The modern era of Comedy Central Roasts has produced certain archetypes among those invited to mercilessly mock any given year’s semi-famous honoree.
There are the veteran comedians, most notably “Roastmaster General” Jeff Ross, who has appeared on the past 13 roasts, including this Monday’s Roast of Rob Lowe. That group also includes Gilbert Gottfried, who made history by telling the first major 9/11 joke after 9/11 at 2001’s Hugh Hefner roast, and Greg Giraldo, who was a consistent MVP at the events before his death in 2010.
There are the breakthrough comic stars, often but not always women, who are virtually unknown outside of stand-up circles before they shock viewers into submission with bravura performances. Think Amy Schumer at 2011’s Charlie Sheen roast, Natasha Leggero at 2013’s James Franco roast, and Pete Davidson at 2014’s Justin Bieber roast.
And then there are the non-comedians, or “civilians” in comic-speak, who show up each year with low expectations and either rise to the occasion with their unexpected joke-delivery skills, or crash and burn to glorious effect on national television. In the former camp is someone like Martha Stewart, who gamely warned Bieber about the dangers of prison last year. “Let’s get to the reason I’m here tonight, which is to give Justin Bieber some tips to use when he inevitably ends up in prison,” Stewart said before giving an elaborate description of how to make a shank out of a “pintail comb and a pack of gum.”
The latter category is best exemplified by Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino of Jersey Shore fame, who, just five years ago, failed spectacularly while attempting to roast the man who is currently the Republican nominee for president. Among the jokes cut from the eventual broadcast was an observation that Donald Trump and Snoop Dogg, who was also present, have a lot in common, because Trump’s family is in real estate and Snoop Dogg’s ancestors were “considered property.”
One hard-hitting joke that did make it on the air was directed at Trump’s wife Melania, who was seated in the audience. “She married you for love,” he told Trump. “Yeah, she loves money.” When Sorrentino responded to boos from the crowd by saying, “This is my first time doing comedy,” Jeff Ross shot back, “And your last!”
All of this made “The Situation” synonymous with bombing at Comedy Central’s roast. But now he has company, because on Monday, Ann Coulter delivered the least funny performance of anyone… ever.
The Roast of Rob Lowe, which was taped on Saturday, August 27, but had its television premiere on Labor Day, featured an eclectic array of comedians and non-comedians. Jeff Ross and Pete Davidson were back, and Lowe’s Tommy Boy co-star David Spade was on hand as Roastmaster. Joining Coulter on the non-comedian side were recently-retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and, even more inexplicably, the singer Jewel, who actually managed to deliver one of the best Coulter jokes of the night: “I do want to say as a feminist that I can’t support everything that’s been said tonight. But as someone who hates Ann Coulter, I’m delighted.”
Coulter, whose loose connection to Lowe was presumably predicated on their shared conservative politics, was unsurprisingly a favorite target for everyone else on the dais. Manning compared her to a horse; comedian Nikki Glaser compared her to Hitler; and Davidson straight-up called her a “racist cunt.”
We’ve heard plenty over the past week about how mean the jokes about Coulter were, but what about the jokes Coulter made herself?
“She wrote 11 books, but she couldn’t write one fucking joke for this roast,” Jeff Ross remarked during an appearance on Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show this past week. And if you noticed there weren’t too many cutaways of Coulter laughing at the jokes at her expense, as the other roasters tend to do, it’s because she wasn’t laughing. Ross told Handler that he went up to Coulter during a commercial break and suggested she try laughing along with the comedians so they would have something to cut to besides “everyone laughing at you.”
“She seems stiff and conservative, but Ann gets wild in the sheets. Just ask the Klan,” Spade said during his introduction of Coulter. “I haven't seen you laugh this hard since Trayvon Martin got shot.”
The special attention did not go unnoticed by Coulter, whose first line was probably her best. “I want to welcome everybody to the Ann Coulter Roast with Rob Lowe,” the right-wing pundit said when she took the podium. It was all downhill from there. When she shamelessly mentioned her Trump-themed book up top, which was proudly displayed on the podium, she drew loud boos. When she joked about David being the only “spade” who might vote for Trump, the crowd groaned. Her anti-Hillary Clinton jokes didn’t fare any better. When she finally finished her short set, Coulter got a standing ovation from Rob Lowe—but no one else.
Following the event, Coulter told The Hollywood Reporter that she has “no idea” why she was invited by Comedy Central to roast Rob Lowe and claimed it just showed up randomly on her publicity schedule to promote her new book, not so cleverly titled In Trump We Trust. She also said she doesn’t remember hearing many “jokes” until she took the mic.
But despite all of the attention Coulter received before the roast even aired, Comedy Central president Kent Alterman insisted in an interview with The Daily Beast that she was not “singled out” by the other roasters and really should have known what she was getting herself into. “We didn’t prevent her from watching any roasts,” Alterman noted.
If she had started with “The Situation’s” Donald Trump disaster, perhaps she would have stayed away altogether.