For five consecutive nights this week, Comedy Central is going all in on its nearly two decade-long history of celebrity roasts with an old school countdown called Hall of Flame: Top 100 Roast Moments. And you can watch number 100 right now in the exclusive clip below from tonight’s premiere.
“Usually, roast jokes, they come from a place of deep respect,” the countdown’s host, Nikki Glaser, says at the top of the show. “But then other times, they’re pure disrespect. And those are my favorite”
The bit in question comes from 2015’s Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber, which the pop star attempted to use as a career rehabilitation vehicle, but may have ultimately only made him more of a laughing stock.
“They say that you roast the ones you love,” comedian Hannibal Buress said from the stage that night. “But I don’t like you at all, man. I’m just here because this is a real good opportunity for me.” As Bieber forced a smirk, Buress added, “I don’t like your music, I’m not a big fan. I listened to some of it, I’m not a fan. I don’t like your music. I think it’s bad, man, I don’t like it.”
It’s not so much a joke as a straight-up insult delivered with nothing to sugarcoat it, which somehow makes it the perfect opening for the week-long series that the comedians featured are probably hoping won’t get them retroactively canceled.
Reached by email, Comedy Central’s VP of Talent and Specials, Ryan Moran, who also serves as an executive producer of the countdown—airing every night this week at 10 p.m. ET—said that one of the biggest considerations with putting together the list was “how well the joke holds up today.”
“A truly great roast joke has a sense of timelessness to it and can still be very funny and resonant years after the show airs,” he continued. “Another consideration is just how unique the joke is. A great roast set will zig and zag into areas that the audience isn’t expecting. The best jokes never hit the obvious—or, if they do, they’re done in such a way that people are left to say, ‘I can’t believe that’s been in front of us the whole time.’”
Looking back on the 17 roasts that Comedy Central has aired, from Denis Leary in 2003 to Alec Baldwin in 2019, what stood out to Moran was how much “smarter” the joke-writing got over the years. “There is much more of an emphasis on writing truly great jokes instead of going for the jugular, going the obvious route, or even taking a cheap shot,” he said. “In addition to the obvious culture shifts over the last 20 years, I think writers and comedians try their best to make sure the jokes will stand the test of time.”
He also thinks that in recent years, the roasts “have evolved to have much more heart” with “genuine moments of love and respect.” That may be true, but there was no love nor respect for Justin Bieber in the clip that kicks off the countdown.
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