, of course, plenty of jokes about, well, all the things you can joke about Hefner. This was one of the most iconic roasts because it was filmed less than three weeks after September 11th. Gilbert Gottfried didn’t steer clear of the tragedy, but instead confronted it head on and found a way to bring us laughter in the midst of such a dark time. It’s certainly worth revisiting. Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic (Getty).
6. Justin Bieber
Hannibal Burress called the roast an "extremely transparent attempt to be more likable in the public eye." While that was probably true, there were still some great sets from Natasha Leggero, Pete Davidson, and, oddly enough, Martha Stewart. We also got an appearance by Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy, so it’s hard to complain. Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic (Getty).
5. Larry the Cable Guy
The spectrum of comics has never been wider than the Larry the Cable Guy roast. You’ve got Toby Keith and Reno Collier, so that makes sense. There’s the always hilarious
Greg Giraldo, Jeff Ross, and Nick DiPaolo. Warren Sapp is there, for some reason, too. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a set from Gary Busey that referring to as bizarre is a severe understatement. He’s a borderline mad man and there are moments where you aren’t sure if you should laugh or call an ambulance. Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic (Getty).
4. Donald Trump
This was the first roast after Greg Giraldo’s death, so there was a bit of a somber feel at times. Of course, that certainly didn’t mean there was a lack of
great material. Anthony Jeselnik made his roast debut and went darker than anyone imagined in the best way possible. On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Situation from Jersey Shore bombed so badly that it almost came full circle and became entertaining. Almost, but not quite. Photo: Michael Kovac/WireImage (Getty).
3. Bob Saget
Overall, it certainly wasn’t the best roast, with several of the sets getting a mild reception at best. But one particular set was so iconic it lifted the entire roast to legendary status. That is, of course, Norm Macdonald’s
anti-comedy set that took the opposite direction of what you’d expect and was filled with corny old jokes told with such passion and heart, that you couldn’t help but laugh. It’s a tall order calling it a set perfect, but that one was as close to perfection as you’ll ever see. Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic (Getty).
2. Pamela Anderson
No roast felt like it was on the verge of breaking down into insanity at any moment quite like Pam Anderson’s 2005 event. Sarah Silverman had an absolutely fantastic set, and Bea Arthur shocked everyone by absolutely nailing every single joke. Yet the most memorable aspect had to Courtney Love. She claimed to have been sober at the time, but was clearly a train wreck. The whole time you feel like she’s going to flip a couch over and set it on fire. But, you know, in a charming way.
Photo: Chris Polk/FilmMagic (Getty).
1. Charlie Sheen
What made the Charlie Sheen roast
so great is that Sheen himself is a demogorgon man-monster, so no shot taken at him feels over the line or inappropriate in any way. Anthony Jeselnik and Amy Schumer give their best roast performances yet and, of course, Patrice O’Neal absolutely crushes in his final roast appearance. If that isn’t enough, Steve-O completely bombs and then let’s Mike Tyson punch him in the face. What more could you possibly want? Photo: Christopher Polk (Getty).